20211217 Make this year a money-smart Christmas

This year, even the most dedicated Christmas planner is likely to feel daunted with financial and social pressures after limited festivities in 2020, but there are certain steps you can take to minimise Christmas stress and to keep your costs down.

From savvy shopping tips and ways to save, to why you should prioritise the important stuff this year, here are our top Christmas tips.

1. Make a list – and check it twice

It’s easy to get carried away at Christmas, buying presents as you see them and then panicking at the last minute and buying more.

To prevent this, work out how much you can afford to spend this year and then break this down into the items you’ll spend money on, such as presents, food and travel.

Assign a budget to each item you need to buy and stick to it to prevent financial stress around Christmas and beyond.

Do this well in advance to help you prioritise the things that are essential to you and your family.

2. Buy strategically

To tempt us to spend even more in the run-up to Christmas, many retailers run pre-Christmas sales, slashing the price of everything from toys to electronics.

So, consult your list and think about whether you could buy some items in sales to make a saving – then look up potential sale dates and put them in your calendar so you don’t forget.

However, don’t get caught up in the excitement of grabbing a deal just to end up overspending. Remember to stick to the items on your list only and to do some research before the sales start on what a good price actually is.

If you’re unsure whether the deal you’ve seen is a good one, run a quick search online to see what other retailers are selling the product for before buying it.

3. Stock-up in advance

Another tactic to take away the financial sting of a pre-25 December ‘big shop’ is to stock up on non-perishable items in the run up to the big day.

Consider adding one or two items to your weekly shop in the weeks leading up to Christmas, rather than being faced with the bill for a bumper shop closer to the time. You could snap up items that are on offer, such as tins of chocolates, as and when you see them discounted – just make sure you check use-by dates so your effort isn’t wasted.

4. Think differently this year

The coronavirus pandemic has shown people the huge importance of friends and family, and, in full lockdown, many people missed social interaction more than material possessions or habits such as going to the gym.

So, don’t forget this and think about Christmas presents differently this year. Could you plan a hike or a day out with a friend rather than exchanging gifts?

Or perhaps you were one of the many people who brushed up on their baking skills during lockdown? If so, could you whip up homemade tasty treats for friends and family for Christmas, rather than buying an impersonal present?

If you have children, get them involved with homemade gifts too. And don’t forget how nice homemade cards and even wrapping paper are. Think of it as a family art session and lesson on budgeting in one.

5. Don’t be afraid to talk money

If you really want to buy a gift for someone who always gives you one in return, have a frank conversation this year about what you can both afford.

There’s nothing worse than feeling obliged to buy an expensive gift as you always receive one, so suggest sticking to a budget – it may make you both think more creatively.

Another option for family or friendship groups is to arrange a Secret Santa, which will allow you to all spend a bit more on one person. Again, agree on a budget in advance, though, and stick to it.

6. Make some cash

If you like to declutter your house ahead of Christmas, look around for items that you haven’t used since last year, clothes you’ve never worn or even unwanted gifts.

Consider selling any items in good condition on a resale site and use the money to put towards essentials for Christmas.

7. Buy bargain bubbles

Keep your eye out for offers on your favourite wine in the run-up to Christmas both at the supermarkets and specialist wine retailers. No matter how good the deal is, though, remember to consult your budget and not go over it.

Some supermarkets run occasional ‘25% off when you buy six bottles’ – always worth keeping an eye open for as this can effectively net you half a dozen bottles for the price of four or five (providing you can stretch to the bulk purchase, of course).

8. Don’t pay interest on borrowing

While it’s always best to only spend what you have, if you have no option other than to pay for some of Christmas on credit, make sure you have the right one.

Rather make use of a 6-months interest free card when buying, instead of paying much more for a purchase during the following year.

Find credit cards you’re most likely to be approved for, without affecting your credit score. And never take up the highest limit you qualify for.

Credit cards are great fun until the bill arrives. In the old days, people lived from paycheck to paycheck. Today, it seems like people live from credit card payment to credit card payment.

9. Loyalty can pay

If you have loyalty cards for your favourite shops, start saving up your points to buy a Christmas present or two.

Plenty of retailers have their own schemes, so check out what your favourite store offers and sign up if you haven’t already.

10. Ace your home entertainment

For many of us who wishes to keep safe during this festive season, you may find yourselves leaning even more heavily than usual on your home entertainment systems.

During the past 2 years, SA has seen an influx of a variety of streaming services now available. It’s worth checking to see if you have the best deal on all the various channels and streaming services that are available, and working out whether you’re getting the best value from your current internet provider and your DSTV package.

May all that is beautiful, meaningful and brings you joy, be yours this holiday season and throughout the coming year!

Until next time. Stay safe,

Jacques

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