I am not quite sure where the year went but here we are again, less than a month away from Christmas. While Christmas is a wonderful time to relax, celebrate and spend time with the family it can also bring with it a whole lot of financial stress and uncertainty.
As budget coaches our goal is to help our clients plan and prepare for Christmas throughout the year so that when December arrives, the money for food, presents, entertainment and holidays is set aside and ready to be spent and enjoyed. Saving money ahead of time and planning will create no need for stress, guilt or the credit card!!
As much as this is an excellent goal to aspire to (for next year!) we know that for most people this isn’t the reality. Let’s face it – life is busy and as it does every year Christmas has snuck up on us!
If this is you don’t fret, with a month to go there is still plenty you can do to keep the costs down this Christmas. Here are three of our favourite tips on how to save money for this Christmas period:
Tip 1: Prepare and Shop to a Gift List
We Australians have a serious propensity to over-spend on presents. Now, I am always very careful with what I say here because I understand that for some people ‘gift giving’ is a genuine love language; a way that they express love. However, my experience is that these people tend to spend less money and put more time and thought into their gift giving than the rest of us.
Those of us who aren’t natural gift givers tend to seriously overspend on gifts. Whether it’s lack of time, or guilt, or trying to keep up with the Joneses, or fear of looking stingy, we spend far more than we need to or often more than we can afford. If you are putting it on the credit card and going into debt because you don’t have the cash, you are spending more than you can afford.
Here is a simple task that will save you hundreds this Christmas if you do it thoroughly.
Column # 1 – Write the name of every single person you plan on buying a present for this Christmas.
Column # 2 – Write down how much you want to spend on each person.
Column # 3 – Write down what you would like to buy for each person.
Once you have completed Column #2, make sure you total up how much you plan to spend on everyone. This can be a real ‘eye opener’ that all those gifts really do add up! You may want to go back and adjust down some of your figures.
The third column may take a few days of brainstorming but make sure you come up with a couple of ideas for each person. Do not go cruising the shops hoping for inspiration – you will almost certainly end up spending more.
Tip 2: Plan When You Will Go Shopping
One of the biggest enemies of cost-effective shopping is to shop when you are short of time. As we outlined in tip one you need to shop to a plan, however you also need to give yourself plenty of time to find what you want at the price you are willing to pay. If you are pushed for time you can be absolutely certain that convenience will win out over price every time.
Also, plan to shop at a time that doesn’t require you to drag the kids around the shops with you. There is no better incentive to get the shopping done quickly than whinging kids and quickly rarely corresponds to cheaply.
And ladies you may even want to think about leaving hubby at home as well, after all someone needs to look after the kids!
Tip 3: Don’t Be Afraid To Ask People What They Want
Have you ever received a present and thought to yourself, “Okay…. this is an interesting present, I wonder what they were thinking when they bought this!” I know we don’t want to sound ungrateful but we have all been given clothes we will never wear, gadgets we will never use and music we will never listen to.
We suggest to our clients that it is not a bad idea to ask friends and relatives what they would like for Christmas (or Birthdays). No doubt you are thinking – but what if they ask for something really expensive!
Our experience is that when you ask someone what they would like for Christmas three things occur:
- You are able to get them a gift they will use and enjoy.
- Most people don’t want to appear to be greedy or make assumptions about your financial situation so they will automatically default to the cheaper end rather than the more expensive end of the range.
- The expectations are set by what they have asked for so you do not need to feel stingy buying what they have asked for and on the flip side they will not view you as stingy because you have given them what they asked for.
Now we all know people who will push the boundaries and ask for the Gold Apple iWatch so you do need to consider who you ask, however asking is generally a win/win for everyone.
With Christmas less than a month away, take the time to prepare. It doesn’t need to take hours, but a simple plan will make you all the difference, save you hundreds of dollars in the process and help you have a debt free Christmas.