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It doesn’t matter when you read this, prepping for Christmas needs to happen ALL YEAR ROUND!
For many years I neglected to save for Christmas, and then when the month came around, I had to spend money on presents that I just didn’t have. Add to this a whole range of parties and socialising and December becomes one expensive month with your credit card being a tempting crutch to lean on.
An Article Gets My Attention
So I’m scrolling through Facebook the other day and come across an article that leaves me with mixed emotions. In the story, a man in his 30s with 5 children has raised £2000 through crowd funding so that his children can have a “happy Christmas”. He lost money at work after needing to reduce his working hours from 45 to 24 to care for his pregnant wife who was having a lot of chest infections. Obviously this is an unexpected medical situation, and it would put anyone on the back foot.
According to the article, his boss didn’t have a lot of sympathy for his situation, and would not reinstate his overtime hours, leaving him out of pocket. This is what led him to try crowdfunding, and hats off to him – it worked!
The bit that I’m uncomfortable with though is the fact that he felt it necessary to raise this money so his kids could be “happy”. I don’t blame him at all, but I do blame a society that has taught us this message.
I think it is a dangerous trap to be in where spending money is the root to your child’s happiness at Christmas. It sets up a cycle of reliance on a certain level of income, that as he found out, causes problems when that wage is no longer available.
How To Pay For Christmas If You Don’t Have Savings Yet?
So what could he have done instead? If you haven’t saved up much money for Christmas this year and you’re starting to feel a little panicky, try not to worry! You could try setting up a “GoFundMe” page too, but perhaps you could try shifting to something a little different than traditional gift giving and do Christmas on a budget (without removing the fun!)?
Our goal here is to try and stay out of debt. No event is worth over-spending for. Besides, if you have calculated your net worth, and you have more liabilities than you have assets, you’ll dig yourself further into the negative with over-spending. Isn’t it worth doing things differently this year?
So what if you don’t have lots of money saved up?
Thankfully, there are things you can do right now. It might mean that you need to re-evaluate how much you will spend this year, if at all. So in order to keep it reasonable (and fun), I’ve listed some ideas that I have tried in the past that do help to save the pennies!
Write a Pre-NUPP
The Money Saving Expert has the “Pre-No Unnecessary Present Pact”. This is where you can generate an email that explains to your friends and family that you will not be doing presents this year, or will only be spending a very small amount per-person. It takes the pressure off both people to buy gifts. If you’re really tight for cash, and want to do Christmas on a budget this year, why not try using this strategy?
Take Part In A Secret Santa
This doesn’t have to be a work-based event; anyone can do a secret santa! The idea is you all agree on a limit for gift buying, then pick a person’s name at random out of a hat – you then only have to buy a gift for that person. Everyone is covered as each person will have someone to buy for, and everyone in turn will receive a gift.
Alternatively, put “neutral” gifts into a bag and make it fun by allowing everyone to pick out a gift at random. If you really want to make it competitive, you could give everyone the option to “stick or swap” – if they like their gift, they keep it, but if they don’t, they can “steal” a gift from someone else and make them swap!
I love getting homemade gifts! This could be food (chocolate/cake/mince pies/jams and pickles), or it could be something crafty. Why not create a hamper of treats for someone, or create a personalised calendar or photo-album or put together a bouquet of flowers. Be careful not to overdo it on the materials and spend more money than you have though!
Make A Booklet of “Life-Cheques”
Create a booklet of cheques or vouchers that promise a variety of experiences throughout the year. For example, you could promise to make a candle-lit dinner, run a gorgeous bubble bath, give a neck massage or wash the car. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but I can guarantee that the person you give it to will love redeeming their vouchers later!
I think this is an under-utilised option for gift giving and can definitely help if you’re doing Christmas on a budget. Re-gifting presents you have never used is a great way to declutter the house AND keep costs low. Just be careful not to give the gift back to the person who gave it to you first!!!
