Christmas – it’s the lovely time of the year again; the time for giving and sharing of gifts with family and friends. As much as we want to celebrate and be jolly during this festive season, we want to make sure that we are careful about spending so that we don’t spoil the festive mood.
From past years’ experiences, my challenge with Christmas shopping has always been overspending. Retailers are good at running promotions and coming up with the latest gift ideas to entice shoppers to spend more money than I really want to. Once at the shopping mall, I’m just constantly bombarded with opportunities to buy, buy, buy… Without realizing it, multiple small purchases accumulated into big amounts which gave me a big shock when the credit card bill came later!
Well actually what you can or should do it to set up a spending plan. It depends on how much you have available to spend and how much you can save up between now and Christmas time. Exhausting your bank accounts and credit cards and being unable to pay off the balance until halfway through the year and jeopardizing long-term plans is not showing yourself kindness. Surely it’s time this year to give yourself some Christmas love by keeping your spending in check and starting the new year on a great financial footing.
This is how you can make your Christmas planned and happy!
Make a list and check it twice
In the lead-up to Christmas, make lists of the things you need to buy and the food you need to prepare for the festive season. Having lists will help you plan your spending and keep you on track.
- Presents – List who you’re buying for, what you want to buy, and how much money you’ve allocated for each person. For larger gifts, consider using lay-by in the months before Christmas so you can pay them off over time.
- Supplies for Christmas/Boxing Day – List what you want to buy, and where from. Buy in advance where possible to take advantage of specials, especially if the items can be frozen or have a long shelf life.
- If you are traveling – List costs like flights, car service/tyre check, petrol and travel insurance and shop around for deals early. If you’re driving somewhere, think about what day is best to fill up on petrol and do it the week before Christmas.
Do online research
A good way to check if your budget is realistic is to do some online research before you actually head down to the mall. Not only is this a good way to gather gift ideas and market rates, it also saves you time and energy you would waste going to the crowded mall simply for research purpose.
Find Christmas bargains
Don’t wait for a sale, seek out your Christmas bargains on gifts and food by scouring advertising catalogues and checking for any online offers. Some stores match or beat competitors’ deals so compare their offers and keep all the details with you when you are in the store. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount as you might just get a Christmas miracle!
Discount outlet shopping centres, factory seconds stores or second-hand retailers are other places where you might be able to bag a Christmas bargain. Also, make sure you don’t have to spend more than you are comfortable with, in order to qualify for any discounts advertised.
Pay for gifts with reward points
If you have a rewards card that you have been using through the year to collect points, Christmas is a great time to cash these in. Check your balance and see what you can get.
In the lead up to Christmas, keep an eye out for items you need that earn more points so you can build up your balance. Also, look for discounts that might be offered through your existing insurer or credit card provider for particular retailers.
Review actual spending against budget
For each actual purchase that you make, update your budget with the actual money spent. If you have burst your budget on some items, then you’ll have to lower the spending on other items to make up for the differences. Likewise, if you make some savings on certain items, then you’ll have more slack to play with on other items. Keep doing this for the entire shopping list and you will be able to constantly track your actual spending against your budget. This is vitally important to help you keep within your shopping budget.
Be prepared while shopping
Don’t take shopping likely at all! I would suggest you to follow Santa! Surprise? Well Santa is always well-prepared and does his shopping on time so why don’t you? If you are going to shop in-store, consider these rules-of-thumb to reduce Christmas shopping stress and limit the temptation to over spend:
- Set a time limit on your shopping – Get in, get it done and get out so you aren’t tempted to spend more than you wanted to.
- Shop at odd hours – Take advantage of extended trading hours and go when it’s less crowded so you can choose carefully without having to jostle for space.
- Buy less expensive stuff first – If you buy larger and more costly items first you can lose perspective on what is a good price, so set your budget, buy small first, and then tackle the big stuff so you keep to your gift budget.
- Pre-pay – If you buy online, check if there’s an option to pick up in-store. You’ll save on freight, skip any lines, and there will be less temptation to buy more.
- Limit your shopping locations – Only go to shops that you need to so you don’t get distracted and impulse buy.
Save when hosting
Write a list for each function you are hosting including a budget for all food and alcohol and make sure you stick to it. Prepare menus and start shopping for items now so the big Christmas food shop cost is reduced. Consider asking guests to bring either nibbles, dessert or alcohol to help reduce the cost of the big day or other functions you maybe holding. That way the cost and the time in preparing and shopping can be shared.
Plan for next Christmas
Once this Christmas is done and dusted you should plan ahead for next year. Here are some ideas to help make sure you are set up for next Christmas:
- Start saving now – Open a high interest savings account in January and contribute a small amount to it every payday. Saving $20 per week will add up to over $1,000 in a year’s time.
- Shop the sales – Shop for presents throughout the year, especially during sales. This will spread your costs and make them more manageable.
- Layby – Pre-plan larger gifts and layby 3-6 months ahead so you can pay them off over time.
For professional advice on budgeting and accessing advanced budgeting tools contact us today!
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