Christmas on a Budget
Why celebrate Christmas on a budget? Well, holiday gift-giving can be a drain on both your mental health & wallet. Research shows there is a 25% increase in the number of people seeking financial assistance from January – February; most of the requests are propelled by holiday bills haunting customers like Ghosts of Christmas Past.
To avoid the strain on your pocket, here are some tips to help celebrate Christmas with a budget and stay within your limits.
Make a Budget
Set a spending limit and don’t start with your shopping or to-do list. Make a list of your holiday obligations and scale back on some unnecessary expenses. To remain a step ahead, slightly overestimate the cost of items in case there has been any recent price change. Reconcile your shopping list and receipts to match your budget.
Categorize your Christmas Budget
Decide the portion of your budget to be allocated to each category.
1) Gifts ( 60%)
2) Decorating (20%)
3) Celebration (20%)
Be in the Loop
Keep abreast of when stores are having sales and discounts on items and use discount coupons for savings. Be sure to enter all store raffles to win a prize that may help with Christmas items or expenses.
Save your Savings
Save your spare change during the year & use it for your holiday shopping. Reserve a specific amount for holiday shopping each payday nearing Christmas season. Throughout the year, save your tax refunds to earn interest year-round.
If you have a special skill set, USE IT! Something hand or homemade is more meaningful to the receiver and it only costs your time. Items like baking mixes, homemade soaps, jelly, bath salts scrubs, or ANYTHING EDIBLE will do the trick! Food & beverage related gifts are easier to get because they will always be useful & are less expensive. Another good alternative is taking/inviting everyone for a nice dinner or family experience with the money you would use for buying them gifts. Consider doing a gift exchange within the family instead of having to buy gifts for everyone and set a price limit for your gifts per person; make it memorable! Wrap a lot… yes, wrapping paper and ribbon costs… but buying one gift that comes with several parts and wrapping all the parts separately to make it look like more costs less, doesn’t it? If you cannot wrap, please learn to save on paper OR put it in a bag. Buy combined gifts for kids and couples; keep it simple and limit yourself to your closest colleagues.
Kids, Adults & Couples
Don’t’ go crazy! Measure presents by a want, need, a wear and a read. Buy combined gifts for families with too many kids and STOP giving in to the must-have gifts. Give them something they can challenge their brains with such as open-ended multi-usage gifts.
Be thoughtful, but thoughtful doesn’t have to be expensive. Get a gift that matches them whilst considering their current life situation.
Buy a combined gift or give them a new experience.
Want more money at Christmas?
Getting an extra job at Christmas time may be a good idea. Try working for a large retailer or small business and get deals on their products to save on holiday shopping. You can even try working at a restaurant, catering company or an event planning business – they are always looking for extra manpower. Babysitting is also a very popular means of making extra cash, or consider using your talent such as baking sweet goodies for sale or being creative with Christmas decorations.
ALWAYS pay in cash. Use cash instead of credit cards – you’ll be forced to stick to your budget. Credit Cards are convenient, but not when it comes to tracking your spending.
By shopping alone, you are likely to spend less money. Shopping partners in crime distract you from your plan by convincing you to buy unplanned or unnecessary items. ‘
Tis the Season to give, not buy.
Establish a “No Shopping for yourself rule”. Add it to your Christmas wish list if you cannot live without it.
Decorating on a Budget
The most expensive decoration is your tree. Try to reuse old Christmas decorations and only replace what you need. Be creative and get your family in creative mode and make your own decorations. You can always think outside the box and choose inexpensive items like: Christmas candy, candy canes, popcorn on a string, colored or wrapping paper, re-purposing wine bottles, mason jars and cutouts from old holiday sweaters. Be sure to visit Pinterest for DIY decorations; the best time to purchase cheap Christmas decorations is right after the Holidays.
Simplify your Christmas menu- try to avoid the most expensive food items. Instead of having an elaborate dinner, have a cookout instead. A whole turkey can be pricey to purchase, so you may want to consider buying turkey pieces instead. When shopping, write a list and take your calculator along to match back your budget. After all your groceries have been bought, prepare everything yourself and be cautious with quantities and make good use of leftovers.
Instead of hosting a big party and covering all the cost yourself, ask everyone to bring what they can and make it a potluck. Plan your feast around the items you already have and make an effort to buy seasonal produce. Keep it simple – serve finger foods, cocktails and punches; easy to prepare, easily accessible and easy to clean up.
If you’re heading overseas during Christmas break, you may face high-season airline prices. Organize your reservations at least two months in advance; booking flights last minute means you will pay more and you may not get a seat altogether. Schedules for public transportation may change due to the influx of travelers and time of year. If you plan to travel by road, ensure your car is all fueled up.
We may feel obligated to send cards to people knowing they might ignore it. Before sending the card, ask yourself, is it meaningful? To save on money, make the card yourself or send it digitally; further save by making or sending one card per family. Limit your cards to close friends and family only.
Good financial health means that we don’t just live Christmas on a budget, but it’s a year-long endeavor. Christmas should be a time of joy, not financial stress. There are many ways to reduce your spending & stay clear of debt. The ideal Christmas gift is thoughtful, personal & affordable; give gifts because you want to, not out of a sense of obligation.
Give yourself the gift of starting the New Year with less debt & more money in your pocket!
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