Christmas can be one of the most expensive times of year. Everyone wants to buy nice gifts for their families and friends. The challenge is that this has morphed under the influence of a commercialized Christmas shopping season that runs from the beginning of November well into the New Year. Some people are also swayed by the sales deals and their temptations and urges have integrated personal impulse shopping into their Christmas lists.
If the festive season usually leaves you out of pocket and feeling like you spent more time and money battling the crowds than relaxing with friends and loved ones, why not simplify things this year?
Pre-Christmas clean up
There’s still time to bag some extra cash to boost your festive finances. Spend a few hours clearing out anything you no longer need around the house, like clothes, books, jewellery, furniture, music, or sporting equipment. You could sell these items online, hold a garage sale, or find a local buy-swap-sell.
They say that one person’s trash is another’s treasure so, as well as pocketing a few extra dollars, you might just end up making someone else’s Christmas extra special.
Make a list. Check it twice.
Make lists of the things you need to buy and the food you need to prepare for the festive season. Having lists will help you plan your spending and keep you on track.
- Presents– Make a list of who you’re buying for, what you want to get them, and how much money you’re prepared to spend on each person.
- Entertainment supplies– List the food and drinks you’ll need, and how much you can spend. Buy in advance where possible to take advantage of specials, especially if items can be frozen or have a long shelf life.
- Travel plans– Whether you’re flying or driving, there are ways to save on holiday travel costs. List all your costs like flights, accommodation, travel insurance, airport transfers and gas. Shop around for deals as early as you can, to avoid paying a premium for last-minute bookings or peak season increases. If you’re going on a driving holiday, work out which day is cheapest to fill up on gas, and do it the week before Christmas.
Personalize cards and wrapping
Most people throw away their Christmas cards once the festivities are over, which is just like throwing money in the bin.
This year, instead of spending your hard-earned cash on shop-bought cards that will only end up in the recycling bin, why not send your family and friends Christmas greetings they will want to keep? You could:
- Use a favourite photo to create a personalized photo card
- If you have kids, give them some paper and get them to draw or paint pictures that you can use to create special cards
- Record a video message on your smartphone or iPad and email it to your family and friends
- Write a letter to your loved ones instead of sending a card. This is a great way to tell them how much they mean to you, or thank them for something special they might have done for you this year.
Rethink your wrapping by buying brown paper and string, or just use plain coloured paper to wrap your presents. Then you’ll avoid pricey Christmas wrapping and can use the excess during the year to wrap other gifts.
Be a Scrooge online
If you’re Christmas shopping online, look for ways to save every cent you can. Before you start, do a web search for discount or coupon codes that you can use at the checkout. Look in the sales sections of retailers’ websites to see what’s on sale.
If you know what items you are looking for, search for them online instead of just going to one retailer’s website. You might find it much cheaper somewhere else.
Search online auction websites where you can ‘bid’ for items, including supplies you need for Christmas Day. Make sure you include any shipping costs when you are comparing prices. The cost of some items can blow out once you add shipping, meaning it might be better to simply go to a store to get the item. Or look for items or shopping days that have free shipping.
Things are often much cheaper online than in a store, but you do need to take extra precautions when shopping online.
Grab your gift cards
Canadians love gift cards and vouchers, but too many of us let the funds expire before we use them. Even though the laws are changing in this regard, they still exist. Check the expiry date on any gift cards you still have credit on, and consider putting this money towards your Christmas costs. Every dollar of gift card credit you use means you’re spending one less dollar of your own money.
Gift cards can also make good presents for people who are hard to buy for, or if you just don’t know what to get them. Giving gift cards at Christmas also means the recipient can use them in the post-Christmas sales.
Social Christmas shopping
If you follow your favourite brands and retailers on social media, you may be able to get exclusive discounts through these social channels. Their newsletters may also alert you to sales and deals.
There are also discount or deal apps that you can use to find bargains that you can use as Christmas gifts.
Before you buy any deal or discount, always check the terms and conditions to make sure you know what you are getting and make sure the website is legitimate.
Christmas gift hacking
There’s a lot of pressure to spend up big on gifts at this time of year, but pricey presents aren’t necessarily the way to go. Here are some ways you can show you care, while keeping a lid on your spending:
- Agree on a spending limit– Suggest to your loved ones that you set a limit on how much you will spend on gifts for each other to keep your budgets under control
- Kids only– Talk to the other adults in your extended family about only buying presents for the kids this year, rather than for the adults
- DIY vouchers– We often remember the things people do for us rather than the presents they give us. Consider giving redeemable vouchers for tasks like babysitting, massages, picnics, homemade dinners or even housework.
