Christmas may be the time for giving, but it doesn’t have to be the time of giving ‘til you’re broke.
Many people look forward to this time of year as a chance to catch up with family and friends, eat copious amounts of food and exchange presents and good cheer with every single person you see. But if being totally honest, at least some people would admit to this being a time of financial stress and uncertainty. December is already here and the big day is getting ever closer, but there are still a number of ways to curb the urge to spend and have everything ready without breaking the bank.
Before you race out and spend big on every holidays-themed decoration, LED lighting display and the 10-gifts-you-bought-because-you’re-sure-someone-in-your-family-will-love-them-but-aren’t-sure-who-yet, take a minute to read through our tried-and-true suggestions for keeping your stress levels low, your enthusiasm levels high and your wallet happy.
Work out your gift budget.
Whether you have to stick to a strict budget or would just like to know in advance how much you will be spending, working out a budget well beforehand will lessen the stress of the unknown. Firstly, sit down at a time when you are not rushed or distracted and think about what you will be doing these holidays. Who will you be seeing, where will you be seeing them, and what will you be doing when you see them? Write a list of every person who you would like to give a gift to and beside their name, write an idea of what they might like, along with the cost and a back-up gift idea. You may get some ideas by looking at gift ideas online, from catalogues that will be filling up the mailbox thick and fast or from magazines and this is also a fantastic way to comparison shop to ensure you are getting the best price on offer. Make sure you total up the amount overall, and be prepared to rethink some of your ideas if your list total is too high.
Work out your food budget.
On a separate piece of paper or Excel spreadsheet, think about what plans are already in place and what plans are likely to eventuate leading up to Christmas and on Christmas day. Are you responsible for any meals, drinks, snacks or desserts? If so, put down each dish and the cost. Itemising and keeping track of expenses can discourage impulse buying and ensure that you are not overspending. Try some out some great budgeting tools that available online.
Ask family and friends.
Ban unnecessarily expensive presents this Christmas by alerting family and friends that you are sticking to a budget and ask if there is something that they would particularly like or need that is within your means. Everyone knows how expensive Christmas can end up being, so most people will be understanding of your request.
Shop smarter. Go online now while there are pre-Christmas sales to find a fantastic bargain and still have time for it to be delivered to your door. While you may have to pay for shipping, a number of online stores like Etsy, Barneys, Society6 and Target offer free shipping before Christmas, so that means you can save, both in money and time.
Time your shop.
If you would rather go into stores and see and touch your potential gifts before buying, make a plan to go while you still have plenty of time. This means clear thinking and lower stress levels, less crowded stores and a wider range of goods to choose from. There will also be less chance of expensive impulse purchases because you are afraid of time running out, or you haven’t had the chance to comparison shop. Don’t be afraid to call stores ahead on the morning of your shop to see whether they have the item you are looking for and how much it will cost.
Plan your shop.
Work out in advance which stores you need to go to for what items and group your tasks together to occur in the same shop. This means less time spent driving around, saving you money on gas.
Drop the bar-hop.
Leading up to Christmas, there are all kinds of Christmas drinks, parties and revelry. Going out to all of these can be very expensive, so consider having the festivities at someone’s house where everyone can bring their own drinks and a plate of food to share.
If you have children, aim to have someone else look after them while you shop. The chance of overspending due to time pressure from tired and irritable children is high at this time of year so separate your visits if possible (present and food buying vs photos with Santa).
Clear out the clutter.