With about 6 weeks left to Christmas I started with my planning over the weekend as I want to be prepared this year. I am a Financial Advisor and planning should come natural to me but guess what, as a human being and a self-employed mom I leave Christmas planning and shopping for gifts until about 2 weeks before Christmas day, and then find myself in frenzy over-spending money.
This year I want to do it different and actually work on a budget as I am no longer prepared to spend my hard earned bonus and savings on too much food, super expensive decorations (that lasts 1 day) and the wrong gifts just for the sake of buying something. This brought me to do a lot of research over the weekend. I asked my friends and family for their savings tips and I will gladly share my findings with you and hope that it can make a difference on your personal budgets. January comes just after December and for those with kids knows this means a new school year and yet another hard one on the budget.
1. Plan ahead
It is always ideal to save money for Christmas as early as possible. I read that the experts say we should start planning for Christmas in July already. It is not always easy to put money away as we tend to spend every little bit in our bank accounts. A new tip I got was to purchase a gift card when you do your monthly grocery shopping. Add an amount you can afford on the gift card and put it away in an envelope to use as part of your Christmas budget.
2. Build up rewards points
These days every shop we buy at has some sort of rewards point system. For a certain amount you spend you get points allocated to a rewards card which you can then later use to purchase items with. Agree with yourself that you will not use the points throughout the year but that you will accumulate and keep it for December so that you can use it towards your Christmas budget.
3. Buy throughout the year
Usually shops have huge discounts and sales at certain times of the year where you can purchase gifts at a fraction of the price. Stock clearance sales are the best.
Also start to buy your Christmas meat now. Look for specials and put it in the freezer. Most meats can be frozen for up to 3 months. Don’t wait until the last week before Christmas as prices will be heavily inflated.
4. Support charity shops (Thrift stores)
The majority of money we spend on Christmas is for gift shopping. When my children were little I asked them at the beginning of December to write a letter to Santa. They loved it and I found it sweet until I had to actually go buy the gifts. I never wanted to disappoint them thus ended up over spending totally on my budget. (Nope Santa didn’t send any gifts haha)
This year my sweet, sweet children you will get something from a charity shop (like Hospice) as this is my way of contributing towards charity and as the saying goes: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. If you actually take time to visit these shops you will find the most amazing sensible gifts.
5. The name in the hat game
If it is your turn to host the Christmas party this year then put the names of the guests in a hat and let each person choose a name with your next visit. Do this in advance to Christmas and then each person will be responsible to buy only one gift. Agree on a budget and stick to it.
6. Make your own decorations
Let the creative juices flow! There are so many affordable and easy to make ideas on Pinterest and on the internet. Do some research and let the kids help you with this. Make it a holiday project and keep them kids busy. This way we get to spend quality time, be creative and save a lot of money. I am so over the very expensive Christmas crackers that contains 1 cheap toy and a Chinese proverb. Rather save the empty toilet rolls and fill them with Quality Street chocolates and wrap them with homemade gift wrap.
7. Bring a dish day
Again if it is your turn to host the party it doesn’t mean that you have to feed a nation. Ask each couple to bring a salad or a dish that will fit in with your menu. My mom for instance makes the best potato salad ever thus I will ask her to bring it. We will have cold meats and salads for Christmas lunch. For those who cannot cook you are most welcome to make a financial contribution towards the menu.
8. Table gifts
Cut all your favorite Christmas songs on CD’s and give each person one. A pack of 10 CD’s will cost you less than R50. This is always a classic gift.
9. Trifle pudding is so last season.
Stop buying Christmas cake (not everyone likes it) and Trifle is really overrated and expensive to make. Use Google or Pinterest to find a cheap easy to make tart recipe. I got a delicious recipe from my friend Marelize which will serve 8 – 10 people for just under R80.
10. Left overs – the day after.
No matter how hard I try, we always end up with left overs on Boxing Day. Don’t just throw it away. Make a new dish out of it. Make nice sandwiches or deliver it to a shelter for homeless people. They will really appreciate every bite.
Judy’s own personal tip:
Consider giving your children and spouse the best gift ever namely the 8th wonder of the world. Compound interest! This year my children will each get a R500 unit trust investment for Christmas as part of their gifts. I will ask my financial advisor (yes I also have one ?) to assist me with planning according to their ages and outcomes that we want to reach. My husband has a Retirement Annuity and my gift to him will be an ad hoc lump sum that I will pay into his plan. No more expensive gifts that is only used for a month or two or that depreciates in value. No my sweeties, mommy will give you something much better and in time you will thank me for it.
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