With advance planning, the festive season can be a lot of fun without costing a bomb.
Avoiding the January blues.
If you’ve stepped into a shopping centre or turned on your television lately, you’ll have realised the silly season is upon us. While Christmas can have different meanings for different people, there is a common theme for most of us and that is one of increased spending.
I’m not just talking about presents here, although that certainly makes up a big chunk of our excess spending. I’m also talking about the extra outfits for the different functions and parties, the increased food bills for the many pre-Christmas catch-ups with friends and loved ones, and the grocery bill for Christmas Day, particularly if you’re hosting lunch for the family.
By New Year’s Day, it’s little wonder that both we and our credit cards collapse in an exhausted heap. The exhaustion ends and the stress rises when the January credit-card bill arrives and we realise just how much the silly season has cost.
Having said all that, I love this time of year. I love the catch-ups, the gift-giving and the champagne. However, I love it more because I set my expectations early. I make a plan and I stick to it as closely as possible. So if you want to enjoy this time of year and not enter 2014 with a financial hangover, here are my silly season financial tips:
Budget: Set a budget for your Christmas presents, then make a list of everyone you are buying for, what you want to buy them and the amount the present should cost. If your presents exceed the budget, either cull some names, choose a different present or see if you can find a preloved version on eBay or seek out a cheaper brand.
One for one: If you have a large family or circle of friends, consider doing Kris Kringle, where each person buys for only one person. It reduces financial stress and means the gift can be a more valuable present, rather than a lot of lower-priced ones.
Spending cap: Set limits with your partner, friends, family and children. Be a true friend by setting expectations and limits for presents, so that one or all of you don’t end up in financial difficulty. Or maybe agree with friends that instead of buying gifts, you all go out together for dinner, to a show or some other experience to celebrate.
Food, glorious food: If you’re hosting Christmas lunches or parties, ask your friends or family to bring something. You might set a menu and ask each person to bring a plate or you might simply ask people to bring a course.
Volunteer: Take your family and/or friends to volunteer at one of the many places that distribute food or gifts during this time of year. Taking time out to realise how many people struggle during the festive season can remove your focus from Christmas being about spending, to it being about gratitude.
Dress redress: Don’t buy an outfit for every party occasion. Sure, you might buy a couple of new outfits, but why not also update your existing outfits with accessories? Personal stylist Trish Murray told me recently that this was her secret weapon to updating her wardrobe.
Spending cap: If you are finding this time of year difficult financially, then make sure you talk to someone before you find yourself in a bigger hole. It might be an accountant, financial planner, financial counselling service or friend. By removing the financial burden, you can remove some of the stress of the season. With a bit of planning and a bit of willpower, you can enjoy the festive season without the January financial hangover.