Here’s a scary thought: it’s less than a month before the December holidays and then Christmas will be upon us. Unplanned, last-minute shopping usually ends in financial disaster, but, with a bit of planning, this festive season will be a cinch.
Every year retailers bring out the Christmas decorations earlier so we have Father Christmas jostling for space with Halloween pumpkins. But this also provides an opportunity to start buying Christmas goodies and gifts ahead of time, allowing us to spread the cost over a few months so our gifts are actually paid for by the time we give them. Apart from presents, you can also stock up with non-perishables like the ubiquitous Quality Streets and Christmas cakes, as well as any Christmas decorations.
The key, however, is to still have a plan in place, otherwise you are just spreading the overspend:
- SET A BUDGET: Decide upfront how much you are going to spend this year on celebrating and on gifts. The good news is that everyone is feeling the pinch so no one should be expecting expensive gifts. Remember that, because most people are facing a tight budget, buying practical gifts like clothes or shoes would be really appreciated. Think about small luxuries that people have stopped buying themselves during these tough times.
- CREATE A FAMILY PACT: Closer to the time, people tend to get swept up in festive season fever and lose perspective, so, a month or two before Christmas is the best time to sit down with the family to discuss limits on gifts. For example, this year do a Secret Santa where the names of each family member are pulled out of a hat. You buy one gift of a certain value for whoever’s name you pulled out. Alternatively, set a price limit on gifts or agree to home-made gifts. Some families agree to give gifts to children only.
- LEAVE THE STORE CARDS AT HOME: Always shop with a list and stick to it so you do not end up overspending. Leave the cards at home, otherwise the temptation to swipe them for non-essentials will be too great. Decide how much you will spend on gifts, draw the cash and stick to the budget.
- EAT BEFORE YOU SHOP: Research shows we are better at controlling our spending when we have a full belly. Also, if we have eaten before we go shopping, we are less likely to waste money on food at the mall.
- SHOP FROM HOME: Online shopping is a great way to avoid the Christmas crowds and you are also more likely to stick to the gift list. It allows you to easily compare prices, and most online retailers deliver to your home.
- GET YOUR LOYALTY TO WORK FOR YOU: End-of-year shopping is a great way to use those loyalty rewards and save yourself money.