It’s that time of year: the holidays. And like it or not, it’s not only the waistline which takes a beating. In this day and age of heavy consumerism, bombardment by advertisers, and many people trying to one-up each other in terms of gifts, decorations and food, it’s all too easy to let your budget–and credit card–suffer abuse. “After all,” we justify, “it’s only once a year.”
It may only be once a year, but you’ll be paying off your credit card debt for the other 363 days if you’re not careful! With careful planning, your credit card can survive the holidays and your budget will stay on track. Then you just have to worry about your waist.
Start saving money as soon as possible, earmarked specifically for Christmas. This money is meant for things like food, decorations and of course gifts. Then, whenever you buy anything on your credit card, pay it back right away from these savings. And once the savings run out, well, stop shopping! This will take some organization of course, but being able to actually afford your Christmas means you won’t have a huge stress bomb hit your house when the holiday glow wears off.
Not all gifts have to be bought, not all meals catered. The more you do on your own, the more money you’ll save. Homemade gifts have a lot of meaning for people, whether it’s a tin of cookies, a jar of jam, or homemade jewellery. This will free up cash for buying presents for those who you can’t make things for, such as children. DIY gifts require some research; make sure that you can actually make things people will like!
And of course, make your own food and bake your own treats. Sure it costs a lot in time, but it’s a lot cheaper than ordering in and catering the entire season. Also, doing your own decorating can be really fun! Make your own decorations (there are heaps of sites out there which have easy decorations), bring you kids in on the fun, and you’ll have a Christmas that is perfectly unique to your family plus many happy memories.
Shopping local craft fairs and farmer’s markets is not only a great way to get unique gifts and help small businesses, but they often only take cash. It’s a lot harder to ring up credit card debt on impulse buys when you need bills and coins to buy anything!
Make a Budget and Stick With It
The hardest part of all will be making a budget and sticking to it. There always seems to be one more thing to buy and those things pile up quickly. Whether it’s a plate of tarts, a stocking stuffer, a toy for a nephew, the ‘one more things’ make for a pile of debt.
Carefully organize who you’re buying for and what you want to purchase, then buy things as they come on sale rather than waiting til the last minute–when nothing will be on sale. Buy presents months in advance if you see something perfect for someone! Not only will you spend less overall, but you’ll be a lot less stressed out come December when most of your shopping is already done.
If you run out of cash before you run out of presents, try making things yourself for a present or get a seasonal quickie job to make some extra cash. The name of the game is minimizing the stress you put on your credit card after all.
Using these tips, along with some creativity and discipline, and you should be able to get through the holidays with less stress–and less debt. And as for the after-effects all those Christmas goodies, I’m not sure we can help you manage that!