As we count down the days in eager anticipation of the Christmas festive season, thoughts of great food, presents, parties and good fellowship dance in our heads. Here are some practical tips to help prevent overspending on your Christmas budget, and that inevitable credit card or overdraft statement shock in the New Year.
Don’t wait until the last minute: It’s all too easy to spend twice as much as you planned when running around the mall in a panic. Start early and beat the rush at those retailers wanting to be the first in line for your money. Hitting those beginning of December sales avoids the panic and expensive shipping bills getting gifts delivered in time.
Make a list and a budget: Heading to the mall without a list of gifts or dollar limit tempts budget-busting fate as it’s too easy to grab just one more thing. Set per person amounts or your overall budget then stick to it. Remember to include stocking stuffers. Don’t get sucked in by those items at the check-out counter. Remember to factor in the shipping cost if you’re mailing gifts.
Avoid paying with credit cards: People always spend more when using credit cards for purchases. It’s easier to follow your budget when you withdraw only the amount of cash you plan to spend.
Search for promotional coupons online: Online shopping is convenient, but look for promotional codes before clicking ‘buy.’ Type a site’s name and “coupon code” or “promo code” into a search engine. bargainist.com and retailmenot.com list deals on free shipping and discounts. Cash-back portals such as shopathome.com or ebates.com reward you for ordering from certain stores.
Spending on children does not have to be equal: Explain to them that you bought them what they needed the most, and if this happens to be more or less than what their sibling got, that’s okay. Resist padding the list with meaningless purchases to make up small differences.
Consider bulk purchases that can be divided up: We all know that choosing gifts one by one is time consuming and expensive. For example, buy a collection of ceramic bowls and fill them with baked goods, or use Christmas mugs to package tea, cocoa or ground coffee. Buying wine by the case at a discount makes nice hostess gifts.
Instead of buying all your presents, handmade treats such as granola, a tin of cookies or spiced banana bread, let the recipient know you thought of them this season, and usually cost less than something from a store. Homemade items are often preferred as they show the person took the time and effort to make them.
Watch that entertaining budget: When throwing that holiday party, stock up on the basics early. Watch for sales on items you can freeze or keep in your pantry, things like canned pumpkin, frozen dinner rolls and meat specials. Pork tenderloin is always well received over the holidays, so start looking for specials early. Swap holiday-themed décor with a friend or neighbor; if you have 10 Santa plates and your friend has 10 snowflake plates, you’re all set to entertain!
For those family members who are hard to buy for, consider gifting to the local food bank or some other needy charity in their name. Remember that Christmas is the time for getting together with friends and family to celebrate our good fortune to live in this amazing country, with all the freedom and opportunity it affords us.
Glen Craig from the blog Free From Broke has written an article on how to start setting up your budget that is worth the read. Starting a budget this Christmas can also get you thinking about budgets surrounding birthdays, weddings and other gift giving occasions so that you don’t keep overspending.
Image licensed through Shutterstock