Christmas is expensive. So to ensure the festivities are full of cheer and not money worries, here’s our guide to a budget family festive period.
Christmas and New Year is just around the corner and for most of us, at least one of the occasions is a time for big spending. Whether it’s buying presents in the run up to Christmas or cashing in on the sales between Christmas and New Year, this is a time that comes with expenses.
Here’s a guide to ensure your bank account is ready for the spending to come.
Step one: Draw up a budget
Work out how much money you already have saved and how you could boost that festive budget over the next three weeks. Could you cut down on going out, reduce grocery bills or save less this month to ensure Christmas is used with existing funds, rather than being run up on credit cards. There are a number of online Christmas money planners to help you prepare that Christmas budget too so plan ahead.
Step two: Raise some cash
If the cupboards are cluttered up with unused bikes, toys or electrical items, now would be the time to raise some extra cash for the big spend ahead. If you know your husband wants a new bike, sell his old one first and toy cupboards always need a clear out. As long as you store any earnings away, you will have a readymade pot of cash.
Step three: Be realistic
Once you have calculated how much cash you can spend, decide what you want to buy before you hit the mall. If its presents you need, draw up a list of who you plan to give to and how many presents you want to give each person. Treat it like a shopping list and in the same way you would with your groceries, assign a budget for each person and stick to it. That way when you hit the mall, rather than wandering around picking up presents here and there, you can tick them off the list as you go, all the while ensuring what you spend stays within your pre-set limits.
Step four: Downsize your expectations
For those buying for children, particularly young children, buying something brand new is not always necessary. To a child, a bike is a bike. They won’t mind that is pre-loved; they will simply be in the awe of the fact they have a bike of their own. So, if it’s a case of buying what you want while sticking within a budget then look for secondhand deals on classified websites, Facebook forums and the flea markets. You will be amazed at what you find and some items may not have a scratch on them. It’s also good option if you want to give the children a joint present such as a trampoline or playhouse for the garden.
Step five: Get the kids involved.
A tree doesn’t have to be decorated in ornate decorations that cost an arm and a leg. Children love creating Christmas decorations of their own so whether it’s handmade paper snowflakes for the windows, homemade decorated gingerbread biscuits to hang on the tree or painted decorations made from clay – get the youngsters involved. Homemade cards and wrapping paper is also a bonus. Children can be occupied for hours with a roll of brown paper, some glue, glitter and paint that will ensure all the presents have personalized wrapping.
Step six: How many presents does the family need?
If your daughter has 40 barbie dolls, another five might not be a good idea. Instead, look in the toy boxes to see what they really need. Consumerism is a curse on modern society and while it is nice to see young faces light up, make sure you are buying them the things they really want, rather than toys that will get ignored within 5 minutes. One trick is to take the children to a toy shop to get a true idea of what they want. Tell them you are looking for a birthday present and as they go around the shop, see which items get their attention. It’s a great insight into how young minds work and will ensure you get the right gift. When it comes to stockings, add homemade options such as homemade biscuits and an orange to keep costs down. And, if money is tight, make an agreement with your spouse not to give each other presents this year.
Step seven: Keep Christmas activities cheap and simple
Yes a trip to the snow park at Ski Dubai would be nice, but there are plenty of cheaper ways to keep the family entertained. An advent calendar of events is a good idea with a different idea for each day: spraying fake snow on the window, making mince pies, writing and posting Christmas cards, reading festive stories, singing carols and so on.
Step eight: Don’t overdo the food
Yes turkey, lashings of vegetables, roast potatoes and festive sauces will go down a treat but do you really need a 15lb Turkey when there are only four of you eating on the big day. Be sensible and buy a smaller turkey that you use all of even down to boiling the bones for stock
Again, endless boxes of festive chocolates, nuts, cheeses, biscuits and more are good in the days leading up to Christmas Day but the last thing you want to be doing is throwing away uneaten cake, mince pies and leftovers. Be conservative about your grocery shop and, again, limit what you spend. With some hotels delivering the entire Christmas Day meal for less than AED 1,000, it might actually be a cheaper option as well as a huge time saver than hitting the supermarket yourself and cooking it from scratch.
Step nine: Delay the present giving
It’s controversial but for some, the actual gift giving happens after Christmas Day when the end of year sales start. Give the family small gifts on Christmas Day itself and then buy any big electrical items once the sales start. You could even give an IOU message in a card explaining that you owe your child or spouse an XBox so they can still get excited about the present.
Step ten: Think ahead
After the big day is over, keep the Christmas cards and any gift bags and recycle them next year. The cards can be cut up and used as gift tags and gift bags and bottle bags are always reusable. If you want to budget for 2014, head to the sales and snap up any cards, decorations and wrapping paper on offer ready for next year’s budget Christmas.