18 Dec How To Have A Financially Stress Free Christmas
Who doesn’t love Christmas?
I am writing this between Christmas Carol shows my church runs every year. It is a fantastic production we put on as a way to give back to the community and celebrate Christmas. There are carols, dancers, LED lights, smoke machines and of course Santa always comes to visit the little and errr… big kids as well.
It is also a time that people take to enjoy the last few days of the year. There are celebrations but also lots of reflection as well. How was this year? How can next year better than last year?
But we also know that Christmas can be a very tough time of year for a lot of families as well. There are people who don’t have any family and friends that they want to celebrate with – these stories always sadden me greatly and make me appreciate the great family that I have.
But I know there are families that don’t enjoy Christmas due to the stress it places on their finances. It is a well known fact that credit card balances are always highest in January as people have overspent on Christmas in January. There is “pressure” to keep up with “the Jones’” and ensure that whatever little Johnny down the road is getting is similar to what your kid is getting as well. No one wants to be that parent who gives their kid a soccer ball when the neighbours kid gets an iPad.
Then there are other who go without, because they don’t have any other choice. When you are struggling to regularly put food on the table and keep a roof over your head, Christmas gifts is a very low priority.
Christmas can be the most enjoyable time of the year, but it can also be the most stressful. And those who do not have control of their finances it can be even more difficult. But I want you to enjoy Christmas this year, next year and every single year after this, and not be worried about money over this time.
That is why I have put together six simple ideas so you can enjoy a financially stress Christmas.
- Have a budget and stick to it
Everyone who is a regular follower of my blog and teachings must be sick of me talking about budgeting! I make no apology for this, as a budget is the cornerstone to getting more control of your finances, from everything from Christmas, saving for a house and retirement.
Firstly, write down everyone you want to buy presents for. Then write down how much is the maximum you want to spend on them. Now stick to it! This is the limit you are going to spend for Christmas. If you stick to it then you will be fine, if you don’t then you will have a “financial Christmas hangover” in January.
- Set money aside every week for Christmas
Following on from point one, you should be setting aside money each week for Christmas. When I sit down and go through someones budget I want to see Christmas listed as an annual expense, alongside their car insurance, holidays and council rates.
If you have gone through step one and discovered you are going to spend $500 for Christmas, then you need to be setting aside $10 every week to pay for Christmas. It may seem callous, but it makes sure you are able to enjoy Christmas for the right reasons, not worry about how you are going to pay for everything.
- Leave the credit card at home
If you have not followed points one and two, don’t get to December and buy presents on the credit card. If you do, you will be guaranteed to have a financially stressful New Year and you don’t want to start the New Year in this sort of situation.
If you are unable to buy Christmas presents in cash, then don’t buy presents at all. As harsh as it sounds, I would rather everyone be calling you a scrooge rather than be struggling with a credit card debt into the New Year.
- Less toys, more savings
Maybe it is because I was deprived as a child, but I swear kids are getting more and more presents each year. It may not just be the quantity but the overall price of presents are definitely going up. And to the frustration of parents most of them get forgotten about once February comes around.
Here’s an idea for you. Rather than your friends and family spending money on toys for your kids, ask them to make a contribution to your children’s school savings plan or something else you are saving for your kids. If you are not currently setting aside funds for your children’s future needs, start this now. That way your friends and family can contribute to a gift that lasts a lifetime.
Would you rather your friends spent $100 on a new toy for your child or $100 towards the deposit on your first home. You decide…
- Buy experiences, not gifts
I am grateful that people, especially Gen Y, are cottoning on to this idea. We don’t need more crap in the closets. Physically gifts do not make us happy over the long term.
But experiences last a lifetime. Whether it is a weekend to the Gold Coast, scuba diving a great barrier reef, swim with dolphins or doing a hotlap around Bathurst, this is the sort of experiences that bring us true joy.
- Buy a gift for someone in need
I hope that you are in the fortunate position where you don’t really need gifts. If that is the case, why not ask your friends and family to buy a gift for someone who is in need. Organisations like Kiva enable you to donate $50 to someone so they can buy equipment they need, such as a donkey for a farmer, in order to launch a new business venture to support their family and lift them out of poverty. $50 in Australia is a small amount in the scheme of things, but in a third world country it is everything. Isn’t this a much better gift than socks, jocks and a DVD?
I hope you are able to take a few of these ideas to make Christmas much more enjoyable for you and your loved ones. If you are reading this in December, it may be too late for you to implement these ideas for this year, but these are definitely something you can put into place for Christmas next year.
Christmas should be a time to be enjoyed, not one to dread. On behalf of everyone at Master Your Money Now I hope you have a fantastic Christmas this year!