The High Holiday Cost Of Being An Expat


Living Christmas Tree, Christmas In England, Cornish Christmas

Christmas In Cornwall 2009

Christmas, birthdays, and trips home … when you chose to live in another country, you need to be prepared to spend more money especially when gift giving. I love to shop and make or bake gifts for friends and family back home, but after this Christmas I may need to reconsider my regular way of doing things.

When the cost of mailing your packages adds another $45 to the overall gift cost, it may be time to let Amazon do the work. For instance, I shopped and wrapped the contents of three small packages to send home to the US  yesterday and while there was more value in the boxes than the cost of shipping, after spending so much to mail them I decided that gifts from the UK will need to fly with me from now on rather than traveling by Royal Mail.

Which brings me to flying … I really miss seeing my family especially during the holidays, but it’s a terrible time to fly and costs associated with a trip home include air travel, rental cars, and overnight stays in London. All of this makes a traveling to Atlanta comparable to a beach holiday in Spain. Thankfully, I stay with family and friends both of whom tend to feed me to extremes so I usually spend little for my eating and sleeping arrangements once I’m in Atlanta.

My travel budget also feels the strain of using my checked baggage as an opportunity to bring back my favorite foodstuffs that I can’t get in the UK. Things I’ve mentioned before such as peanut butter, cornmeal, grits, and Nestle’s Chocolate chips. It’s no wonder I need a trolley as they call them here to get my luggage through customs when I arrive.

Fuzzy Video Shot of Me Arriving At Gatwick Airport In 2009

(I never have this much anymore and usually limit myself to one checked bag and two carry on pieces)

Let me add that thanks to a part-time job, I feel very fortunate enjoy a relatively low stress life with the man I love while still having enough creative energy and time to write and a bit of money I can call my own to help with travel and bills related to my house in Atlanta.

So while this moan about money may seem like a real rant, I’m trying to see the mailing cost issues as just an opportunity to get a bit more creative with gift giving without giving it up.

Tips would be appreciated if you’d like to share how you give to family and friends who live far away.

8 thoughts on “The High Holiday Cost Of Being An Expat

  1. I can see how this would be a challenge. I send cards to my relatives in Orkney and Canada — but we never got together in the past to celebrate, so we just try to keep in touch during the holidays. My son is in Chicago, and thankfully, comes home to see us in Royal Oak. Wishing you a wonderous, peaceful Christmas in your beautiful home!

  2. On leaving Cornwall (St Cleer/Liskeard) for Australia four years ago, we left family in Launceston and Lancashire. Shopping these days is a mix of internet shopping for its ease and traditional shopping/postage for more personalised gifts. Obviously at this time of year, though, we have to expect postage to take four weeks instead of one!
    I can indeed believe that Elizabeth has never been stopped by customs, neither have I…although I’ve usually had to queue for an inordinately long time just to get through what turned out to be a cursory wave through – especially at ferry ports!

  3. Why dont you buy online through American shops that gift wrap and deliver within the US?
    Happy holidays to you all. I should travel with her then John, then you’ll get straight through customs every time.
    Have a happy new year too.

  4. Hi Elizabeth, I have had the same issues with gift buying since we moved to the US (for only three years!) & returned (some 12 years ago!) as we gained a God Son whilst there & many very dear friends 🙂 I do a mixture of Amazon (just can’t beat that post & packaging!) & as Tony Said, buy through American shops online & they often gift wrap & deliver within the US (as long as you have a bank/credit card registered in the US. I’ve never had a problem 🙂
    I do appreciate that it is not the same, being able to make lovely things then gift wrap them beautifully, but people do understand & it makes it easier on them as they can do the same in return without feeling guilty 🙂 See, everyone’s a winner!!
    At the end of the day you have to look at things on balance – fab husband, brilliant country to live in where people have the best sense of humour, lots of new friends you would never have met if it weren’t for living here & all the wonderful places you have been able to see & experience. Think about how special your visits are now that you no longer live in Atlanta & how much you appreciate them 🙂

  5. Yes, I drank (diet) root beer for months to make up for not having any worth tasting in the UK. Its tough when things aer so cheap by comparison as well.

    You do look happy in your video sceen grab!

  6. I prefer to think that if I lived right next door I would probably be taking friends/family out for coffee once a month. So I just think in my head my coffee money is going to shipping.

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