At MyBudget, we’re approaching some of our busiest months of the year. The New Year will bring with it hundreds of phone calls and emails every week from people asking for our help. Having stretched themselves too far, many of them will be experiencing the financial aftershock of Christmas.
The good news is that we can help most people get back on track quickly. But the best cure for financial stress is to avoid it in the first place. With that in mind, here are some last minute Christmas tips that might save you some grey hairs and a few dollars.
Leave your credit card at home. When you’re shopping for Christmas presents and groceries over the coming weeks, do it with cash. Cash is better than your debit card because it’s a visual reminder in your purse or wallet. You can even organize it into separate envelopes—and when it’s gone, it’s gone.
Don’t leave home without a list. Prepare your shopping list before you leave the house and stick to it. This includes shopping for Christmas presents—know how much you can afford, what you’re going to buy and for who.
Get creative. Avoid overpriced glacé fruit, handkerchiefs and boring neckties. Why not make cheap, cheery and thoughtful gifts for your loved ones? Biscuits, cake, potted plants, photo books and framed photos are a few ideas.
Start storing and freezing. Now is the time to scour supermarket catalogues for discounts and specials. Some vegetable dishes can be made in advance, frozen, then reheated for Christmas Day.
Don’t shop for yourself until after Christmas. It’s tempting to get festive by including a few little treats for yourself. Resist! Wait for the post-Christmas sales and to see what Santa brings you.
Tighten your belt. The festive season is hard on people’s pocket for all sorts of reasons—gift-giving, Christmas parties, reduced hours at work—which means that right now is the time to take a serious look at your spending habits and see if there are any areas where you can cut back over the coming weeks. The little things add up—take your lunch to work, stop buying take-away coffee, stay at home on Saturday night, try a cheaper bottle of wine, cook at home instead of buying take-away.
Plan your special Christmas. Popular images of Christmas (piles of presents, lavish decorations, enough food to feed an army) are largely marketing ploys to make us to spend, spend, spend. But your Christmas doesn’t have to be “typical” to be special and wonderful. Why not take sandwiches to a local park? How about a picnic at the beach or a barbecue at home?