5 Money Saving Tips for Chinese New Year of the Dragon


Chinese New Year festival is coming soon in February when the Lunar Year usually begins. This New Year is celebrated to usher out the bad and the old, and welcoming the new and the good. It will be a time for family reunion, feast and gathering which can become very meaningful if it is well-planned.

For most, what is even special this year is that it is the Year of the Dragon — representing power, nobleness, leadership, honour, luck, and success. In fact, the dragon is often considered as the most highly revered zodiac animal of all. Emperors of enormous dynasties were even seen as reincarnations of dragons!

Well, that was in the ancient times. In recent history, do you know someone who is called ‘Little Dragon’, and was in fact born on the Chinese Year of the Dragon, and more impressively, on the Day of the Dragon, and on the Hour of the Dragon? Yes, you got that right — Bruce Lee.

Whether or not you were born on the Year of the Dragon, the celebration will inevitably involve financial decisions especially as you prepare to buy new clothes, stock in grocery for the feast, buy cookies for guests and set aside some budget to prepare ang pow to be given out on the auspicious days. However, not all celebrations need to be lavish, especially if you are a ‘Dragon’, because doing something that will only set you back further from your financial goals does not project power nor good fortune. Meaningful celebrations can still be achieved without sacrificing the joy and hurting your pocket too much.

So, in honour of Bruce Lee, the Little Dragon, below are three of the super martial artist and movie star’s quotes on life to accompany five money saving tips you can observe during this Chinese New Year (the next Year of the Dragon is another 12 years).

“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.”

This quote covers two saving tips that relate to time. In fact, many aspects of financial management stress on the importance of doing things early (e.g. saving, investment, prevention and rehabilitation).

  1. Be Early; It Saves Money

The closer you get to Chinese New Year, the more expensive many of the festive items become. Stop procrastinating and get yourself to the saloon and supermarkets early. Traditionally, new clothes, decorative flowers, dried seafood and other delicacies are purchased for Chinese New Year. But do keep in mind that it is up to you and your budget when deciding how much to spend. Some of the items can be bought in advance, or when they are on sale. You can also make decorations with a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach instead of buying ready-made ones. Do a craft project with your family to decorate your home using red packets purchased at a more affordable price. Again, it is all up to you — considering your affordability and planning in advance. Still, you can choose prudence over affordability now especially when you have bigger financial goals to achieve in the future.

  1. Plan Your Travel Early

Quite often some may plan to go for vacation during Chinese New Year. Group tours, air tickets and hotel prices often go up during the holiday season, so bear in mind that travelling expenses for the whole family could be much higher than usual. Instead, consider local tours, or book your trip and hotel well in advance to keep costs down. If you think it is too late to do so this year, plan ahead early for next year. Take leave early to avoid the heavy traffic jam on the highway. Some couples may even decide to take turn celebrating with their family year by year instead of driving through the traffic jam to celebrate with the in-laws in different states.

“It’s like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.”

This was a line Bruce Lee said in his film, “Enter the Dragon”. One way of putting it is that you should not be overly focused on the doing and miss the objective (or the meaning of the doing) altogether. In financial management sense, if you can achieve the same objective or meaning on a cheaper alternative, go for it, but if you still need to opt for the more expensive option, for justified reasons, just plan for it in advance. Below are two saving tips that bring your focus to the objective and meaning of doing something, not just for the sake of doing it or keeping up with the Joneses.

  1. Organise Pot Lucks

You may realise as you ask around the restaurants for Chinese New Year Eve’s reunion dinner that the price for set meals can be quite steep with limited time allowed for you to eat and linger afterwards as they need to clean the table for the next round of customers. Rather than scrambling through the hurried dinner with hefty price tags, you may want to consider having the dinner in the comfort of your own home which is more conducive for cozy conversations with everyone bringing a dish for the pot luck. Besides, home cooked meals bring extra warmth to the celebration as that was how reunion dinner started originally.

  1. Ang Pow

Carefully consider your financial situation and budget before deciding on how much you will put into the red packets (called laisee in Chinese) to be distributed out during Chinese New Year. The amount of money handed out to large groups of family members, relatives and friends’ kids will truly add up. Laisee are given out to convey one’s best wishes for the year ahead — it is the thought that counts (though you tend to believe that it is the amount that counts to the recipients).

“The more we value things, the less we value ourselves.”

This saying by Bruce Lee can be, in fact, a fundamental principle in financial management, and should be embraced by both adults and children at the earliest age possible. It makes sense to think that we tend to overspend if we give too much value to things. Conversely, we would spend smart if we value ourselves and the meaning we want to achieve in life more than things. We value ourselves and our life’s meaning by saving for our future, spending on things that are meaningful and share some of our fortunes with the unfortunates.

  1. 3-Box Money Management System

In order to teach this principle to our children, get them to manage the ang pow money they have received once the celebration is over. Financial education should start from young and this is a great opportunity to teach them how to handle the big sum of money they receive so that you set the foundation right. Distribute the sum into three boxes, namely ‘Saving’, ‘Spending’ and ‘Sharing’, and allocate, for example, 30% for saving, 60% for spending and 10% for sharing. In fact, do not limit this system to ang pow money. Use the 3-box system for their school pocket money throughout the year to cultivate prudent financial management culture at home.

These are the five tips you can consider in order to save on your Chinese New Year spending plus three of Bruce Lee’s quotes for a rewarding and meaningful life. May this Year of the Dragon bring you great adventure, learning and fortune — not just materially but which give your life meaning too so that you can enjoy peace of mind (at the end of the day, even dragons need a good night’s sleep).

Happy Chinese New Year from all of us in AKPK!

Prepared by: Tung Ka Yin and Irwan Iskandar Azharuddin

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