While Christmas is one of the most highly anticipated holidays of the year, it can also be an especially stressful time for families financially. From buying Christmas gifts, cards, and decorations, to contributing to multiple Christmas potlucks and special charity events, Christmas is often overloaded with commitments that can put you way over budget and leave you starting the New Year with a debt hangover. And for some people, just thinking about how to afford it can make them feel anxious and stressed.
But there’s good news - it doesn’t have to be that way! With some extra effort, you can plan to spend within your means over Christmas and not spend January getting out of debt.
And the most important word here is planning. Planning is the key to not overspending and getting caught out at the last minute. And, even if thinking about Christmas makes you anxious and you find it hard to plan, not planning almost always leaves you worse off. The earlier you start, the better off you will be particularly if you need to start putting aside some money.
In order to plan you need to set aside some time and have an idea of how much you can afford. One way to start is by looking back at how much you spent last Christmas. Make sure you include the cost of special meals, decorations, and any traveling as well as the presents.
Once you know how much you can afford for presents, make a list of all the people who need presents and the things you want to do. Then allocate an amount to spend on each person or activity on your list. You can use a pen and paper and there are many apps and free resources available online to help with this bit. If you’re already struggling with debt, you will need to carefully examine how much you can actually afford to spend this Christmas and make the necessary adjustments to stay on track.
Now that you know how much you can spend on each person, you can look for ways to buy things as cheaply as possible. You can take advantage of Black Friday and pre-Christmas sales. You can look at online auction sites and second-hand websites to find items cheaper. There are price comparison websites and websites that list vouchers, bargains, discounts, sales, and deals. A little bit of time spent on research can make a big difference and booking train tickets early can save a huge amount of money.
Buying presents for children to give to relatives can be expensive. So why not bake some cookies with your children, wrap them up nicely and give those instead? You can find lots of great recipes for cookies, biscuits, and gingerbread online and there are lots of places to buy Christmas Cookie bags.
In the next blog we’ll look at other ways to save money and some ways to find the money. And, if you don’t know where to start, type ‘how to budget for Christmas’ into your browser or search engine and you’ll find many websites with budgeting and money-saving tips and tricks.