Christmas is finally here, and with it comes all the happiness (and stress) that's to be expected at such a busy time of year. Make sure you're not making these five Christmas mistakes in order to have the best holiday season you can this year.
1. Buying presents for everyone
The pressure to buy for family, friends, and even colleagues can be overwhelming during the festive season. It’s easy to be guilted into office secret Santas or gift giving with friends. However, you have absolutely no obligation to buy presents for those you cannot afford to. It doesn't mean you value their friendship any less, or that you are not in the spirit of the season.
Solution: Be clear from the outset
The best way to deal with this situation is to be very clear early in the season about who you will and won’t be buying presents for. Tell those who may be expecting a present that you will not be giving them anything this year and explain your reasons why. The earlier you do this the better, to avoid any miscommunication or confusion. You can always send cards or hand written letters telling those people how much they mean to you or the impact they have made on your year.
2. Panic shopping
As the big day gets closer, many of us will be panicking about what to get our nearest and dearest that they will actually value and appreciate. This can lead to last minute dashes to over crowded shopping malls, or late night trawling of the internet to find stores that will deliver by the Christmas deadline. Inevitably, all that ends up happening is you spend money on gifts that are not suitable, or that will end up being quietly returned. Don’t do it to yourself.
Solution: plan and organise
Ideally it’s easiest on you and your wallet if you can stagger buying Christmas gifts over a couple of months. However, it’s not always possible to do so, due to other personal or financial commitments. In that case, once you’ve decided who you will be buying presents for, try to make time early in the season to write down two or three potential gift ideas for each that you know they will enjoy. By doing this, when it comes to buying their gifts you will already know what it is you need to search for, and will even have thought about back up options if stock on certain items has run low.
3. Not having a clear budget
You probably have some idea of how much money you can afford to spend on your Christmas season. You may even have a solid figure that you do not intend to deviate from no matter what. This is a great first step, and helpful when it comes to weighing up pricey things like gifts or last minute travel plans. However, by not having a detailed budget you can easily run over your set figure and incur much higher expenses than you were expecting.
Take some time to set a budget for each large expense category you will encounter over the Christmas period, rather than just having an overall sum in your head. Divide it into categories such as: decorations, travel, food, presents etc., and assign each category a budget. Then, make a note of each of your purchases as they are made. This way it’s easier to keep a track on what money is being spent and things are less likely to slip between the cracks.
4. Buying on credit
It might sound impossible, but try to leave you credit card at home this Christmas. Because buying on credit puts off today’s costs until tomorrow it’s easy to get carried away and spend more than you can afford to in pursuit of the perfect Christmas.
Solution: buy only what you can afford
Ideally, you should aim to pay for Christmas with what you have managed to save throughout the year, either through your smart money app or in your bank account. This way you automatically limit yourself to the money you actually have. If that’s not possible, and credit is the only option available to you, then always be mindful to not spend more than you can afford to pay back within the next three months. Don’t spend the rest of the year ahead paying off Christmas and minimising any saving or investment opportunities that may present themselves.
5. Forgetting what it’s all about
It’s easy to forget that Christmas is not about the spending and the buying, but the giving and the time spent with those we love. Don’t get so caught up with trying to do everything right that you forget to take a breath and enjoy the day with your loved ones.
Solution: take a time out
If it all gets too much then give yourself permission to take a full-day time out and spend the day away from external pressures and doing only what makes you happy. Only do the Christmas you have the time, energy, and money for. It’s the spirit of it that matters, not the price tag.