‘Tis the season…find the money, lose the stress.Ever notice how the holiday season seems to get earlier and earlier every year? Driving in to work yesterday, I saw one of my neighbours has a fully decorated tree in his picture window.
Seriously? Buddy, It’s November 9th!
It causes me stress to even think about Christmas this early! Mentally, I won’t be prepared for at least another couple of weeks. It’s just too freaking early.
Or is it?
When it comes to financing the big “C”, the ideal time to start planning is January. Stashing some cash each month will guarantee a less stressed holiday, at least financially.
Here are some other tips great tips from our experts that can help reduce some of the financial stress surrounding the holidays.
1. Plan how much you will spend on the holidays this year. Give yourself a dollar figure to work with and don’t blow it.
2. Include ALL the things you spend money on: gifts & wrap (no brainer), cards (duh), new outfits for the parties (hmm…), extra food and booze (oh yeah…), decorations for the yard and house (can’t let the neighbours down….), charity collection boxes (‘tis the season to be generous…), eating out (who’s got time to cook?), travel (can you say discount flights?), extra gas for the shopping expeditions(Black Friday here we come), hotel accommodations( we want to stay friends) , higher than usual utilities (from all the extra baking, cooking, cleaning, laundry, electricity supply to the outside display).
3. Trim your list of gift recipients. Talk to your family and friends about how you may celebrate with them without the need for expensive gifts. Instead of buying for everyone, have each person draw a name. Give your friends and family permission not to gift you this year.
4. Set a limit on the dollar value for each gift recipient. If you happen to get a gift on sale, who will know? You can redirect the savings to cover other increased expenses. If the limit is 25.00 and I find something for on sale for $15.00, I use the $10.00 for someone else. The recipient doesn’t need to know, and after all, it’s the thought that counts!
5. Make or create your gifts this year. Watch for future posts on great ideas for inexpensive gifts- like baskets you put together yourself. I love to bake cookies from old family recipes to gift my friends and neighbours with.
6. Instead of a lot of little gifts, use your money to buy one large family gift, like a new gaming system, computer, television or vacation.
7. Have a gag gift exchange where the gifts are inexpensive, funny and fit the recipient’s quirky habits.
8. We ask the kids to donate to a charity in our name. We get the tax receipt and the satisfaction of helping those less fortunate.
9. Shop early, shop the sales and if you do have to use your credit card to pay for Christmas, make a plan to pay it back as soon as possible.
10. Gift the most precious gift of all…. your time. While it costs nothing, it’s value is priceless.
Here are some ideas. Give a coupon for:
• Time spent with your kids. Have a play date with them, share an outdoor activity.
• Offer to cook your significant other their favorite dinner, complete with candlelight and a massage! That may be a gift that gives back!
• Free babysitting services for young parents who might enjoy a night out.
• Outdoor yard or house maintenance to an older less able loved one. Free lawn moving, snow shoveling, painting, small repairs around the house, car washing.
• Take an elderly parent or relative to lunch once a month or bring lunch to them.
• Dog walking or pet sitting for someone.
• An invitation to your friends or family for a Christmas Movie night; serve popcorn or Christmas cookies and load up the DVD player with all your Christmas favorites.
Remember, there is no shame in being financially responsible at Christmas. Your loved ones wouldn’t want you go broke buying them presents. You don’t need to buy stuff to make a meaningful holiday. So, put your plan in place, relax and have some fun this year.