The end-of-year is the time when most people choose to relax, enjoy a little time off and reward ourselves for all the hard work we have put in during the year. Here are 10 tips on how to keep the festivities from turning into a financial hangover for you.
1) Plan your holiday spend
Set a budget and stick to it so you can keep track of everything you spend. It helps to identify where you can cut down in order to have more money available for special treats during the season.
Drawing up a budget is the first step. Stick to this if you want to remain in control of your finances. Be realistic about what you'll have left after your regular monthly expenses. List all your additional seasonal expenses and make sure you know where the money for all this will come from and where you should cut back if you need to.
2) Plot your retail route
Retailers make it their business to find creative ways to get you to keep dipping into your pocket in shopping malls and supermarkets. Don’t get caught up in the holiday jingles, the festive holiday stalls, promotions and specials. There can be some great offers out there, but only take advantage of these if they are for products that you need or had planned to buy anyway.
Avoid shopping at the last minute and try to shop when it’s quieter. Leave yourself plenty of time and avoid busy shopping times. This will not only make your Christmas shopping a little easier but you’re more likely to be able to pick up ‘priced to go’ specials on surplus stock.
3) Compare the price of goods
Do a price comparison before you buy more expensive items. This way you will know where you can get the best price and will not be tempted into impulse buying. Purchasing goods online can work out cheaper than buying in a physical store. If you have time, you can even track the prices on offer and grab a great deal when it comes along.
4) Think homemade, or from the heart
Original, handmade gifts are often far more appreciated than store-bought ones if you put something of yourself into the gift. This could be a voucher offering to babysit for an overworked single mother, for example.
If you are going to buy gifts, decide how much you will spend on each person. Draw that money in cash and put the exact amount into sealed envelopes. When you go shopping for presents, go only with your envelopes. This often makes gift shopping a little easier – you can't be tempted into spending more than you bargained for because your options are limited. If you are only seeing friends or family after Christmas, buy presents on sale in January.
Another option is for families to decide to give gifts only to the children. There is also the ‘secret Santa’ approach where adults receive and give just one gift. Or you could do away with gifts completely and donate a specific amount to a good cause on behalf of your loved one.
5) Wasted wrappings
Try not to waste money on expensive wrapping paper, ribbons and cards. You could use pieces of newspaper and decorate them with fresh or dried flowers from your garden. This is far more original than those overpriced rolls of wrapping paper in the shops that (usually) can’t even be recycled once they’ve served their purpose. Making handcrafted gift wrappings is also a wonderful holiday project for the kids to get stuck into.
6) Buy in bulk
If you’re expecting many visitors over the season, or family to stay, it's good advice to buy certain supplies in bulk. Stock up on essentials and non-perishables. It works out much cheaper and stops you from having to go to the supermarket everyday while they're visiting which, in turn, saves on fuel costs.
7) Pass on unwanted gifts
When you are given a gift that you will never use, re-gift it! Most people’s taste differs widely, so wrap it up and give it to someone else who might really appreciate it.
8) Saving for January
January tends to be an expensive month, which makes overspending in December that much more of an issue. Start setting money aside for all the additional start-of-the-year expenses like school fees, early in the previous year.
9) Costly Cars
Car trouble over December will wreck your budget. Service your car before you go on holiday and check that you have accident cover.
10) Don’t ‘burn’ your money
The festive season means additional lights and electricity bills so use LED lights that use 99 percent less energy than traditional lights.