Christmas is a busy time and one of the things that can take up more of your attention and effort than others is making sure the books balance. If you have a bad habit of starting off January in the red, then make a pre-New Year resolution to stay within your budget this time. Here’s how it’s done.
Decide how much you’re going to spend
Do this as a family and don’t just fall back onto the old credit card cushion. Stay as close to the amount of actual, real, in the bank money that you have. If you have to slightly go onto a credit card to afford everything, then be conservative and think of ways you can reduce this not-so-comfortable buffer zone. You might get some good ideas and advice from this website.
Make a list before you even start
This should be a list of names, primarily. You can add in the presents as and when you know what you’re getting each person. Don’t forget stocking fillers, presents for teachers, the posties and refuse collectors and the cleaner. You also need to list the food and drink and travel expenses as minutely as you can.
Set out your priorities
Your nearest and dearest come first, obviously, and then friends, teachers and so on. A good way to reduce your overall spend is to buy stocking fillers in bulk and share them between the people outside the “inner circle”.
Try to use cash
It’s so much easier to keep track of your spending when your money is right there in front of you. When it’s no longer right there in front of you, you’re done! If you do a lot of online shopping, then buy a pre-paid gift card so that when it’s gone, it’s gone.
If you do have to use your credit card…
Then use it sensibly. You could use it, for example, to buy something for yourselves so that you get the benefit of the protection this offers. Keep track of your credit card spending and if you come in under budget, use the difference to pay some of the balance off before January.
Ignore the SALE! signs
Don’t pick something up just because it’s a bargain unless it’s on your list or replaces an item on your list (and is cheaper than the original option).
Spend with your head not your heart
If you find yourself saying “This is perfect; we’ll figure out a way to afford it…” or “The sale ends tomorrow,” and the item in question isn’t on your list, then you’re spending with emotion.
Resist impulse purchases
All those little extras that catch your eye add up over time. If you do spot something that your mum will love and then buy it, cross her off the list – you don’t need to buy her anything else. Watch out for all those little under a fiver gifts too – if they don’t have a destination already, then they’re surplus to requirements.
Once you’re done, you’re done
When everyone’s crossed off the list, you’re through and you’re not spending any more. If you’ve managed to come in under budget, then leave this amount to buy some presents for next year in the January sales.