'Twas the night after Christmas and all though the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a... you know how it ends. Close your eyes a minute (but keep reading!)... the kids are tucked up in bed, the house still smells of Christmas dinner and cinnamon, the candlelight is gently lighting up the room. Ahh, what a great end to a beautiful Christmas season. What's on your mind?
Anything along the lines of "where in the world are all of these toys going?", "who is going to eat all of these leftovers?", "I sure hope Aunt Susie likes the Apple Watch we gave her", " WHY IN THE WORLD DO WE GO COMPLETELY OVERBOARD AT CHRISTMAS?!?!
With just under 2 months before Christmas, I want to share with you how you can prepare your finances for this upcoming Christmas season.
Decide in advance how much you will spend for Christmas. We decided on our figure just after Christmas last year, while I was setting up our 2018 budget... one of my favourite things to do! Though our figure stayed the same for the past two years, we decided to add and extra £50 to this year's Christmas budget. Why? The past two years we spent about £30 over what we budgeted... not bad... but not on target either. So, since I knew that we had overspent by about the same amount the previous two Christmases, I just added a little bit more to this year's Christmas budget.
If you haven't set a budget for this Christmas, decide right now what your budget is going to be by how much you can afford to spend, how many people you have to give gifts to, how much you plan to spend on Christmas dinner - whether you're cooking and paying for the whole meal, taking a dish to a friend or family member's house or eating out on Christmas day - and whether you need to plan for extra travel expensees. Once we decided on our 2018 Christmas budget, we...
Save EACH month for Christmas, by dividing the figure we decided on by 12 (months)... simples. This monthly amount we have been saving each month this year. No need for special Christmas saving plans; simply keep that money in your checking account. By saving each month, you're spreading the cost of Christmas over the year, rather than panicking about the "expensive time of year" when October or November comes around.
Keep track of the expenditures using a budget. We use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of our finances, so when we make a purchase or plan ahead for expenses, it's easy to track expenses or save a portion of the total cost of something in advance. Once you have your figure for Christmas, simply keep track of each cost and subtract it from the total amount. Pretty simple.
Consider what you REALLY want for Christmas. For me, it's to spend time with my family, watch our children open their reasonable number of gifts and reflecting on the miracle of Jesus' birth. I want to enjoy the season with simple delights and stay on budget to move us in the direction of our bigger goals.
If you haven't seen Martin Lewis' Christmas programme that aired about a month ago, please take a few minutes to watch this clip encouraging viewers to stop unnecessary gift giving and not to cause others (or yourself) financial stress.
To be honest, I've been a little panicked about the toy situation with our children the past couple of months. They have plenty. So what do children need who already have plenty? NOTHING! Ok, but perhaps that may not be realistic, and yes, I absolutely love to see their faces light up when they walk into the lounge and see all of their presents under the tree. I don't want to disappoint them. However, I have resolved not to buy something simple to buy something... yet.. what have I gone and done??? Bought something for our younger daughter that I think she perhaps might like because it was 50% off. Sounds like a bargain, right?! WRONG. If it's not something she is asking for, it's not a bargain.... so I'm taking it back.
I want to encourage you to keep things in perspective and to not go overboard at Christmas so that you don't end the season with regret. Stay in control. Plan ahead and cut back without making huge sacrifices and you'll be sitting there on Christmas evening content with the day, not weighed down with financial regret, and ready to take on the new year.