Christmas is fast approaching and for many of us the stress of social and financial commitments detracts from the celebrations and enjoyment of the season. The better prepared you are, the more likely you are to enjoy the festivities. Here are five steps that may help you make better decisions around planning your Christmas events.
1. Give based on your actual financial situation, not your wishful financial situation
The fact is, people who overspend on Christmas gifts and parties by putting everything on credit may have a wonderful December, but an incredibly stressful January. If you aren't able to pay off the entire credit card bill when it comes in after the holidays, then you've spent too much.
Perhaps it is the fear that friends and family will consider us similar to the character Scrooge, from Dicken's A Christmas Carol that cause us to overspend. The truth the financial burden of spending more than we have creates a far more dire reality than any perception of being "cheap".
In your Christmas planning, you must establish boundaries.
Financial Boundaries (often called making a budget) — How much money do you have to spend on Christmas?
Scheduling boundaries — How many Christmas parties can you logically attend?
Hosting boundaries — How many people can you feasibly host?
As a result, 'no' must become a part of your Christmas vocabulary. For many, Christmas is about a time of over-commitment, so it is essential that we know our limits.
2. Giving a gift doesn't necessarily mean spending money
You can express your love and appreciation for people without spending money. Marketing over the years has become extremely effective at associating buying expensive gifts as showing how much you love someone. We need to reset that misconception.
If you are handy or crafty, make a gift. It could be a scrapbook from a special event, an upcycled piece of furniture or event passing along a cherished family heirloom like grandma's teacup. It could be as simple as a handwritten Christmas card you've made yourself.
3. Make a list and check it twice, then check it again.
Start your list by writing your total gift budget at the top of the page. Then start writing down a list of everyone you'd like to give a gift. Go through your list and allocate portions of your budget to everyone on that list. This may take several passes to make sure you don't go over your original limit.
Whilst going through your list, who will get a store bought gift? Who will get a lovely handwritten card from you? Who will get the gift of your time and energy? Taking the time now will prevent impulse buying and overspending when you are at the mall.
4. Start saving money as soon as you can
Even though the stores decorate for Christmas earlier and earlier each year, it can be a positive trigger for you. Start saving as soon as you can so all of the bills don't hit you in December. Take a look at your total budget and look at how many paycheques you have between now and Christmas. Plan to put equal portions of each pay aside to match your budget. If you aren't able to do it, then take another look at your budget - perhaps you'll have to decrease it.
5. Be watching for sales today
Time is always a friend of a savvy shopper.
Stores almost always have sales, but they don't put everything on sale at the same time (typically). This means that if you start watching for sales today, you can snag a pair of running shoes for junior today, and then in a few weeks they might have a video game on sale. Far too many of us wait until the last week and are forced to pay full price for everything. But since you've already got your list, your budget, and you're even setting aside money, you can start taking advantage of sales now.