I’m not being any kind of Grinch here but Christmas has turned into less of a celebration and more into a contest. That’s not just my opinion at all. Figures from polls across the board show that Christmas has added massive pressure on all of us to create the perfect festive experience, especially to those of us with families, and the cost of making that dream come true is becoming higher and higher each year.
Research shows that we are spending significantly more every year and that a huge amount of the cost goes on credit cards that aren’t cleared for months after the event — if even at all.
At least it shows our Christmas spirit is alive and well. Or is it? Could this be another result of social media creating a contest of presenting an illusion of our best lives to the screen-staring masses instead of enjoying an honest and affordable Christmas based on the values we seem to have lost to a digital generation?
So what can we do to avoid the excessive overspend? To dodge the debt See this, and enjoy the season for what it truly should be?
This should take precedence over everything. Make a budget. Before you even start thinking about what the kids want, what your partner wants, or drafting up the list of your own expectations and demands you should decide what you can realistically afford to spend and stick to it.
The earlier you start saving for Christmas the more you’ll have to spend. If you leave it until December chances are you’re going to be putting it on a credit card that you’re not going to pay off until April, May or June. The interest that will accrue will make your total spend even more frightening than you already thought it was.
Write an extensive list of what you need; not just covering the cost of the gifts and the food and drink, but new outfits, entertaining the kids, visits to Santa, travel expenses to see relatives, parties, excursions, events and more. Plan out the whole month so there are no surprises. Add it all up and see if you can afford it. If so, that’s great. If not, then it’s time to make some changes.
Plan your Christmas shopping
Wandering around the shops, especially in the supermarket, will encourage impulse purchases that you don’t need and more often than not at inflated prices you could find cheaper elsewhere.
You’ve made a budget so stick to it. If you do, everything stays under control. The minute you start with any off-piste spending is the minute your costs will create the kind of Christmas surprises that will take your breath for all the wrong reasons.
Keep expectations low and impact high
Pre-empt your children’s expectations to what you can realistically afford. There’s nothing worse than seeing the disappointment on their little faces on Christmas morning but that doesn’t mean you have to bankrupt yourself to avoid it.
Get them to make a list of everything they’d like but ask them which are the top three they’d like the most; Santa is VERY busy this year and can’t possibly find time to provide everything for every child in the world, three is possibly his limit this year. Any extra gifts they receive on top of what is expected will be a bonus to them.
Gift your time
For a lot of us, time is our most important commodity. We overlook too many of our relationships by prioritising badly nand speaking as someone who is strugging with the idea of Christmas without my Dad this year, I can absolutely tell you that spendingtime with your family is the best gift you can give yourself and others.
Another upside to this option is if you make your family outing plans for January or February then it can go into next month’s budget freeing up a bit more cash for December!
Avoid credit – especially store cards
I’ve already mentioned that so many of us are continuing to pay for last Christmas way after the event so if you can avoid borrowing at all then do. Live within your seasonal means if you can.
It might be tempting to accept a store card offer to deal with the extra costs but the interest rates they will offer you will be a lot higher than you’d find if you hunted out an alternative. Paying the minimum amount on these cards each month can often lead to paying double the amount you borrow on them.
You have the world’s biggest shopping facility at hand without even leaving the house. Utilising comparison shopping sites and doing the bulk of your shopping online will help take the pressure off fighting your way through the aisles, the displeasure of queuing and also it’s where you’re likely to save the most money. Just make sure you start early enough to have it all delivered in time!
Dodge brand names and find the bargains, try making the switch from M&S to Aldi, a sprout is still a sprout after all, and the savings you’ll make can go towards those bigger gift ideas that so far seem out of reach.
Put a limit on online shopping
In the same way you’ll need to avoid the temptation of impulse buying in the stores and supermarkets you also need to activate the same level of discipline when scrolling through the stores online.
Stick to your shopping list. Stick to your budget. Resist the little black dress and the Gucci handbag. Keep your eye on the prize and the real prize is dodging any debt.
Forget the extended warranty
Super-driven sales staff will be looking for their Christmas bonuses by selling extended warranties and bolt on extras. Most purchases will automatically be covered by a years warranty anyway so do you really need to spend money you don’t have on something you’re not likely to need? If you’re giving it as a gift it’s not even your problem! Keep hold of all of your receipts though, just in case.
Get rid of the old stuff
How much of last years Christmas didn’t even get a look in? How many of the kid’s toys don’t get played with anymore? Do you have a set of golf clubs or an exercise bike in the garage that hasn’t made an appearance for ten years or longer? Get them on eBay, Shpock or Facebook Marketplace. You’re not only making space for all the new additions but also finding a little extra money to go towards paying for them!
Party at home
We do a lot of additional socialising in December and at a premium cost. Why not arrange to see the same people you’d trawl the pubs with or meet in a restaurant at home? You’re completely in control of your spending then and the costs of home entertainment are going to be significantly less when buying food and drink at supermarket prices than those of restaurants and bars.
You’ll make more personal connections with those around you and have the facility for activities you’d never organise in a public environment. Get that Secret Santa happening, play all your favourite Christmas games, but remember — no falling out; this is the season of goodwill after all.
It’s not easy for everyone, as we’re not all gifted with craft, cooking or making skills, but a personal gift not only shows more effort and care but also can really help drop the price tag. Homemade chocolates, sweet treats, mulled wine, cookies and cocktails are all great ideas. Use the Internet; there are tutorials and recipes everywhere.
Make a better plan for next year
Once it’s all over, you’ve breathed the biggest sigh of relief and sit back to recount the cost of your Christmas, to see just how close you were to a debt problem or how deep into it you are, use that feeling of relief or dread to plan better for next year.
Start a saving scheme or Christmas Club straight away. It might just mean that next year you’ll be able to afford the Christmas you always dreamed of without touching a penny of your regular monthly budget.
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