Ugh, Christmas…As you may know, I’m not a big fan of the holiday season. And while I enjoy seeing my family and getting together with my friends, the run up to Christmas is usually a stressful time, because we get fed these perfect images on TV and other media, of happy relaxed families with the perfect tree, the perfect meal and the perfect smile on their faces, when usually, well, we have to embrace imperfection.
My most stressful time was a few years back, when I ended up having to shop for food and gifts at the last minute, and told myself never again. I mean, Christmas comes around every year at the same time, right? So how about we plan for it a little better? There are two important things when it comes to planning for Christmas: your budget, and your timeline.
As far as your budget is concerned, you can decide early on what you are prepared to spend on food, gifts, travel, etc. during the holiday season. A budget is meant to be flexible, but you will also have a maximum number you should not go over. Who wants to spend months after the event paying off credit card debt? Not me, that’s for sure. So a good idea is to start saving a few months before and pay for Christmas with your savings.
Open a high yield savings account and put your savings there. The little interest on top is always welcome and, by not having the money on your current account, you won’t be tempted to spend it. Even £20 a week for 12 weeks before Christmas will give you a nice £240 to start with.
Another thing I like to do with advance planning is keep an eye for things that might be nice as gifts and buy them when they go on sale. I have also been making more personal gifts lately. For example, I like to give custom calendars to my family members. They’re really easy to make online, you put 12 pictures of your family for each month, and then on special days like birthdays or anniversaries, you can write down a reminder. They cost under £15 and everyone loves them. If you had a kid last year, your parents will be delighted to have a calendar with baby pictures! It does take a little time to browse through your archives to find nice pictures and put the calendar together, but it is well worth it, especially if you make a bunch. Much nicer than giving everyone the same pair of socks or £80 fragrance.
Regarding food shopping, you should begin to think about your list several weeks before Christmas. Again, keep an eye out for discounted chocolate and other non perishables. If you can freeze things, do that too. It is much easier to spend an extra £10 over your usual grocery budget every week, than to have to come up with all that money at the last minute.
Finally, I’d discuss gifts with my family if my budget was too tight. I’d rather tell my parents I can’t afford gifts this year than put on a smile and fake it, then have to finance the expense for weeks or months. Money doesn’t have to be taboo and explaining rather than buying goes a long way to keeping your finances in check.
Make you read through this handy infographic from Choose Wisely to be fully prepared for Christmas next year!