Every year Christmas comes as a financial shock (and burden) to many who are unprepared for the annual holiday even though everyone knows it is coming. Judging by the calendar today, it soon will be here. Christmas should not catch us off guard. Here are some C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S tips to prepare you.
C H R I S T M A S
C – Create a Christmas list and budget early (now is a good time but preferably January). Write the name of each person and set a price limit. Tally up the total and revise the list if the budget is significantly high. Discuss Christmas gifting with family members and friends. Set protocol in regards to price limits, the concept of exchanging names, and conditions such as buying only for children and excluding adults.
H – Hunt for an appropriate gift for each person on your list. Once you know what you are buying, scout for the items all year around. Ensure you are checking your list more than twice. Keep your eyes open when you go on your regular shopping excursions.
R - Routinely “stash away cash” from each pay cheque to save for your Christmas expenditures. Setting up automatic transfers to a separate “Christmas Savings” account is a sure way of preventing you from accessing the funds. To calculate the amount of your PAC (Pre-authorized Contribution), divide the amount of your budget by the number of pay cheques in a year. By saving, you will not rely on credit cards and pay the high interest charges when the credit card balance is not paid in full.
I - Investigate, investigate, investigate. Treat Christmas shopping like a scavenger hunt. Look for the best price (prices) in sales flyers, on-line, and in stores. Chat with family and friends about the items they own and places to shop. Compare brands, features, warranties, and service. Consider everything which will secure a pleasing purchase.
S – Stay smart about spending. Ask yourself, “Will the recipient of this gift love me more if I spend more; and (or) less if I spend less?” Seriously, if love and appreciation is determined by the cost of the gift, you need to re-evaluate your motives (or theirs).
T – Train yourself to say, “No!” Do not allow yourself to give in to compulsive shopping. Regardless of how cute something is; no matter how much Johnny would love a new toy; or “Gee, we only have one grandchild; let’s spoil her”, the answer should still be, “No!” You are not Scrooge; you are Frugal. There is a difference.
M – Make Christmas fun by keeping it simple and sweet. Keep the joy of Christmas and the intent of giving in proper context. One gift or ten gifts ~~ maybe, just maybe, one gift would suffice and the other gift could be a contribution to your children’s education savings plan.
A – Assess, assess, assess! People who are known to start Christmas shopping early in the year are also known to spend more than they intend. They simply forgot what they bought. Is this you? Keep track of your purchases. Another misconception is every child should receive gifts of equal monetary value. No one except you will know how much you spent on a gift for one child as opposed to another. Don’t make up the difference by buying more presents to ensure the purchases are equal. You can’t compete with that logic.
S – Stick to your Christmas Budget. In the end you will be glad you did, for the simple reason that you will be stress-free. Always remember: once this Christmas passes, you should start preparing for the next.
From the tips above, you may take what you need and leave the rest. If you do a great job, you may have enough money to buy yourself a Christmas present. Nevertheless, enjoy the holidays with family and friends. For this is the true gift of Christmas.