Avoiding Christmas financial madness

For many people, Christmas lingers for months and months after it is gone. Marketers do an excellent job of making us spend our money on items we neither need nor want.

With Christmas a mere 4 weeks away, it is not too late to avoid the “January Financial Hangover”. If you haven’t planned anything, now is the time to:

  • Prioritize: a short deadline will help you zoom-in on who and what is important to you. If you have a partner and/or kids, talk about what you want from the Holiday Season.
  • Get creative, instead of spending money: if you have a talent for baking, cooking or for crafts, what about using it instead of buying prepared food and gifts? You can also donate your time.
  • Buy your Christmas ornaments at the dollar store, or if you are creative, make them yourself.
  • Send e-cards instead of paper cards.
  • Skip the whole gift-buying altogether: This one can be tough. There is a societal expectation you “have to” give gifts for Christmas. I suggest the following experiment: ask yourself and your loved ones (partner, kids, parents, siblings..) what were their gifts last Christmas. I bet most of them -including you-won’t remember.
  • Be honest: honesty is the best policy. If you can’t afford to spend money or don’t want to participate in a gift exchange, say so. Learning to say no is an important skill. Too often, people want to keep appearances and keep up with the Joneses.  If you are doing this, you are not doing yourself any favor.

As I indicated here, I have no problem being a bit of a Financial Grinch over the Holidays. I have never gone into debt for Christmas and don’t plan to.

Avoiding Christmas’ financial madness

Image result for christmas madness

With Christmas a mere 11 weeks away, now is actually the best time to plan ahead, money-wise. Canadian households spend an average of $ 1 400.00 on Christmas items, i.e. gifts, food and decoration. This yearly frenzy can leave you frazzled and feeling the pinch, financially. Here are a few tips to avoid the “January hangover”:

  • Remember the true meaning of Christmas, regardless of your religion or origins. Christmas is definitely not about gifts and overeating.
  • Take inventory. Before buying anything, go through your home to check what you already have. You don’t need brand new deco every year. There might also be a few items you have never used and that could be suitable gifts.
  • Make a list and be (very) selective. Does the second cousin you haven’t seen in 5 years really need a gift from you? Growing-up, my parents only bought presents for their children, nephews and nieces and themselves. It was pretty much the same for my other relatives. Nowadays, it is a parents-children gift exchange. Last year, I only bought three gifts: one for my parents, one for the office party and one for the friends’ party.
  • Set a dollar limit and stick to it. A $10-$15 gift for friends and co-workers is pretty common. For family, you might spend a bit more, but you should be comfortable with the amount and you should not have to pay any interest on it. As written above, Christmas is not about gifts.
  • Go potluck-style. Entertaining and feeding people can cost a ton! If you plan on hosting, ask your relatives or friends to bring a dish. My family has always done so and we have always had great food on the table.
  • Spread your shopping. The closer we get to December 25th, the more expensive everything is. Don’t wait for the last minute. Look for deals now. Buy a few items each time your paycheque comes in, instead of charging them to your credit card.
  • Skip some invitations. Most people receive lots of invitations during the Holiday Season. Between work, school, church, places you volunteer at, friends and family, it can feel and be like a 24/7 social marathon. It can leave you exhausted, not to mention you end-up spending a lot of money. Last year, I only attended three parties. I had a great time and I felt refreshed when my vacation was up.

Being a bit of a Grinch over Christmas can not only be good for your wallet, but also for your sanity.