Christmas is a time when we often overspend. We buy presents to give gifts for family and friends, we stock up on foods – often to impress or treat ourselves – and we even indulge in decorations, alcoholic drinks, eating out, traveling to visit family and other revelry. Overspending of course leads to debt that eventually hits us when the celebrations are over.
How can we avoid debt at Christmas?
0. Do not use a credit card. Perhaps the biggest problem at Christmas is that we buy now and think later. Credit cards of course are the biggest problem when it comes to accumulating unwanted debt, Not only do you pay for the purchase but you pay interest that means you might pay for Christmas twice over if you use a credit card and don’t pay off immediately.
1. Make a budget based on the things that you really want to happen at Christmas. Perhaps you want to throw that mega-party for the street, give every relative a gift, maybe travel overseas and see old friends or simply indulge yourself at home with the very best food and drink you can buy. When you start to consider all the things that you want to happen, and what it will cost you, you will be in a position to see whether you can afford it all or whether you need to cut back on some areas and set limits on what is spent where.
2. Be very planned with purchasing gifts. Avoid going into the shops at the last minute to get gifts. Buying gifts at the last minute is one of the biggest sources of overspending at Christmas. Ideally we will be looking for presents all year round – including in the mid-year sales and times when you might not normally think about Christmas shopping. We may even set aside (unwanted) gifts we are given during the year and don’t forget to check for Internet specials that may take time to order and post but which can save you lots of money as well as produce that interesting novel item you’ve really been looking for.
3. Be creative with your gifts. Remember that it is fine to make things for gifts. You do not have to purchase manufactured items. Perhaps you can draw a picture, sew a child’s bag, knit a scarf, make some jam, save some bulbs or propagate some garden plants, be creative with some special photos and make a mini-album for your friend/relative showing the great times you have had together. Gifts do not always have to cost money but can be personalized and home made and far more special than some plastic trinket. You can also make your own cards for special relatives without having to spend lots of money on pre-made “personalized” cards.
4. Buy up Christmas decorations in the post-Christmas sales the year before you want to use them. Christmas decorations are another source of expense that can be avoided if you shop early. The post-Christmas sales are an excellent time to pick up wrapping paper, Christmas cards, decorations, party stock and all manner of merchandise at greatly reduced prices. Most items will keep in your home until you are ready to use them.
5. Plan your food. Once again planning your food is an important way of reducing debt at Christmas. If you are giving a party and really want a hamper with everything delivered fresh at the last minute without any shopping hassle then look at those schemes that allow you to pay off your hamper in advance so you know you can afford it. If you are prepared to do the miles yourself (and have some backup in case you miss out) then shop around at the last minute for specials. Remember that you can always have the bulk of your traditional Christmas food just after Christmas when shops are trying to shift mince pies and puddings. Children certainly don’t mind eating Christmas goodies well into January and you certainly don’t need to buy large stocks in advance if you are planning for treats to last – they will be cheaper after the Christmas week.
Finally keep perspective. You can have a wonderful Christmas without all the trimmings. Take the children to church or visit it yourself for a free carol service, enjoy a roast at home for no more expense than a normal dinner and take a walk with neighbours or family. You’ll have lots of fun without spending a thing!