Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year, or so the song would have us believe. Yet for many it remains the most financially stressful time, where saving goes out the window and credit cards and used without thought of consequence.
I have compiled a list of budget friendly tips for having a great Christmas, and even though it is already November, you can still put these into practise.
- Make a list of every single item you will need. That means food, gifts, household essentials…Everything. Break that list down into perishable and non perishable. Whatever is perishable will need to be bought the week of Christmas, ideally the day before. Take the non perishable list and count how many items you have on it. Divide that number by the number of paydays you have left until Christmas, and then buy that many items each pay. You will find you don’t miss the ten or twenty dollars as much as you would miss the one or two hundred dollars if you shop in one hit. For example, I have 16 non perishable items and four paydays. This means that I need to buy four items each payday.
- Not sure you want to store everything ahead of time? That’s fine. Work out your lists as above, and then hop online and check out your local supermarket website for prices. Once you have prices for everything, add it up and divide that amount by the number of paydays you have left. Then you simply need to purchase a gift card for your local supermarket to that value. Come time to do your Christmas shopping, it ill be paid for, as long as you do not deviate from your list. It is a good idea to allow 10% extra in your budget, just in case.
- Shop for gifts throughout the year when sales are on, if your storage space allows. I have dedicated storage for wrapping paper, cards, just in case gifts, and family gifts. As I find something that fits into one of those categories, I buy it, and pop it away until it is needed.
- Cull your shopping list. Seriously! You may have dozens of people that you know and interact with, but how many of those people are actual true friends? If they wouldn’t come to my aid at 3am no questions asked, they don’t get a gift. My immediate family get gifts, as does my sons two music teachers and his two classroom helpers (he is gifted and has tutors to help him accelerate), and then two close friends. That’s it. Everyone else gets a card with well wishes. For me it is more the thought and the presence, not the presents.
- Have a pot luck lunch. Our tradition on Boxing Day is to host a Leftovers Lunch, where all of our friends and family gather and bring their leftovers to share. It is always funny to see what people have to share, whether two slices of ham or twenty kilos of coleslaw, it is a great way to use up leftovers, and spend time with those you love.
- Get creative in your gift giving. I realise that not everyone like handmade items, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. Your favourite cookie recipe with the ingredients needed is a sweet gift for a baker friend, if you are tech savvy you can create a mash up of your music lovers favourite songs. Know someone who loves animals? Make a donation in their name to your local animal shelter. Better yet, instead of buying gifts for those you love, why not buy a gift and donate it to your local Salvation Army for their hampers? Brighten someone else’s Christmas and you will brighten your own in the process.
- Large family? Have a Kris Kringle draw for gifts, instead of buying for everyone. Set a reasonable limit with instructions not to go over, have everyone list five things they would love, and do the drawing after a family get together.
- Something good to start is to buy a gift card every payday, and put them aside to use for your Christmas shopping. You won’t be saving the money, so there will be no temptation to spend it on something else.
- Bake and make everything yourself. Seriously, it is not that hard, and making something from scratch is a lot less expensive than buying something already prepared by someone else. Also, you will have less waste.
- Go to a community lunch. Most churches run them, and they can be a fun way to make new friends and to enjoy a hassle free Christmas lunch.
By forward planning, making a budget and sticking to it, and a little creative thinking, you can have an amazing financial stress free Christmas!