As Hong Kong braces for Chinese New Year, the city’s highlight holiday celebrations of the year, consumers are making the last efforts to swoop up festive purchases before the big day. As with most festive occasions, there are costs associated with the preparations and the actual celebrations. The traditional reunion feasts, issuing of Lai See (Red Packets) and down to every detail of customary practices will combine to potentially deliver a significant blow to your finances.
The tricky economic relationship with mainland China will probably not alleviate the situation either, with every percentage of appreciation in RMB adding a 0.55 percent to value of products from Hong Kong’s companies.
In essence, that means consumers will have to cope with the increased costs of Chinese New Year celebrations as compared to previous years.
Now, let us run through the main elements that are likely to cost the most.
Annual Reunion Dinner
The tradition of spending time together with the family during this annual feast has not changed; it remains the most looked forward social component of the Chinese festival.
The only change is that many families are now choosing to have their most important dinner of the year at restaurants instead. For this meal, many adopt the mentality of “What better time than now” and therefore the lavishness of the menu is almost certainly guaranteed.
Be prepared to spend an upwards of HKD$1000 for a set menu serving 10 persons at a low to mid-ranged restaurant, and all the way to HKD$10,000 or more for upscale options at the Intercontinental. Note that some restaurants may be imposing a 20% service charge instead of the usual 10% for this period, so make sure you check in advance.
Although a general rule of thumb suggests the amount of roughly HK$100 for Lai See, or red packets, there is no hard and fast rule for it. It is largely dependent on the giver and recipient, so don’t get carried away if you have a large relative base. The idea is to show that the giver has the recipient in his pool of thoughts, and hopefully these traditional practices have not degenerated into a competition of egos.
Maintain modest amounts as the primary benchmark, keeping in mind that you may be expected to issue Lai See to an extended network of people including employees, children and friends who are still single.
Don’t let this festive season overwhelm your finances and give you problems after the celebrations have past. In fact, a good practice is to deposit what you receive directly back into your savings.
During the Chinese New Year, it is expected that you will be visiting and expecting visitors from your family and social circles. It is fine to touch up your residence to welcome the festive spirits, but don’t overspend in this aspect. Remember that whole point is to take the opportunity to connect with those you love, and these people probably wouldn’t care how you decorated your home anyway.
Re-use decorative items from previous years, or purchase those that will be able to extend their function onto the next. These decorations are usually symbolical of the occasion in auspicious colors or Chinese idioms relating to prosperity and good health.
What you want from year to year probably isn’t going to change much, so trim down on expensive decorations as much as possible.
This social activity can be considered to be habitual in many gatherings during the Chinese New Year. Traditionally, people have no qualms engaging in card or mahjong games during the celebrations to try out their luck for the new lunar year.
However, they are still primarily considered games of luck, and the aspects of the games which you are able to control can go only as far as the hand you are dealt with. Be sensible enough to realize that this tradition is not an accurate indication on how you will fare for the rest of the year.
Ultimately, you remain fully in control of when it’s time to back down. You are supposed to have fun, not try to make a fortune out of it.
Welcome the Spring Festival with financial wisdom.
Embracing the traditional values doesn’t have to burn your pockets; that is what consumerism does. If anything, it is a much better deal to start a brand new year with sturdy finances. Don’t put that privilege at risk during the celebrations.
Happy Chinese New Year!