The Christmas season is upon us. It’s a time when we spoil our loved ones, eat far too many delicious meals and buy lots of gifts. It’s a time when we all want to say thank you to teachers, buy gifts for friends and spoil our family.
There is something about Christmas that makes us want to get the perfect gift and enjoying the festive season with many outings and restaurant meals. But how do we stay on budget? How do we not get caught up in the silly season? How do we make sure we only spend what we have planned to spend and not end up paying for this year’s Christmas, next year?
Today I’ve asked a financial planner, Sigrid Madonko, to share a few of her Top 10 Budgeting Tips to help us through this silly season when staying on budget is so difficult but SO essential!
Top 10 Budgeting Tips for Christmas
1. Plan the gifts.
I love buying gifts and spoiling all those around me, but I find it helpful to write a list of all those I want to buy gifts for. Once I have written everyone’s names down I will check with my husband and children as they might want to add a few names to the list.
2. Check the budget.
Check how much you have budgeted to spend for Christmas. Take into account how much you plan to spend on gifts and entertainment. If you have not set an amount aside, see how much you can afford to spend. Check the budget and see how much you can spend this Christmas season.
3. Write a list of the gifts.
Write a list of all the gifts you want to buy and make the list as thorough and extensive as possible. There is nothing worse than forgetting someone and having to rush out on Christmas Eve to get the perfect gift. Write down how much you plan to spend on each person’s gift.
4. Discuss this season’s entertainment.
I tend to get overexcited with the Christmas spirit and end up wanting to enjoy all the entertainment options our beautiful city has to offer. By writing our options down and planning, I can prevent our entertainment costing more than we budgeted for. By planning we can make informed decisions as to what we want to enjoy this festive season and what restaurants we want to visit. We can also enjoy the many free or inexpensive options our city has to offer.
5. Revert back to the budget.
After you have written everything down, balance it with your budget. Does everything fit in the budget? If not, change the amounts till they all fit in the allocated budget. I seem to have an endless list of people I want to thank for all their hard work during the year: teachers, extra-mural teachers, babysitters and even the school secretary. But once I balance it against my budget, I am usually way over. It’s good to rebalance so as to prevent overspending.
6. Plan the shop.
Once the budget is finalized and everything has been squeezed in, you can start planning the shop. Start by checking your present box, gifts you might have bought during the year that will the perfect Christmas gift for someone. Also check online for specials and any sales that stores might be having. I often use vouchers that I have not had a chance to use during the course of the year.
7. Plan the entertainment.
I love planning the entertainment for the holiday season. The plans do not need to be cast in stone, but a few guidelines help us make sure that we all get to enjoy the holiday. I love getting the children involved, as they have different ideas for fun holiday activities. Keep an eye on the budget and balance the expensive and free entertainment options.
8. Free gifts.
What do we do about those we want to buy gifts for but cannot afford to do so? I love buying everyone a gift but recently my daughter made such a beautiful thank you card for her drama teacher that I realized that some things are more valuable than gifts. A beautiful, thoughtful card can mean more to someone than a gift. I also enjoy giving vouchers, such as a babysitting voucher to someone who has children or dinner to a new mom. I know my husband would love an “uninterrupted rugby time” voucher and my eldest daughter a “20 minute back rub” voucher. The list is endless and just takes a little imagination and thinking out of the box.
9. Remember January.
January seems particularly long if we have overspent during the Christmas season. Often we get paid two weeks earlier and can end up using our January salary for December’s expenses. January brings with it many unplanned expenses and if we have not stuck to our budget, it can be a very long and painful month. Stick to the budget and do not be tempted to swipe the credit card.
10. Enjoy the festive season.
Now that your plan and budget is finalized, you can enjoy the holiday season. Enjoy the shopping, gift giving, entertainment and restaurants. If the budget is a little tight, do not be tempted to use credit and go into debt. Debt can take many months to settle and you could end up spending double or three times more. Rather think about next year’s budget and how you plan to save monthly for next Christmas.
What are you top tips for sticking to a budget at Christmas. Please share them in the comments section below! I’m sure we could all use some extra ideas for saving cash at Christmas!