October 28, 2015 | Focusing on the Joy of Christmas
You might be thinking, “Isn’t it a bit early to start talking about Christmas? It’s not even November!”. But Christmas is just 58 days away now, and it’s the perfect time to start thinking (if you haven’t already) about your plans for the holiday season.
As the end of the year creeps up and the festive season begins, we start to put a lot of pressure on ourselves and our money to provide the best Christmas for our families. But in doing so, we often forget what Christmas time is all about, getting caught up in the madness of shopping, parties, and decorations. We can’t resist the urge to splurge on “emergency” guest food and impulse buy those extra presents or decorations. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the stress of buying the perfect presents for our loved ones and prepping ourselves for the two most hectic weeks of the year.
Given all of this pressure to ‘shop till we drop’ – or these days until we can’t stand staring at our online shopping carts – we still want to make our families and loved ones happy by giving them that new gadget or toy they wanted. And with the culture of Christmas demanding we give and give again, the New Year financial sting is something we have learned to both dread and expect.
So how can we keep focussed on the joyful, happy giving side of Christmas while still providing presents for our loved ones and a Christmas time worthy of your happiest memories? There is a range of tips and tricks that can help turn Christmas into a financial success rather than financial excess, and lead you into a joyful New Year
1. Preparation is key
In the words of Confucius, “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure”. Putting these wise words into practice starts with creating a Christmas budget – not just for presents, but the additional spending on food, drinks and socialising. Perhaps embed this special Christmas component within the rest of your household budget, so you can manage the overall effect of Christmas spending over a number of months. It might be easier said than done, but try not to feel pressured to spend more than you can really afford, and go heavy on providing the experiences and sentimental memories that money can’t buy; after all, it is these memories that yourself and your family will remember in the years to come.
With a budget comes parameters, and it becomes possible to organise a list of gifts and ideas before you start your Christmas shopping. Not only will you have a clearer focus and minimise the amount of time you spend browsing, but it can allow you to start shopping for gifts earlier. The joy of “retail therapy” is easily lost in the madness of last minute Christmas shopping where you are also more likely to overspend in an effort to purchase everything in time.
If you’re concerned that your budget won’t cover what you would ultimately love to provide, perhaps talk to the family in advance to set some budgetary ground rules. Not only will this help you, but it may even alleviate some stresses of family members who have confined Christmas budgets. Some suggestions may include gifts for children only, a budget limit on gifts, or a ‘‘Secret Santa’’ where everyone picks a name out of a hat and purchases a gift for just that person – this can be particularly effective for larger gatherings where even small gifts for everyone will really strain the hip pocket.
2. Keep a running Total
Keep a close eye on your spending – maybe by compiling the running total on your phone or tablet, or on a page in your diary. The bills will be coming in after Christmas, that we can depend on, but knowing what the bottom line is of each credit card is a helpful way to manage those stresses.
3. Spend Wisely
Make sure you know how your extra spend is going to be financed. Perhaps it means withdrawing funds from a savings account, or if you use a credit card, try to ensure that you pay off the balance in full when the bill arrives in the New Year. Generally, credit cards are an expensive way to borrow money – and store cards are even worse, given that they generally have higher interest rates. If you’re taking advantage of credit card deals that offer 0% rates on balance transfers, perhaps note the date at which this introductory “teaser” rate comes to an end and pay off the balance before then.
4. Shop accordingly
And this doesn’t just apply to gift shopping! It might sound trivial, but we’ve all been 3 days post-Christmas with a fridge that’s still bursting at the seams. This not only takes a toll on our waistlines but also our pockets. If you’re hosting Christmas lunch or dinner (or maybe both!) this year, no doubt you will want to put on a plentiful spread with enough options to please everyone, but it is easy to overestimate the amount that your family will polish off. Although that extra week of Christmas Ham is often a conscious over-catering decision, no one wants to see food wasted – or the money you’ve spent buying it. There are some great tools out there to help you plan the perfect party portions – LoveFoodHateWaste is a great example of an efficient portion planner. Not only could this help you financially, but it is also a great way to help alleviate the stresses of organising a seamless Christmas day for you and your family.
The holidays will always be a stressful time, with balancing a busy workload and present shopping a tricky task for everyone. Taking simple yet effective steps to help you prepare ahead of time can help you keep on track, and remember that Christmas is all about family and friends and being together at the happiest time of the year.
The advice in this article is general in nature and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions.
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