Do you look forward to Christmas? Or has it all become too much, stretching us to our limits in terms of stress, time and money. Here are my top twenty tips on how to have a great Christmas without throwing your finances into disarray.
Prepare a Christmas Budget
A Christmas Budget is the best place to start. How much can you afford to spend on all the trappings; gifts, decorations, food and drink, clothes, entertainment, phone calls, charity, and travel.
It’s one thing to prepare a budget, but quite another to stick to it. This takes some discipline when everything is geared up to make you overspend, but you will be thankful if you stop yourself from going above budget.
Shop with a List
Make a list of everyone you plan to give a gift to, as well as the amount you plan to spend on each. Remember those who have been particularly helpful through the year and include a few extras. A list helps you avoid buying unnecessary items. You can’t give everyone a gift. There are some people on your list who you’ve exchanged gifts with, out of sheer habit over several years. Forgo some gifts this year and spend time together instead.
Don’t Go into Debt to Fund Christmas
Many families will still be paying for Christmas overindulgence well into 2018 at a time when school fees are due. Don’t let that be you. It doesn’t make sense to go into debt for Christmas. Use cash or your debit card.
You can Still Save
How much do you spend eating out each day? Why not save some of this by taking packed lunches to work between now and Christmas. If you save N500 a day on your lunch, that would be a tidy sum.
Make Travel Plans Early
It may be too late to secure discount fares now, but don’t get caught out next time. Book early; it is usually far cheaper.
Shop Bit by Bit
Shopping under pressure leads to overspending. Shop early for more meaningful, appropriate gifts. Accumulating gifts throughout the year eases the pressure of buying so much at once. Add an item or two to your usual grocery shopping. Don’t wait until the last minute.
By shopping online you have so many options and can compare prices before you commit. You can also have the items shipped to the recipient.
Buy in Bulk
We spend far too much on food at Christmas and so much goes to waste. Plan ahead for your Christmas food needs. Consider bulk buying some items and share with family, friends and colleagues. You can share the cost of a cow, a turkey, a sack of rice, and other staples.
Declutter and Make Some Money
Is your store full of things that you’ve never used? Take stock and decide what to give away or sell. Dig up all those gifts you never used that are cluttering up your shelves.
Do you know that you can offset some of your Christmas costs by selling on OLX; you will find that others value things that you no longer have any use for and you might pick up some great items yourself.
Split the Costs
If you are expecting the extended family this Christmas, which could be dozens of people, split the costs, so that one person buys and prepares starters, one does the main meal and another the deserts. The joint effort will save you all money and give you unhurried family bonding time.
It would be great to be able to buy special gifts for all your loved ones but the reality is that funds are limited and the extended family and friends can be extensive. A “Secret Santa” makes sense and is lots of fun; everyone buys just one gift. Set a maximum price limit for gifts so that poorer relations don’t feel uncomfortable. It makes sure everyone gets a surprise gift and saves everyone cash.
Gifts that Keep Giving
Gifts that teach the benefits of saving and investing are ideal at Christmas; not only do they outlast expensive toys and gadgets, but they may continue to give, long after the wrapping paper has been thrown away. The gift of a mutual fund investment is a thoughtful financial gift to a young child and could be the start of a rewarding long-term savings plan. You can invest with as little as N5,000.
Encourage Family Creativity
Friends and family will always treasure handmade gifts by children. Framed photographs or paintings from school art class, recordings of a grand-daughters song, a piece of poetry, freshly baked cookies, or a specially grown potted plant, do not cost much but have sentimental value. Teach children valuable lessons that it is the thought and effort that counts, not the amount.
If you aren’t able to afford a new Christmas tree or decorations, pick up some scrap branches or logs on the roadside where trees have been felled at construction sites. Stand them in a large pot and hang some baubles and decorations. This always adds a special touch for additional décor, even where you have the main tree up.
I prefer traditional Christmas cards but if you are indifferent, then send e-cards instead. You can touch lives through your Christmas Cards by sending them in conjunction with a charity such as UNICEF and know that you are supporting a worthy cause as well.
Buy One Big Family Gift
Board games such as Monopoly or “The Bible Game: Saints and Sinners” for all ages, are substantial gifts for a whole family.
Make Your Own Hampers
Have you ever thought of making your own Christmas hampers? Buy the contents in bulk and the divide them up. Decorating and filling up the hampers is great family fun and provides your children with valuable lessons in creativity. You too can be creative. If your talent is in the kitchen, why not bake a cake or some special treats for loved ones. Gift giving doesn’t always have to be expensive,
Are You Getting a Christmas Bonus?
If you are lucky enough to receive a Christmas bonus, try not to spend it all. This is a great opportunity to reduce your debt, boost your savings, or invest a little. Spoil yourself a little as well.
Make Philanthropy a Part of Your Family Life
No matter how challenging things might seem, there are many people far worse off than you. Giving doesn’t have to be about money. You can give of your time, talent, or treasure. Involve your children; this will teach them powerful lessons that they can have a positive effect on the wellbeing of others.
Calling Family & Friends Overseas
Get online and use free providers such as Skype and Facetime and save a fortune in telephone bills.
After Christmas Sales
After all the festivity, the post holiday sales are a great opportunity to pick up gifts and decorations for next year; many items are sold at much reduced prices in January.
Don’t forget the reason for the season. May God’s gift of his son Jesus give you joy and peace. Merry Christmas!