It’s no surprise that Christmas is one of the most expensive times of the year. Holiday expenses add up quickly and when faced with the purchasing pressures of the season many people end up in the red. To help prevent you from drowning in debt we’ve identified 12 ways to avoid a Christmas financial crisis.
1. Assess Your Finances and Create a Budget Ensure you understand your financial situation, accounting for all available funds and outstanding debt. After analyzing your finances, make a budget to account for all anticipated Christmas expenses.
2. Don’t Count on Your Bonus While many employers aim to distribute Christmas Bonus, a bonus is never a sure thing until you’ve received the funds. In some instances, there may be no bonus at all. For this reason, it’s important not to factor your bonus into your Christmas spending budget. Rather, unexpected income such a bonus should be set aside for future savings or allocated to more long-term financial goals, such as saving for a new home.
3. Avoid Committing to Projects based on the Promise of Money Don’t begin Christmas projects, such as home renovations, if you’re not certain you will have the incoming cash flow to see this project through to completion. For instance, a relative may promise to send funds, however if they aren’t able to fulfil their promise, you can be left in debt when it’s time to pay the construction team. Instead, focus on confirmed financial commitments such as approved loans or a maturing fixed deposit.
4. Have an Emergency Fund or Medical Insurance Just because it’s Christmas, doesn’t mean the risk of accidents or ailments goes away. In the midst of the shopping, holiday preparations and gatherings, it’s vital to plan for the unexpected. Should you or a relative need to visit the doctor or be taken to the Emergency Room, it’s pertinent you have cash on hand or medical insurance to cover the bill.
5. Have a “No Debt” Goal Avoid racking up debt that you’ll carry into the new year. While it’s tempting in the excitement of the season to get carried away with shopping and partying, remind yourself that the season is only temporary and when it comes to an end, you want to be proud of your financial standing and not overwhelmed in debt. That means avoiding taking on high-interest unsecured loans or charging purchases to your credit card.
6. Maintenance Take great care of your car and household appliances and service them when necessary so they stay in good working condition. The last thing you need is for them to fail you when you need them most during the hustle and bustle of Christmas. Ensure that they’re up to the task so you don’t end up spending money unexpectedly on expensive replacements.
7. Planning and Tracking Make lists for everything you intend to purchase and don’t deviate from them. This eliminates impromptu purchases which you may regret later. Next, diligently track your spending and keep tally of where you are in relation to your predetermined budget.
8. Support Local Instead of pricey foreign goods, invest in more cost-effective options from local businesses. From groceries to gifts, this goes a long way and can cycle around to support people you know and love.
9. Make It Yourself Explore making things instead of buying them. Whether it’s a decorative centerpiece for your dining table, or a hamper of baked goods as a gift, your options are as abundant as your creativity. For example, instead of buying wrapping paper, use old magazines or recycled materials, benefiting your wallet and the environment.
10. Don’t Do It Alone Enlist the support of family and friends to stay on track. As a bonus, you’re promoting wise financial habits that last beyond the Season. Let them know you’re prioritizing memories instead of material possessions. You may find it even easier to stand behind these budget-friendly choices!
11. Charitable Donations As it’s a season for giving, you may have charities in mind which you intend to support. Account for this in your budget since it represents a cash outflow. Additionally, if you’re stumped on what to get someone, consider donating to charity in their name rather than buying a traditional present. Touching the lives of others is priceless.
12. Learn When to Decline Invitations Christmas comes with expectations to attend family gatherings, school or work fundraisers and social events which brings a burden on your wallet to contribute to these functions. Be selective, perhaps choosing only one parang party and focusing on the most well-attended family functions, will help keep your money in check. Always remain focused on your goal of being financially secure and don’t allow social obligations to derail your plans.
With the Christmas season approaching, you may be thinking about sprucing up your home in anticipation of the holiday parties you will be hosting. As a responsible homeowner, it’s important to spend within your means. If renovations are not within your financial reach this year, we suggest identifying smaller projects that are more financially feasible but can still go a long way to transform your home. We’ve compiled some of our favourite budget-conscious home improvement projects below.
Instead of repainting everything… Pick a specific room or try an accent wall or cupboard! Adding a new coat of paint can brighten up the space significantly. You can freshen up stained or dingy walls and take it another level by adding a fresh pop of colour as well. For instance, changing the colour of your kitchen cupboards or adding an accent wall can add personality and warmth.
Instead of building new storage… Add organization to your cabinets! Whether it be clothing closets or kitchen cupboards, adding organization and getting rid of clutter transforms this storage space completely. Start by taking stock of what’s stored in these areas and get rid of items you don’t need. Once you identify the items you really want to hold onto, sort them into similar categories and display them neatly with sectional containers, hooks or hangers. Instead of building more storage, this re-organisation would show you that you had more space than you realized!
