BY JOHN ELLIS, FINANCIAL ADVISOR
AT the time of writing there are 52 days to Christmas. Many people are becoming anxious planning for the big day, especially as money has been stretched by the pandemic.
The best advice to follow if you are worried about the cost of Christmas and cannot afford to buy gifts for family, friends or colleagues’ is don’t. But we don’t want to be seen as a Scrooge. We want to buy gifts for family at least.
So, it’s a time when more people borrow “to pay for Christmas”. Unfortunately for many the loans follow them way into the new year. If you have no choice but borrow then be careful where you borrow your money. But what can we do to have a happy and relatively debt free Christmas and New Year?
Budget early. Work out how much money you need now and over the coming weeks for gifts, food, and nights out. And only commit to what you can realistically afford over the Christmas period.
Take time to shop around. Don’t leave Christmas shopping to the last minute. Write a list of who you want to buy for and the gift for each person. Remember Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer some brilliant deals. Planning ahead gives you the opportunity to shop around for the best deals and stagger your gifts meaning you are less likely to overspend.
Or what about setting up a Kris Kringle with a budget and sticking to it!. This can be done for family, friends even work colleagues. Then you only have to think of one modest present. But don’t be the one that then buys for everyone else, embarrassing all who stuck to the rules.
Advance planning as the host. If you’re hosting the family on Christmas Day or planning a party beforehand, there are ways you can host without breaking the bank. Start thinking about your recipes, decorations, and games in advance. Then keep an eye out for offers in shops. There are plenty of things you can buy well in advance of Christmas that will keep well. Bake and/or make your own gifts as these go down a treat showing you have put thought and love into the gift.
Sell something. Hunt about the house and see what you have still in their boxes. Put them up on sites like eBay or Adverts. You will be pleasantly surprised what people will pay good money for that you consider junk adding well needed funds to the Christmas account.
Be careful online. Unfortunately, scams are more rife at Christmas than at any other time of the year. Fraudsters use a range of methods to trick you into handing over money, bank details and personal information. They pretend to work for charities. They send fake delivery notifications and offering ‘too good to be true’ deals via email. Remember don’t click on suspicious links, say no to all online requests for your personal information and always check site reviews before buying a gift.
Christmas does not have to involve spending lavishly.
Build memories. This is the cheapest recommendation of all. Look for opportunities to spend meaningful time together during the weeks leading up to Christmas. In the process you’ll be stockpiling family memories.
Track Santa. We all know it can be difficult to get children to bed on Christmas eve. Use a Santa tracker to show them where Santa is and how important it is to be in bed early. There are many trackers on line. NORAD tracks Santa opens on 1st December. One which includes games can be found on https://santatracker.google.com – you can even shave off Santas beard!
Give something to yourself at Christmas. You probably get paid early at Christmas. Do yourself a favour by continuing to pay your monthly bills such as the Mortgage/Rent, utility bills etc. Why spend money you don’t actually have and add more debt to next year. Make a commitment to do some things right next year, like paying off debt, starting a rainy-day fund, or learn how to live within your means and start saving for next Christmas now.
If you are really struggling with debt? Help is available. Try MABS and your local Credit Union. They’re there to help, not judge, so don’t worry. Except they get very busy in January, so don’t leave it, contact them now.
John@ellisfinancial.ie – 086 8362633