It is surprising how quickly the 25th of December can creep up on us. Even though it is the same time every year, it can be easy to succumb to the Christmas spirit and give our finances a bit of a battering. The tips I am about to share not only assist in the few days post-Christmas, but can also be carried over into the New Year to provide a good way to find more money for savings or debt reduction.
Take stock of your situation
This is the scary part! The first step is to face reality, look at the bank balances and see what the damage is. How much did you spend specifically for Christmas? Would you do it again? If so, divide this amount by a weekly/fortnightly amount (depending on your pay cycle) and make it part of a regular savings plan for the New Year. Next Christmas you can enjoy guilt-free spending and no Christmas hangover!
Tighten the purse strings
One simple way of doing this with little pain is to begin with meal planning. There is a lot of variable spending in our weekly food budget. By taking 10 minutes before you hit to shops to plan what you are going to buy can save you serious $$$. Begin by grabbing a notebook and pen, write each day of the week, go to your pantry, fridge, and freezer and work out what meals you can make from the ingredients you already have. To get inventive, you can Google some recipes for inspiration. Once you are done, you then work out the remaining meals for the week and add these to your shopping list. If you only need 3 carrots, don’t buy a bag that will go to waste. This method is not only good for saving money but also preventing the end-of-week waste.
Unless you have items you need to buy and have budgeted for them, I would suggest staying clear of the end-of-year sales. They are like the pre-Christmas sale period but on steroids! If you have prepared money for this earlier they can also be a good place to buy items at great discounts. But only if you need them. If you are in the latter category, my tip would be to take a list and stick to it (like super glue).
Think outside the box
There are amazing low-cost ways you can spend your Christmas break. Make a list of things you love to do (or loved doing as a child) and would like to try again. For example, bushwalking, a picnic at the local park, reading a book from the library, going to the beach, playing in the snow (depending on where in the world you are living), making popcorn and watching a movie with the family, catching up with friends for a night in and a game of cards, a day spa at home. Get creative and have some fun!
Another way to live within your means is to cut up the plastic once and for all. If you have debt owing, save $500-$1000 in emergency funds and set up a payment plan to pay off each debt from smallest to largest (making sure you meet minimum payments in the meantime). Once you are empowered to live off your earnings with a savings buffer, you will never need credit (debt) cards again.
Written by Julie Barrow
*Article from lifehack.org