Instead of redecorating… Add crown moulding! The addition of decorative moulding brings not only a more elegant finish but also adds value to your home. Start by learning about which crown moulding might be most suited to your space, for instance, some architects recommend that crown moulding be no more than 6 inches in height if a room has 8-foot ceilings. If you’re keen for a handy DIY project, you can also consider carrying out the installation yourself.
Instead of bathroom renovations… Revive your bathroom with new caulk! Get rid of old, discoloured and brittle bathroom caulk and replace with a fresh application. Not only is this a practical choice, as new caulk helps prevent mould and mildew, but it also provides a nifty facelift.
Instead of purchasing new furniture… Revive your couch and cushions! If your couch and cushions are sagging after years of use, give them new life by re-stuffing them.
Instead of exterior remodeling… Refresh your entryway!
Your home’s entrance creates a first impression to anyone visiting and improves the appeal for future buyers. Consider repainting your door and adding new door finishings like a stylish knob or handle. You can also add foliage, from potted greens to planted flowers. Other touches like installing a new house number and outdoor lighting can also go a long way.
Saving is one of the most powerful budget-friendly habits you can practise, especially from a young age. Whether it’s saving for a down payment for your first home, working to reduce existing debt or putting aside funds for a rainy day – consistently saving money gets you closer to your financial goals. To help you get on track with positive saving practices, we’ve compiled 20 helpful tips below.
Pay yourself first. Set up a standing order to automatically put aside a percentage of your pay cheque; 10% is a great amount to start with. Setting this aside first means you won’t be tempted to spend it.
Have a separate account for your savings. Putting your savings into its own account keeps it separate from the account that you use to do transactions, so you won’t accidentally spend it. You can even talk to your bank about creating multiple savings accounts dedicated to specific goals (e.g. retirement, children’s education, emergency fund, etc.).
Make a budget and stick to it as best as you can. Having a clear limit on how much you can spend per month on expenses like eating out, entertaining and shopping can keep you in check.
Find additional sources of income by capitalising on your hobbies and skills (e.g. baking, babysitting, helping neighbours with odd jobs, etc.). Instead of spending your additional income, allocate it to your savings.
Cut out unnecessary expenses. Always evaluate the necessity of an expense before spending your money. Do you really need an extra pair of shoes or to eat out as frequently? Practise cutting back and save the money instead.
Reduce your bills by being more aware and diligent. For example, turn off the lights when it’s not being used, switch to energy-efficient light bulbs, pay your bills on time to avoid paying late fees, and in the dry season, hang your clothes outside to dry instead of using an electric dryer.
Sort through your closets and cupboards and sell the items that you no longer want and need. You’d be surprised at how much money you had sitting around gathering dust.
Make a shopping list before going to the grocery store and don’t stray from it. Stay focused and don’t pick up any items that you didn’t intend to buy.
Start a home garden to grow your own herbs and veggies. You’ll have fresher ingredients and won’t feel like you’re throwing your money away when produce goes bad.
Practice the 30-day rule: Wait 30 days before making any non-essential purchases to ensure you really want that item. If 30 days pass and you still want it, then buy it. Most times, with time, you may find that the urge to buy fades away.
Go for quality items versus things that won’t last. E.g. investing in energy-efficient appliances up front make all the difference in the long run.
Prepare and pack lunch from home rather than buying out.
Find free events and activities for the family such as a picnic at the Savannah, a fun hike or an outing to the library.
Maintain your car and home regularly so that things are less likely to break down. Maintenance costs are much more manageable and predictable than emergency costs.
Brainstorm money-saving ideas with your friends and get them involved so you can have a support system and develop better habits together.
Keep an eye out for discounts and sales to take advantage of great deals. Don’t pass up on discounts on non-perishable items even if you don’t presently need them – they can be stored for future use. Make sure you keep track of items that you have stocked up on because if you don’t, you might purchase more than you actually need.
Live more simply and focus on reducing excess or clutter. You might be surprised how little you need to have a happy and fulfilled life.
Shop local. Local or store brands are usually priced lower than imported ones. This way you help support the local economy, while saving yourself some cash!
Create a savings game with goals to hit each month. Maybe you and your friends can have a contest to see who can save the most; the Master Saver
Be patient and persistent. Having a positive attitude and a commitment to trying different things can get you very far! Even if you slip up and splurge occasionally, don’t be too hard on yourself otherwise you run the risk of abandoning your goals altogether.