While the holidays are a wonderful time of year, they can sometimes incur financial stress. Ensuring that family and friends have the gifts they want can put us in a position of debt that could keep us grounded until spring. However, with some planning and a few tips, we can learn to make it through relatively unscathed.
MAKE A HOLIDAY FINANCIAL PLAN
Make sure you have an overall budget. Once you’ve decided on that number, make a list of everyone you need to buy for and set limits for each person. In order for the budget to be respected, you have to plan for every person on your list – including your child’s teacher, your work’s Yankee Swap, etc. It’s a good time to talk to your family to discuss gift exchanges to reduce the number of people on your list!
Don’t forget costs beyond gifts. Christmas dinner needs more than your usual grocery list. If you’re spending time away from home, consider the cost of gas, hotels, and eating out while you’re away. Make sure that’s considered as part of your budget, and if that means you have less for presents, it’s better to know early.
Save up! You want to use the money you have. While it’s less problematic to start planning as early as August, most people simply don’t want to think about the holidays then. We get you. But right now would be the best time to set a savings plan if you don’t have one. Why? There are five Fridays in November this year, if you’re one of the lucky ones that are getting three paycheques, the extra can help for your Christmas budget, even if you didn’t plan early! If you are reading this article next year, just look up when your next three-pay month is and set the cash aside for holiday shopping! Or, have a plan year-round and set aside money each pay period through automated means.
Looking at the big picture, your limits for each person may not be as high as you’d like for it to be. Brainstorm rough ideas you think would be good for each person. Shop early and take advantage of deals. Some stores have good sales for early shoppers, and you can easily find store-wide 25% off promotions in November, or buy one get one sales. When you know everything you need, these offers can take care of the bulk of your list at once.
Make your own gift baskets. Pick a theme or two that would represent the interests of most people you want to buy for, such as coffee, chocolate, tea, books, popcorn, golf, etc. Then buy in bulk, and you can create a variety of personalized gift baskets for just about everyone on your list for a fraction of the price! If you enjoy cooking, you can also bake goodies or make home-made jam! Or mix and match ideas, like an Italian dinner themed gift basket with home-made sauce! You can even make baskets for kids – think kids’ books, Legos, superheroes, sweets, craft supplies, games or toys. A theme may come easy for each child (princesses, superheroes, pirates, monsters, space). A space-obsessed child could be more excited about $5 glow-in-the-dark stars than a $50 toy if you plan around their interests, and it also means that some supplies for your gift can come from the dollar store.
Give personalized photos. It’s a good time to take advantage of your family photo session or school photos you purchased earlier in the year. Create photo mugs, calendars, or personalize a picture frame for the family!