For most people, meeting monthly expenses all while covering the costs of the holiday season makes this a difficult time of year. Just take a walk on a Saturday afternoon through your favourite shopping mall and you hear the Christmas music playing, the bustle of consumers, and the constant reminder that there are only a few days left before Christmas. We become caught up in the moment and before we know it, the credit cards come out and we are spending, spending and spending.
Before we start the spending -- let's stop and consider some practical solutions to getting you, the consumer, through this season with less stress, and more money left in your pocket.
- Review your income and basic household expenses. If you have not been putting money away each month in anticipation for Christmas, you may not have any savings to draw from. Determine the amount you can afford to spend on gifts without using a credit card or affecting any of your bills from being paid.
- Make a list of family and friends and set an amount to spend for each person. The plan is to stay within your budgeted amount. If money is limited then restrict your list to only the closest of family and friends. Do not feel obligated to buy a gift. Many people are having difficulty making ends meet. Tell your friends and family that you are reducing your spending this year and take the pressure off yourself, and them.
- Talk to your friends and family and agree to set a limit on the amount spent on gifts between the two of you. This helps you to stick to your budget and resist the urge to spend according to their financial ability instead of yours.
- Review the store flyers so you will be armed with the best prices and gift ideas. Mark these down on your list. If you find an item to purchase and you know it is cheaper in another store, ask the store manager for the same price.
- For holiday gatherings, assign your guests a dish to bring, or make it a potluck.
- For those creative individuals, making gifts such as homemade jams, slippers, and scrapbooks, can save a lot of money. These types of gifts are often more meaningful and appreciated.
- Purchase Christmas decorations and wrappings after Christmas when the prices are cheaper.
- Instead of buying everyone in your family a gift, do a group gift exchange. Have each person by one gift of a certain value, number the gifts and place under the tree. Each person takes a number out of the hat and retrieves the gift from under the tree with the same number.
- Start early for the best selection and to keep the stress level at a minimum.
- Sometimes the best gift is the gift of time. Enjoy the company of loved one’s over a cup of cocoa, a favourite movie, or by sharing stories. Creating memories and traditions doesn’t need to cost a lot- it just takes time.
Let this be the year that you start a new tradition of spending less and enjoying more.
That way in the New Year there will not be any hesitation to open that credit card envelope, but only a sign of relief!