As I sit here writing this post I’m in front of the fan and enjoying the cool air on my bare feet. I’m drinking a cold glass of water but there’s only one thing on my mind. It may be far too early in the year to utter the word, but I think you know where I’m going with this. I’ve got Christmas on my mind and am thinking of how to find some great Christmas gifts. Yes, Christmas! I happen to put up my tree in late November, after Thanksgiving, as this is an American tradition I’ve grown up with.
But it’s not about the tree or the food or the company – it’s all about the money! Better yet, it’s all because I am keen for us to enjoy a lovely Christmas without that January debt hangover we all dread. So, it may be early, but now is the perfect time to plan and prepare your shopping trips and also plan to take advantage of Cyber Monday deals.
I am proud to say that we don’t suffer from the January financial hangover as many families do. This isn’t because we are extremely well off or because we don’t celebrate the holidays. This happens because we plan! It doesn’t take extreme planning all it takes is a little bit of know-how and sticking to the plan!
Here’s how we keep our personal finances in check –
Start Your List Now!
It’s September, but it’s never to early to start your Christmas list. Forget the letter to Father Christmas, write a memo list and a shopping list and keep it with you at all times (more on why later).
But first, ask yourself –
- Where are you spending Christmas?
- Who are you buying gifts for?
- Who are you sending cards to?
- What is your overall budget?
- How will you be paying for Christmas? Is it from your savings, credit, or wages?
Once you ask yourself the key questions and have them on paper you can begin the really important work. For example, if you’re spending Christmas at a great-aunt’s house you’ll probably see more of your extended family and budgeting for those extra boxes of chocolates or biccies is a must. Those type of expenses usually slip under the radar but remember every bit adds and before you know it you’ll have spent £30 on token gifts for people you weren’t intending to gift to in the first place!
Depending on your family the list of who you shop for varies. Some families buy gifts for everyone. While some do a gift exchange. And some only buy for the kids. The key is to communicate with each other to avoid confusion or failed expectations.
Go on a Recon Mission
Big Ticket items can be quite costly, especially when you have more than 1 child to buy for. For example, our 13 year old wanted an Xbox One a couple of years ago and we really wanted to get it for him. He was so excited and we knew that would be his big present that year. Video game consoles don’t come cheap so we planned ahead and went on recon missions whenever we were at the shops.
What did we do?
We tracked the prices in the shop as well as pricing online and kept on top of it. Whenever we saw a realistic savings drop, and one that would be as good or better than a Black Friday deal we went for it. We aren’t proponents of Black Friday really as it’s too chaotic in my opinion. What we do though, is keep track of what prices will be then, as shops advertise and the online rumour mill starts churning details quite early on. Usually, if there’s going to be a great Black Friday sale there will possibly be an equal if not better Cyber Monday deal!
*top tip – always remember to include delivery costs in your budget!
One Thing at a Time
My favourite tip and the one that I find the easiest of all, both on your budget and on your sanity, is so simple you probably haven’t thought about it! I call it the one thing at a time tip. It’s just that – everytime you go to the shops you pick up one thing. That can range from a Christmas photo album, a box of chocolates, a children’s book, a set of slippers – it can be anything that is on your list.
There is a way where the one thing at a time tip can go awry and that’s when you turn it into a compulsive shopping experience. For this tip to work you must stick to the list and only the list! If you need to make amendments to the list and add more cards for your neighbours or even upgrade a big ticket item then, by all means, do it. The issue begins when you allow things to get out of hand and end up spending more money than you’ve planned.
The one thing at a time tip is perfect because you don’t need to worry about blowing your budget. Sure, you will be spending the same amount of money overall but you won’t be at a loss by the end of December since all the money won’t go in one go.
Instead of racking up credit give up that meal out or your daily coffee. If you spend the money you would have already spent elsewhere on the items in your list then you really won’t even be eating into your Christmas budget and that’s a win-win situation!