Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Have A Debt-Free Christmas

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! (Go on, sing it!)  The shops are already decorated, advertisements have been screaming "buy gifts for everyone in your life" for at least a month now, and I'm sure you've been looking up ideas on how to "make your Christmas the best one ever."

However, there's a lot of pressure to make sure your house is beautiful decorated (Pinterest!), to make sure your family has loads of presents under the tree on Christmas morning and your Christmas dinner is the best meal of the year.  It's easy to get caught up in all of the excitement and planning for Christmas day, and with it, we find ourselves justifying spending lots of money that we haven't planned for (budgeted) or we may not even have.  Perhaps you have a pot of money sitting in an envelope labelled "Christmas" or money stashed in your bank account eared-marked for Christmas.  Great.  Either way I want to give you some ideas to help you to stay on track this Christmas so that after all of the presents have been opened and the mountains of cheese and chocolates have been eaten, you're not dreading the credit card bill or overdraft fees but feeling good about your finances.

Let's Get Started:
1. How much can you afford? Perhaps you've been saving all year and you know exactly how much you can spend either by looking at the "Christmas Savings" category on your budget or in your "Christmas" envelope.  Great, you can proceed.  Maybe you don't know exactly what you can afford, so take an honest look at your bank account and ask yourself, if you take away X amount for Christmas expenditures, would you still be in the green come January 1st? Decide how much X amount is and stick to it. That is your budget for all gifts, all food and drinks and all decorations.

2. Take Stock Empty out your kitchen cupboards and freezer. Are there any foods that you can use for your Christmas meal, like frozen vegetables, a box of stuffing, a jar of cranberry sauce, or a bottle of wine? Next take a look at the boxes of Christmas decorations you already have.  Did you store away any new Christmas cards or decorations from the sales last year? You've likely forgotten about something you bought 11 months ago.  Lastly, your children are probably saying "I want that" to every toy advert they see on telly.  But do they already have similar toys to the ones they want so badly? Take a look through their toys and decide whether your child really needs another doll or action figure.

3. It's Your Christmas, not the Jones' This one may be the most difficult, yet effective strategy to avoid Christmas debt.  Don't compare your Christmas to everyone else's around you.  What makes your Christmas special is likely very different than theirs.  Ask yourself what really matters to you to make your Christmas a special day.  What doesn't carry as much significance to you?  You could add big expense to your Christmas budget by trying to decorate your house to impress your neighbours or family or fill your lounge with shiny, bow-wrapped presents.  It's not worth going over your Christmas budget or going into debt just to have a "wow" moment, because that's exactly what it is: a moment.  Memories last.

In my next blog, I'd like to give you some ideas about how to save money on gifts and food for Christmas.  I truly believe that you can have a beautiful, special Christmas and also stay within your budget.

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