How to fit Christmas into your budget

In just a few weeks’ time it will be Christmas – one of the most financially stressful times of the year.

We all know how important it is to not have a financial blow-out, yet every year we hear horror stories about families that suffer terribly as a result of over-spending.

Whilst we all seem to over-eat and drink too much over the holiday season, it’s the money carnage that has the biggest impact.

It’s a crazy time of year for sure. Before you get too embroiled in all the celebrations, let’s take a moment to share some thoughts about the festive season…

Christmas is just one day of the year.

If Christmas is a time for your family traditions, then now is the time to talk about changing or adding some new ones that won’t break anybody’s budget. You’ll possibly find that there are some other family members who are secretly longing for this to happen.

Perhaps your family would benefit from a ‘pre-Christmas planning’ day which will give everybody a chance to plan for the event properly. Why only get together once a year?

Christmas is a time of sharing.

Not only do we share food and drinks but we also share time with our family. Some do that willingly; some do that because it’s expected of them.

It’s not always easy to get a family of different personalities together for a day of bonding. There are bound to be some frayed and jagged nerves by the end of the day.

If you’re hosting the family Christmas party and will have a house full of guests, then hopefully they’ll contribute something or share some of the chores. Let’s face it – it’s no fun cooking for a crowd and then having to wash all the dishes as well.

If this is what usually happens at your place (or wherever you spend Christmas), then maybe it’s time to change some of your Christmas traditions. You’re probably not the only person who needs to watch their money.

Perhaps your ‘traditional dinner’ could be divided into parts that each guest could provide (eg: somebody brings the turkey / ham, somebody else provides the veggies. The pudding could be supplied by somebody else, and the custard could also be made by another guest. Are you getting the idea here?)

  • Consider keeping it simple – you could always arrange for a ‘buffet’ lunch, where everybody brings a platter.
  • If you are cooking lunch at home, delegate tasks. You don’t need to do everything yourself.
  • Share the cooking – ask guests to participate by contributing a part of the menu. Don’t forget that there are other people who would love to bring their ‘family favourite’
  • Plan your menu in advance and also use a shopping list
  • Store brands are great for side dishes and salads etc – nobody will even realise!

And of course, it’s not just the food costs that need to be calculated, liquid refreshments also need to be considered.

  • A lot of money is spent on alcohol at Christmas. Try serving guests a festive glass of punch – you can even stretch out servings with apple juice.
  • Christmas Punch goes a long way, and is less expensive (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).
  • Use lots of ice – this also helps make drinks last longer when the weather is hot

Christmas is a time of giving.

When it comes to gifts, many of us tend to go overboard in that department. How many times have we heard people tell us that Christmas has become too commercial? Or – ‘it’s the thought that counts’ when it comes to gift giving.

Have you ever wondered why so many people seem to place such great importance on the price of the gifts from family members that they only just tolerate and hardly see throughout the year?

We’ve all heard many times, the complaint – “the stingy so and so only bought me a measly ….”

Of course, for those whom we love unconditionally, we’d accept the button off their shirt as a gift – if we knew that was all they could afford.

Maybe this Christmas we could give an extra gift of tolerance and understanding to those relatives who we find hard to love. It won’t cost anything and you may be surprised by the results.

When it comes to buying presents, the first thing to do is to make a list of everybody that you need to buy a Christmas gift for and stick to the list! Then –

  • Work out how much you can comfortably afford to spend on each gift, and do not overspend.
  • Consider a Kris Kringle (Secret Santa) for large family gift-giving events; where everyone draws a name out of a hat and buys a present only for that person. (You’re not the only one on a budget)
  • Choose a theme for your gifts – Calendars, books, chocolates, home-made treats, socks, pens, glasses, pillows, etc. This works really well with a Kris Kringle because the focus is then placed on getting the most suitable gift to for each recipient.
  • Give vouchers – lawn mowing; painting; baby-sitting; house cleaning etc. Nowadays people are time poor, not possession poor.
  • Spending time with loved ones is the best gift of all. Consider a family day pass to the zoo or theme park. Movie tickets for a family outing will also be appreciated

If you are one of those people that just love to decorate the house to celebrate the season, then you may also need to keep an eye on those costs.

  • Don’t over-spend on decorations. Recycle the ones from last year or just add one or two new pieces
  • Wrap gifts in bright and glossy junk mail—it all ends up in the same place in the end!
  • If you must have Christmas lights all over the place – get solar-powered ones and at least cut down on your electricity usage
  • Buy inexpensive candles and decorate them yourself with a Christmas theme. Use tinsel, glitter and ribbons to decorate and save money instead of buying pre-packaged Christmas ones.
  • When decorating the dinner table: Buy inexpensive glasses and paint each guests name on the side, or attach a tag with each name to a glass stem. As an extra gift for everyone this also helps with having heaps of glasses to wash. (each guest takes their gift-glass home)

 For lots of people, spending time with family and loved ones is the best part of Christmas and it’s important to remember that the best Christmas memories are about people and events. The size and cost of the gifts are insignificant.

If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to start your Christmas planning now. Doing this will avoid a major ‘money melt-down’ due to lack of preparation.

Did you know that people who leave everything to the last minute will spend more money because they’ve run out of time?

So it doesn’t matter how much money you do or don’t have, you can fit Christmas into your budget. If you spend more time on the planning, you can make sure you spend less money on the event.

 

© Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)

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