The economy may be in a slump, but that’s no reason not to enjoy the Christmas holidays. Making a realistic budget plan for Christmas can enhance your enjoyment of the holiday season, and avoid months of debt. Here are some budget tips that can help.
1. Make lists. When you’re confused, it’s easy to spend more than you intended. Make a list of people to whom you want to give gifts, along with gift ideas for each person. Then mark off each individual as you buy for him or her. If you are going to be hosting any parties, make lists of guests and the supplies you’ll need.
2. Start early. Yes, everyone says this, but it really is one of the keys to a stress-less Christmas. It’s not unreasonable to start planning in the summertime, taking advantage of summer sales ? even yard sales for decorations and accessories ? so that you are free to think about more important things when the holidays arrive.
3. Budget with real numbers. It’s tempting to be fuzzy with a budget, estimating and guessing rather than looking at hard numbers. Go ahead and write down your actual income, any Christmas bonuses you anticipate receiving, and how much you plan to spend on Christmas gifts, entertaining, decorating, etc. If the numbers don’t add up, consider taking on temporary work or cutting back on your expenditures.
4. Take an inventory. While you’re making your lists, go through your attic and basement and make sure you are not planning to buy something you already have. There may be Christmas gifts you did not give for whatever reason, wrapping paper, and decorations you might have forgotten about.
5. Hand-make gifts, cards, wrapping paper, and decorations. This is a fun one, and is a great way to include kids in the festivities. Family members especially enjoy receiving creatively presented photos (think collage or nature-inspired frames), homemade ornaments, and presents wrapped in paper festooned with little hand prints.
6. Travel light and make reservations well ahead. Airlines are charging fees for extra carry-ons these days, so lighten up and save some money. Looking for airline and hotel reservations early in the year allows you the luxury of being choosy about the price you’re willing to pay.
7. Deliver gifts and cards in person rather than mailing. Postage ? especially rush postage due to getting a late start on holiday shopping ? is quite expensive. Bring your cards and gifts to the office, to church, or wherever you are going to be seeing the people on your gift and card lists.
8. Do gift exchanges for big groups. Gift exchanges ensure that everyone involved need only purchase one gift. Set a price range so the gifts will be roughly similar in value.
9. Throw a party with a theme where everyone participates. This is a festive way to combine the social aspect of the holidays with some of the drudgery. Have a cooking party ? ask each guest to bring an ingredient and reveal who is cooking what with whom at the party. Or give each guest a decoration and see who can come up with the most creative way to display it at your house. Voila! Decorating done, even if unconventional.
10. Consider unconventional gifts. Not everyone needs a new tie or pair of earrings. Consider giving your time ? bring a family a meal, or invite people over and cook for them. Sometimes, the gift of your time means the most.
Filed under: Personal Finance