It seems pretty obvious that we should be prepared for Christmas since it comes up on the 25th December each year yet we all go into a frenzy as the date approaches and many end up out of pocket afterwards. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of the festive season and come out relatively financially unscathed.
Most people spend much more than they can afford in the run up to Christmas. Create a Christmas gift budget before you start to visit the shopping malls or online retailers and try to stick to it. Make a list of all those that you would like to buy a gift for this Christmas and how much you would you like to spend on each person. Of course one would like to give gifts to all your family and friends but don’t feel bad if you can’t.
Rummage through your cupboards; you will find presents that you have long forgotten about lying unopened from years gone by. Presents that you were given that you didn’t need nor want, and gifts that you meant to give away but never got round to it. With your list of gift receivers you might get through half the list with all these presents and also de-clutter your home at the same time.
Carry your gift list around with you and tick things off as you buy them so that you can easily check what you have bought people and wont duplicate gifts or be tempted to overspend. If the total is outrageous then reassess your list and take some people off. It just isn’t realistic to think you can afford to give gifts to everyone that you like. Concentrate on giving gifts to your closest family members. Where you feel obliged to give gifts to families, you might limit the numbers by buying family gifts such as a cake or a board game as opposed to individual ones. A few “emergency presents” are useful; someone is bound to arrive unannounced with a present and it could be awkward if you have nothing.
The earlier you start planning the better. Start stocking up on the things you will need in the coming weeks so it isn’t all a last minute rush. Make a list of the non-perishables and buy a few with your regular shopping. It is often more cost effective to buy in bulk but plan to share with friends and family as you don’t want to be stuck with too much food. This is a wonderful way to share food amongst your household and other staff who might not otherwise be able to afford much for their families.
Avoid borrowing for Christmas. Use your debit card or cash instead of borrowing or using your credit card. This way you will be better able to keep track of your expenses and spend only what you have. If you absolutely must borrow for be sure to have an idea of how and when you will be able to pay off your loan. Credit card interest in particular is very high and will make your purchases much more expensive.
You probably have some close friends and relatives that are all over the world and calling them can be very expensive. Roaming charges can be exorbitant so if you are travelling abroad, be very careful not to run up your phone bill.
Fortunately there are now several popular communication applications such as Whatsapp, Skype, Viber and Facetime audio, which allow voice and video calls on data and Wi-Fi networks which could save you a huge amount of money if you embrace this technology. Try to get your network to subscribe to these services and your international calls to them will be entirely free.
Children’s expectations can put you under a huge amount of pressure. They too should write a list and should be encouraged to prioritize; it is unreasonable or unrealistic, explain why you can’t buy it. Remember that children do not need expensive presents. Often, no sooner than the gift-wrap is torn off and the toys are cast aside. Don’t feel pressurized by what other people are getting for their children. Focus on your family’s goals and budget.
Why not consider giving a gift of real value for Christmas. The best present any child can receive at this time of year is one that will increase in value over time. Such gifts could include a savings account, a mutual fund, a gold coin perhaps. You will be sewing the seed of saving and investing by encouraging them to develop financial responsibility. Young children will probably not thank you as all they want is the latest fad or gadget but in later years the value should become apparent.
Spending time with loved ones can be more valuable than spending money. With our busy lives having just a few days to spend on people that matter most to you is a wonderful thing. Rather than feel you have to buy an expensive present, make the effort to visit with those you love particularly those that have had a really rough year. Some elderly relatives might be lonely at this time. Your time is worth much more than money
We all have some sort of skill. Are you good at baking, writing poetry, taking photographs, composing music, carpentry? This is a wonderful time to give your loved ones a thoughtful gift that you made an effort to create yourself.
Carefully consider your giving this year and even if you are giving cash or food that will be used up, also try to invest your money where it can have a real impact that is sustainable. Giving is a powerful and effective way to change people’s lives for the better.
Focus on the things that matter most to you at Christmas time. Is it the wonderful Church services that you plan to attend, or the cherished family time, or the down time where you have a few days off to unwind from another hectic year and prepare for a new one. Give yourself that time to reflect on the past year and the new one that is about to commence.
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Nimi Akinkugbe has extensive experience in private banking and wealth management. She is passionate about encouraging financial independence and offers frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance and wealth management issues. She is married with 3 children.Find out more via www.nimiakinkugbe.com