Buy a “Naff” Gift
Useful presents are by far the best way to gift to someone. Wouldn’t it be better to but the make-up they use, or something they need for their kitchen? It’ll be a useful present far beyond Christmas! A lot of people think vouchers are “naff” gifts, but I don’t! You can get more bang for your buck if you use discounted vouchers from zeek, or you could be buying vouchers all year round to use at Christmas (see the next part of this post!).
Buy from Markets
I went shopping recently to a local market town and was amazed at what was on offer, often at much cheaper prices that the high street chains and many unique items you can’t get anywhere else. Clothes, books, DVDs, children’s toys and beauty products were all on offer. Most of it was new as well, although there were opportunities to buy antiques too. When you buy from a stall-owner, you’re buying from a small business. So not only do you get a bargain, but you help other people out too who are trying to make a living with their stall.
It can also make gift shopping feel really special and Christmassy too, so it might just get you in the mood!
Upcycling and Recycling
You could find gifts that others are literally giving away which is perfect timing if you’re doing Christmas on a budget. If you’re handy with a paint-brush, or don’t mind giving something a good clean, someone else’s “trash” could be an amazing gift for someone else. Kids grow out of toys and clothes so quickly, and when moving house, we often like to buy new furniture, and need to off load what we no longer can fit in, so there is a potential goldmine of free-stuff out there. Use sites like freecycle.org to help!
The Christmas Challenge
So now that we’ve gone through a few ideas for how to save money this Christmas (without resorting to crowdfunding!), in order to avoid money burn-out and drama next year, I’m going to encourage and challenge you to save the money up early. Think about how good it will feel to have cash ready and waiting to spend that is separate from your November and December pay cheques?!
Here are my 7 steps for success (for next year):
Step 1: How much do you usually spend on Christmas?
A review of last year’s bank statements and what you end up spending on this Christmas will help. Don’t forget all the small things like wrapping paper and bows (go as eco as you can!), food and travel expenses.
Step 2: How much spare money do you have every month?
If you don’t have this information, then you absolutely need to create a budget! Knowing where you money is being spent with REALLY help you to decide how to sort out your finances to factor in next year’s holiday season.
Step 3: Split it up
Split how much you want for Christmas between the months you have left. Try not to include December’s pay so it will last you until January! The sooner you can start the better. The sum you come up with is the money you need to find…
Step 4: No Debt
Figure out a way to achieve this goal WITHOUT using debt. Perhaps you need to reduce the amount you would spend on Christmas or cut something drastic from your budget?
Step 5: Get creative
Could you buy gifts throughout the year to spread the cost? Buy a gift voucher with every food shop for example. It does involve good hiding places if you have kids, and you’ll need a way of reminding yourself what you have bought so you don’t forget and spend double on gift buying! Go back to the list above a choose alternative gift ideas to reduce the costs.
Step 6: Find a way to bring in more
If you don’t have the spare cash to save or buy gifts throughout the year, then you’ll need to bring in more money to cover the shortfall. Start selling things, learn how to do surveys/website testing online, try out matched betting and enter loads of competitions. Take up mystery shopping assignments or work an extra job or do some overtime (but don’t overdo it!).
Step 7: Squirrel it away
Open a savings account to store your extra cash in. There are loads of options out there. This is money that isn’t invested, and should be easy access (but not where you’ll be tempted to “steal” from your own pot.
Getting Christmas sorted means that not only will you feel like a rockstar for having it all planned out, you won’t have a nasty bill to pay in January either. Don’t worry if this year hasn’t gone to plan – I mean, we have just been living through a pandemic! Make it your new year’s resolution for next year. Just think; wouldn’t it be lovely to have a December pay that ACTUALLY lasts until the end of January!
Start next year as you mean to go on- Do Christmas on a budget and end up debt-free and in charge of your finances!
I’d love to know your thoughts. Are you doing Christmas on a budget, or going all out in celebration? Comment below or come over to join in with my free, private Facebook group!
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