Well, now that September has come, have you started thinking about Christmas yet?
It’s probably closer than you thought. And if you start thinking about it NOW – it won’t be quite so stressful…
There’s still a little way to go though, so budgeting for the crazy season/silly season/party season can start now. Here are easy ways to get ahead before Santa rings his sleigh bells!
1. Start on a plan – now!
Are you travelling? Hosting? Doing three big full-on family meals in one day? Going to the coast for a two-week holiday at the same time? Jot down all possiblities and discuss the options with your family. If you have small children, you really need to set realistic expectations about what you’re doing for Christmas. Making a plan also really helps to prepare any anxious family members and prepare for any contingency plans. If you are going away for Christmas, booking early usually ensures you get a great deal, and will take the stress out of doing everything at once at the last minute. Plus some travel companies now even let you lay-by a trip – so you have plenty of time to pay it off before you go. Keep a folder with all your travel plans inside, and write a list on the outside of the folder for all the things you need to get done – and when!
2. Budget for the plan.
Now that you have your plans all laid out, now it is time to work out how much it will all cost. And this means turning it into a budget. What do you budget for your immediate family’s presents? Who else are you expecting to gift to? Does your family get a Christmas bonus, need to take leave, or have a tradition that ends up being more expensive than you realise? Think about items like:
- Plane or travel tickets
- Accommodation if you aren’t planning on staying with family
- Food costs if you are hosting Christmas at home
- Gifts (if you are travelling – perhaps think about gift cards instead of lugging gifts around the country!)
3. Consider a contingency plan.
You’ve done all your sums, and figured that you can’t use your initial plan. Good. It is better to discover that NOW than at the time when cash might be really tight. Start working out how you can either save money on your Christmas plans, or perhaps change them up all together. If you can’t travel somewhere due to lack of funds, gently explain to your family it isn’t in your familiy’s best interest to go into debt to visit this year. They might be able to come to you. And if they whinge and complaint – meh, stay home and enjoy your time WITHOUT them. Win-win!
4. Consider extras.
What extras do you have to do for the season? Do you have a birthday party in the middle of Christmas week, donate to a specific charity or purchase extras for another family? Do you have to put pets in a hotel for a week, pay a house sitter or find extra money for getting Nana into respite? All the extra things around the house that really need attending to if you go away. And the costs associated with those things.
5. Make more plans.
Now you know what you’re in for, you can make a plan. Look at all that’s mentioned and work out where you’re going to shop, buy or order. Get into the nitty gritty of your planning, and think about what you’ve done in past years. Bonus points if you look at last year’s bank statements or credit card bills to see what you really spent. If you plan for gifts a long way in advance (getting started now) – you can keep an eye out for great deals online or in the shops when they have their sales.
6. Plan your spending.
Knowing you do most of your shopping at specific stores means you can plan ahead. Knowing what you’re planning to do means you can budget for each place of business, put money into your PayPal account, buy a rechargeable credit card for using online if you’re concerned about security, and bonus points here – knowing where you’re going to shop means you can take into account postage, travel, parking costs and time so you can spend more time enjoying the family aspects of the season rather than worrying about how you’re going to afford it.
7. Spread it out.
Shop at one major place each fortnight. Buy the non-perishables this fortnight; and the drinks the next fortnight. The following one for the kids’ gifts; the following one, your gift… or your husband’s family’s gifts; and so, each subsequent pay, you can tick a part of your plan off. The closer to Christmas you get, the more perishable the items can be. This can work in with your baking, crafting and posting plans as well.
8. Utilise gift cards.
Buy gift cards each pay. Perhaps you have time off closer to Christmas so you can do the shopping then with the money you’ve already spent, or you could give gift cards instead and use the time you’d otherwise spend shopping and wrapping, to cherish your family. Look into discounts for gift cards! Your local automobile association may have discounted vouchers for members, or the Entertainment Book has interesting offers to consider. Spend the money you were already going to spend, in a smarter way!
9. Check rewards points.
Check with your rewards programs to see if you could cash in some of the points for gift cards, goods or services. A car service may be practical but it would make a fantastic present.
10. Make some extra cash.
If this isn’t going to cover your planned expenses, don’t bury your head in the stack of bills, but take a moment this week to look into what you can do for extra cash or get the best rates for the extra cash if you are going to use credit (and work out how long it’s going to take you into next year to pay off the charged expenses). Extra shifts, extra jobs, cleaning out the spare room and having a garage sale now that the weather is nicer, do some surveys or online focus groups, deliver catalogues, extra babysitting – whatever you can to make extra cash that goes specifically towards Christmas.
Christmas comes but once a year, so it’s a great time to celebrate and enjoy your family, for all their craziness and eccentricities. Take some of the stress out of it all and make a budget that you can keep to, a plan to keep to that budget and learn the difference between what you think you’ll spend and what you will end up spending.
Next year, let’s plan ahead based on this year’s experiences! Keep a notebook of your planning and your spending this year and use it for the future. There are 26 fortnights in a full year, which is more than three times as many as you currently have. Pick your target – either three times as much saved, or saved in less time! Get an interest-bearing account and set aside money to steal a march on Christmas 2016.
What’s your plan for Christmas this year? Are you a bit of a Grinch or do you love Christmas? Do you bake and craft or are you a shop-and-ship kind of celebrator?