We are more than 60 days out from Christmas and I am already feeling the pressure. It’s only mid-October and the commercials have already started on TV. The stores have had Christmas decor on display for about a month now and I have a running to-do list in my head. This is the busiest time of year for most of us and also the time of year that we tend to let the budget slip and fall into old habits. The credit cards get swiped more often than not and we are left with a mess after the holidays. The debt from Christmas can haunt you for months to come as you try to pay off that toy your child just had to have that he is no longer playing with. It’s the same story every year and yet we always fall into the same trap. We want to create a memorable holiday season but at what expense? This year I challenge you to survive Christmas without going broke. It is a task but it can absolutely be done if you have a plan in place.
How to Survive Christmas Without Going Broke
Create A Christmas Budget
A Christmas budget is a necessity. This is not the time of year you want to add debt to your plate. You are probably stressed and have a lot going on. The last time you need is credit card debt piling up.
You need to know exactly how much you have to spend on gifts, decor, and traditions. Your number can be as big or as small as you would like but the main key is to set up a budget that is realistic for the amount of cash you’ll have during the holiday season.
If you have not saved throughout the year for Christmas your budget will probably be on the smaller side (unless you get a bonus at the end of the year or some other windfall). That’s okay. You need to work within the parameters that you have for yourself.
If you are just now starting to save for Christmas that is okay. You will want to look at your current budget and see if there are areas you can cut back on or if you have a bit of extra cash at the end of the month. You may have to sacrifice a few line items on your budget like restaurants and fun money to survive Christmas without going broke.
If you don’t have any money to squeeze out of your budget it is time to look for a side hustle. The holidays are the perfect time of year to pick up a retail job. Everyone is hiring seasonally to meet the demand of their increase in sales. This is the perfect opportunity for you to get ahead a bit and stash some cash for Christmas!
Factor in Travel Costs
Do you tend to travel during the holidays? The prices of plane tickets increase during the holidays and it is harder to find deals. Be sure to book your travel early whenever possible and plan ahead. If you are not able to pay for the cost of travel with cash you may want to reconsider your holiday plans. I know that doesn’t sound fun but you want to stick to your budget!
Create a List (or two)
I am not huge into making lists but lists are a necessity during the holidays. “Making a list, checking it twice” – That is what you want to your mantra to be this time of year!
Now, you know how much you have to survive Christmas without going broke but you need a list of who you are shopping for. Write down everyone that you normally give to this time of year from parents, grandparents, siblings, children, nieces, nephews, mailman, hairdresser etc. You need to know exactly who you are giving gifts to so you can allocate your Christmas budget to each person. What I like to do is write down the person’s name and how much I am planning to spend. Then I write down a few gift ideas for that person and when I am done shopping I record how much I spent on them. It helps me stay on budget for each person. If I go over on grandma a little bit I know I need to spend a little less on the hairdresser. You get the idea.
The second list I recommend writing is your miscellaneous expenses. This is the time of year that things creep up. The holiday lights for the front of the house aren’t working properly, you need to pick out a new ornament to commemorate this year, the tree skirt is frayed. All of these little expenses creep up and can break the bank! You need to know exactly how much you have to spend on these things. Maybe you don’t have any room left in the budget for these miscellaneous expenses. That’s okay. Make a note for the following year so you can start saving for replacements now.
Shop for Deals
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great times to pick up deals. However, be cautious of how good the deals are. To survive Christmas without going broke you need to know the true retail value of the items you are looking for. Some retailers will increase their prices just before the holidays so when an item goes on sale it shows a larger value. You could end up paying more for an item if you weren’t aware of the price leading up to the holidays. Be sure to shop around as well. Everyone has sales and the retailers tend to get competitive with each other.
Many stores will negotiate prices with you as well you win your business. If you know the store down the road is selling the same exact item for $20 less let the store you are currently in know, see if they will match the price or give you a better deal. You would be surprised how often this actually works!
Be Mindful of the Gifts for Yourself
We all like to indulge ourselves a bit during the holiday season. However, to survive Christmas without going broke we need to mindful of how much we are truly spending on ourselves. Do you really need that new purse? What about that TV on sale? These purchases are necessary and can push you over budget if you are not careful. If you have money set aside to shop for yourself then that is okay, just be mindful of how much you are spending and if you really need to make the purchase.
Check Return Policies and Save Receipts
If you shop earlier in the holiday season you will want to know the return policy of the retailers you shop with. Some retailers offer a 30-day money-back window while others offer 60 – 90 – 120 days to return items. Knowing exactly what the policy is will help you, in the long run, in case you need to exchange an item or if it needs to be returned. You don’t want to miss your window of opportunity because you shopped too early.
Save your receipts. You will need to have proof of purchase when returning or exchanging items. It is much easier to do this with a receipt on hand. I also recommend having a gift receipt printed to attach to the gift. This will give your family or friend the option to exchange an item without needing your original receipt.
Just Say No
I talk about the power of saying no a lot. I hate to say it but it has become one of my favorite words. While it is awkward in the beginning saying no gives you the power to stay within your budget and spend your money based on what you value. It gets easier with time, trust me.
To survive Christmas without going broke you’ll have to say no to friends and family who ask you to attend certain activities. You will want to say no when a company asks you to open their credit card to save an extra 5%. It sounds enticing but it’s normally not worth the added hassle. There are so many little things that come up during the holiday season, if it doesn’t align with your vision for the holidays it is okay to say no!
Setting boundaries for yourself before the holidays is key and will help you stay on budget and keep you from going broke.
Skip the Material Gifts
This may sound absurd to you, I know. It is hard to wrap your head around but Christmas isn’t about the material items. You may opt to give the gift of experiences this year. It is a totally different way of giving but just as satisfying and the memories will last longer than that Hatchimal that got lost in the bottom of the toy box.
Prepare for Next Year
Keep track of how much you are spending and who you are shopping for. These lists will come in handy. After the dust settles and you make it out of Christmas alive you’ll have a better idea of how much you truly need for the holidays. Starting with your first paycheck after Christmas put a bit of money aside. You will want to build up a sinking fund. When Christmas comes around the following year it is already funding. This is the ultimate way to survive Christmas without going broke. You can even increase your budget if needed because you’ll have a longer window to save for the holidays.
To truly survive Christmas without going broke you need a plan in place.
Whether it is December 1st or July 1st it is never too early (or too late) to start planning your holidays. The holidays are a costly time of year for many of us. Having a plan in place will allow us to have a memorable holiday season without breaking the bank. You don’t need a huge budget for the holidays to make them memorable! Enjoy the free activities available to you and create memories with your family members. That will last much longer than any gift you give or party you throw.
Happy Holidays friends!