Thanksgiving and Christmas are joyful times of the year. Families and friends get together, gifts are exchanged, dinner tables are full.
With Thanksgiving being only a short time away, and Christmas following shortly after here is the last chance to prepare for conscious spending this season.
It takes a lot of planning to make sure everybody is enjoying themselves. Getting all the dietary wishes right, and you finding the right presents takes real effort.
All this comes at a monetary cost as well. Never underestimate the benefits of setting a budget for the extra expenses.
If you plan ahead for the holidays, you can save money, and avoid spending on last-minute, last-resort ideas that might come at a higher cost.
Also, retailers start the Christmas fair earlier by every year. It is hard to resist sometimes buying just one more toy for the cute nieces and nephews.
There are some simple tips that if you consider now, you can avoid the financial stress and will leave you with more money in your pocket in January.
During Christmas, in addition to the family gatherings, we are more likely to go out for food and drinks and pay less attention to how much we spend.
Take charge of your spending now, so you won’t feel skint in January. There is nothing worse than not being able to afford an outing or struggling with credit card repayments in the early months of the New Year.
Those who celebrate Eid, Chanukah, or any other occasion can apply the tips.
Many of us want the celebrations to be perfect. We are longing for the moment when our children open presents they dreamt about, and we cannot wait for our friends to taste that delicious festive menu.
But before you make any plans for the perfect day, establish how much you can afford to spend.
If you haven’t established a budget before, take pen and paper, or create a spreadsheet.
Put down your monthly incomes, then carefully list all your outgoing expenses.
You must be 100% honest when you list your spending. For listing the utility expenses, check your bills, don’t just guess the number. This way you will have a more accurate figure in the end.
When you guess future expenses, make sure you are being realistic. If you are unsure about an expense, guess a larger amount to be on the safe side.
You can group your expenses in the following:
Eating and drinking
Motoring and public transport
Card and loan repayments
Savings and investments
Family and kids
Fun and frolics
Health and beauty
Education and courses
Always put some money on the side for ‘big one-offs’ because you can never know when an emergency expense could occur.
Once you know your spending, you can start prioritizing if you want to spend less in some areas.
The Run-Up to Christmas
After another difficult year, it is great to spread the Christmas cheer. You might feel the pressure to spend money in the run-up to compensate for the hard year behind your family.
However, there are many ways to sprinkle that Christmas magic for free (or very cheap). Keep reading for ideas.
Remember your childhood Christmases, chances are your best memories are not the perfectly decorated baubles or an expensive turkey.
For most people, the memorable things around Christmas are linked to the build-up to the big day. For children especially, it is the time and care you give them that will be the best gifts you can give.
Take an inventory of all the Christmas decorations you have already. It is one of the worst things you can do to buy new decorations every year. It is a waste of money and harmful to the environment.
Start a tradition of buying only one special ornament each year for your collection.
When you are planning the menus, look out for deals and sales in the grocery stores. You really don’t need to buy the more expensive turkey, no one will notice if it is the finest range.
If you found items from your ingredients list at good prices well ahead of the big day, grab them and store them in the cupboard or freeze them.
If you need to travel this Christmas, look up some travel deals to keep costs reasonable. If you need to stay in a hotel, you can lower your spending by buying groceries and eating with your family or friends at their home instead of going to restaurants.
Low-cost Activities with Kids
Raising children is a full-time job in itself. But if you have spare time while the kids are at school, check good work from home jobs for moms to earn some extra cash for Christmas.
There are plenty of things you can do which will not cost you an arm and leg that will make the family happy.
Check out the free website NoradSanta.org with the little ones, where they can watch Santa’s progress from 1 December.
You can also make searching the night skies a fun activity, looking for Santa’s sleigh. NASA’s International Space Station looks just like the magic sleigh as it streaks across the sky. Check here when the Station will be likely to pass above your home.
Snuggle up on the sofa with hot chocolate to watch The Polar Express under the fairy lights. A Christmassy film always brings around some magic spirit.
‘Elf on the shelf’ is another low-cost fun activity that will bring a smile to everyone’s face in the household, and it can go on for several days until Christmas.
The elf(s) perch up on the shelf to report back to Santa on the kid’s behavior. The idea is that during the night the elves enjoy themselves and will be in different scenarios for the kids to discover them in the morning.
One morning the elf might be found playing a board game with the other toys, the next they might be peering into the cereal box or squeezing out some toothpaste.
If you got a printer make the most of Christmas coloring pages. See Free-N-Fun Christmas or Crayola for free downloadable coloring pages and other craft ideas.
Doing arts and crafts to prepare Christmas decorations, tree ornaments and presents are not only cheaper. They help children to understand that hand-made objects have more sentimental worth than bought ones.
Worth a Gift?
Despite current trends, Thanksgiving and Christmas are not retail festivals.
Establish a list of people who are the closest to you, such as family members, and best friends.
End obliged gifting, and actually think about what you are giving, to whom, and why. This way you can put a stop to buying presents for the ever-widening circle of friends, extended family, and colleagues.
Don’t wander off your list once you worked it out. It will be much easier to avoid overspending and to resist the temptation to buy ‘just a little something’ for everyone.
Little things add up and then you will wonder where your money went.
It will free up a big chunk of your budget, and time. You won’t have to spend time looking for things to buy for the sake of gifting.
Gift hunting can become straining and exhausting, continuously looking on the internet, going from shop to shop.
Spare yourself the hassle and enjoy that time with active relaxation, give yourself some ‘me time’ or spend it with family and friends.
How to Gift
Secret Santa is a popular office activity if you are looking for ideas to make work fun. However, feel free to bring the activity home and suggest it to your loved ones. If you haven’t played before, here is how to do it.
The people involved put their names in a hat, then everyone draws out one person who they are buying for. This way you only buy and receive one gift. It is best if you agree on a spending limit. You can even set it up on the Internet using Elfster.
If Secret Santa is not an option this Christmas, you can always agree on a general spending limit for presents with family and friends. There is nothing wrong with spending less and putting more emphasis on the gift of time well-spent together.
Prepare the list of people you want to buy or make presents for, allocate a budget for each of them, and put down any ideas for gifts.
You might find it hard to stick to the plan, but you will be grateful in the New Year if you do. There will be some extra money left in your pocket.
Due to supply issues this year, if you find something at a bargain price, don’t count on it being available in December, or close to Christmas. The supply-chain issues could result in shortages and empty shelves.
Once you know who to buy for, whenever you see potential presents at decent prices, just grab them, wrap them, and put them in the cupboard.