- Savvy sales– Take advantage of sales throughout the year to nab some bargains and store them away for Christmas. But, even in December there are bargains to be had. You can also check out any clearance outlets near you, or sign up to their newsletters so that you’ll be in the know when they have a sale.
- Compare offers– Some stores match or beat competitors’ deals, so compare their offers and take all the details with you when you go into the store. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount – you might just get a Christmas miracle!
- Secondhand bargains– Op shops, antique stores and secondhand bookshops can be a treasure trove for the thrifty Christmas shopper. If you’re prepared to spend the time looking through their stock, you can often find good quality items at a fraction of the price you’d pay at big name stores.
Shop like you’re Santa
Santa is always well-prepared and does his shopping on time, so why don’t you? If you are going to shop in-store, consider these rules-of-thumb to reduce Christmas shopping stress and limit the temptation to over spend:
- Set a time limit on your shopping– Get in, get it done and get out so you aren’t tempted to spend more than you want to.
- Shop at odd hours– Take advantage of extended trading hours and go when it’s less crowded so you can choose carefully without having to jostle for space.
- Buy less expensive stuff first– If you buy larger and more costly items first you can lose perspective on what is a good price, so set your budget, buy small first, and then tackle the big stuff so you stick to your gift budget.
- Pre-pay– If you buy online, check if there’s an option to pick up in-store. You’ll save on freight, skip any lines, and there will be less temptation to buy more.
- Limit your shopping locations– Only go to shops that you need to visit so you don’t get distracted and impulse buy.
Track your spending
Keeping track of your festive spending is the best way to avoid going over your budget this Christmas. If you need help, there are many online apps available to assist in tracking your spending. Some even nominate a spending limit for different types of Christmas expenses and track your progress while you shop.
Give to the less fortunate
Spread the Christmas cheer by giving to those who are doing it tough. Consider donating to a charity on someone else’s behalf and give this to them as a gift. As well as money, many charities also accept household items, clothes, and groceries at Christmas, or you could volunteer your time to help them out.
Lighten your load Christmas Day
The costs of entertaining can skyrocket at this time of year. But, with some simple planning, both you and your wallet can enjoy the fruits of your labour. Here are some ways to lighten the Christmas load:
- Share the catering– Even if you’re hosting Christmas Day lunch or dinner, there’s no need to shoulder all the work yourself. Ask others to bring nibbles, drinks, salads or desserts.
- Buy only what you need– It can be easy to overestimate how much food you’ll need at Christmas, only to end up throwing some away or eating leftovers for days. Plan exactly how much food you will need for the number of people you are catering for.
- Switch supermarkets– Make a list of the groceries you need for Christmas, then take advantage of the competition between supermarkets by checking out the advertised specials and stocking up. Don’t buy everything at the same shop if you can get it cheaper elsewhere. You might even get better deals at your local butcher or fruit shop.
- Use loyalty credits– If you belong to a supermarket loyalty scheme that builds up credit after you’ve spent a certain amount, check if you can use the credit to get a discount on your Christmas grocery shop.
Plan for next Christmas
Once this Christmas is done and dusted, you should start planning ahead for next year. Here are some ideas to make sure you are set up for next Christmas:
- Start saving now– Open a high interest savings account in January and contribute a small amount to it every payday. Saving $20 per week will add up to over $1,000 in a year’s time. Use an online savings calculator to see how much you’ll need to save each pay to reach your Christmas savings goal.
- Shop the sales– Shop for presents throughout the year, especially during sales. This will spread your costs and make them more manageable.
- Lay Away– Pre-plan larger gifts and law away them a few months ahead so you can pay them off over time.
At this time of year, a lot of people are beginning to panic about getting their shopping done on time. Inventories are becoming stretched and some things have sold out. Maybe the items on your list are no longer available and you have to re-visit your choices and come up with new ideas. Then there are those who always leave their shopping to the last days before Christmas and take what they can find.
All this can lead to undue stress and frustration at an otherwise joyous time of year. These strategies can be implemented early in the New Year and help us get our Christmas shopping plans well established early on. Planning is a useful tool in everything we do in life. This really just involves some research, forward thinking and decision making on our strategies ahead of time. Planning is a useful tactic in Keeping Life Current.