We all know that Christmas Day falls on 25th December each year, yet somehow many of us seem to be caught unawares and spending gets out of control. Do we put ourselves under far too much social and financial pressure at Christmas? Money issues are one of the leading causes of stress during the holiday season. Gift buying, travel and entertainment are some of the major culprits that increase the financial burden. Here are some tips that I am following closely this year.
Set three goals
Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have SMART goals to accomplish during the period. Don’t have too many so you can achieve them. It could be about relationships; there may be things that you love to do with your family but just don’t find the time. It could be about your business; setting aside important time with your team to reflect on the year gone by and the approaching the new year 2020 and a new decade. It could and should be about you; building in some precious me time to just be; to reflect and give yourself some focus.
Make a Christmas budget and stick to it
How much can you afford to spend this Christmas? The key is to make a budget and to do all you can to limit your spending within it. Start with your usual obligations and expenses so you do not fall short on priorities and due payments such as home or office rent, utility bills, insurance premiums, debt etc. Once these items have been taken out of your budget, you can work out how much you can afford to spend on gifts.
The Christmas trappings will include gifts, decorations, food and drink, clothes, entertainment, phone calls, transport costs, charitable donations and travel. It is so easy to get carried away with all the festivity but you will enjoy it so much more if your spending is within limits. If you are prone to spending all that you have, transfer the Christmas money into a separate bank account that you seldom use and pay for your Christmas spending from that account; it will help you keep track of your expenses.
Make a list
You want to buy presents for everyone but can you afford to with everything else that you have going on including school fees due in January? Make a list of friends and family for whom you wish to or feel obliged to purchase gifts. How much can you afford to spend on each person? It’s a nice way to show appreciation to those that have been so kind or particularly helpful through the year.
Shopping with a list helps curb or manage impulsive spending. It takes a great deal of will power to not cave in to the temptation amidst the flashing lights and Christmas music. Build in some indulgence; its too dull to have to watch every single penny at Christmas; it takes away some of the fun and excitement; but leave your credit card at home; avoid going into debt for Christmas.
What do you already have?
Make the time to rifle through your cupboards and store; you will be surprised to find lots of items from birthdays or past Christmases that are still un-opened years later. These can make ideal gifts for friends and family as long as you don’t give Aunty Matilda the same ghastly beaded floral clock that she gave you three years ago! You can’t use it, but someone else might just love it.
It’s the thought that counts, not the amount
Don’t feel obliged to buy expensive gifts just because they are expensive. A thoughtful gift, something that demonstrates love and care, is of far greater value than one that is meant to impress. Gifts of sentimental value, such as framed photographs, a potted plant, or a special book, aren’t that expensive. We must find ways to teach our children by example that thoughtfulness is more important than price and that its not all about money. Encourage them to use their talents to create handmade gifts for loved ones who will treasure them. This is an opportunity to talk about value and values.
Give the gift of stock
The gift of stock or a lump sum mutual fund investment managed by a reputable fund manager is a thoughtful financial gift to a young child. This introduces them to the world of saving and investing and could be the start of a rewarding long-term investment plan. A mutual fund is a professionally managed fund that pools money from several investors to invest in securities including stocks, bonds and money market instruments both in local and foreign currency. You can invest in a mutual fund for as little as N5,000.
Why not make an investment for yourself this Christmas? Perhaps you’ve been sitting on the sidelines all year ignoring the markets? Take advantage of stock prices that have left some valuable stocks underpriced. If you are fortunate and have received a bonus or some windfall, close the year by adding to your financial security.
Touch a life
We’ve all been moaning about how difficult 2019 has been for business. The truth is that there are millions of people far worse off than you are. Think of something that you can do in the run up to Christmas and beyond. that will make a difference and bring a smile to someone’s face. Give some thought about the way you give; will it be one off, or something more sustainable that has a long term social impact and keeps giving. Be mindful of where you channel your resources to ensure that it is handled appropriately.
Give of your time
There are people amongst us that are very lonely and would cherish a visit from you. Make the time; the value of that time with a widow or widower, or an old person is immeasurable. It could be a friend that is going through significant challenges. Invest in relationships; this is a far greater investment than gold and silver.
A visit to a loved one that you haven’t seen in a long time, a phone call that you’ve been delaying, a handwritten note of appreciation; these are the seemingly little things that make all the difference in our frenetic world. Our time is so precious, so this makes the gift of time one of the most precious.
Many Nigerian families will still be paying for their Christmas indulgence well into 2020. Don’t be one of those that starts the new-year utterly broke and looking to borrow from friends and family for school fees, because you overspent in December. In the midst of all the festivity, find a moment to stop and reflect on the true essence of Christmas and what truly matters.