Do you believe it? Christmas is just around the corner and if you are anything like me, you’re not ready. It is a month away – that’s 2 paydays for those of us paid bi-weekly, 4 if you get paid every week. It hardly seems like enough time. There’s definitely not enough money…
One of the tricks to surviving the holiday season, at least were your money is concerned, is to prepare a plan. Make lists of what you need to do and then try and decide how much money you can afford to get them done.
You might be thinking, “It’s too late for that!” but you’d be wrong. Even if you leave it until Christmas Eve (which is what I used to do), you will be better off with some sort of plan as opposed to just running madly through the mall. Obviously the sooner you make the plan the more options you have, but just the exercise of figuring out everything you have to do will help you to get it all done.
What types of things go on the list? Well, are you responsible for hosting any gatherings of family and friends? Are you expected to attend any gatherings and need to bring something along? Who do you need gifts for? Who do you need to simply contact and say, “Merry Christmas”?
I always start by making the longest lists I can think of and then I go through and pare them down. This includes reducing what you plan to spend. Instead of exchanging gifts or cards with everyone at work, maybe this year you can buy a big box of chocolates, or maybe some candy canes and walk around and say, “Hi – all the best”. If there’s no room in your budget to host a fancy meal, maybe you can ask other people to contribute a dish or two. I have always found that people are happy to contribute – it makes it easier for them and usually saves them money too since they can do this as their gift to you.
Gift selection can be more difficult (there’s an understatement!), but at the end of the day you need to have enough discipline to say, “I only have this much money to spend this year. I am not going to spend anymore.”
That leads me to one of the biggest risks at Christmas – credit cards. Do yourself a favor and take them out of your purse or wallet BEFORE you go shopping. Take cash or use a debit card. If that makes you nervous then go and buy a pre-paid Visa card. With cash or a pre-paid card you can’t spend any more than you have. It keeps you from running up credit card balances which will only come back to haunt you in January when the bills arrive.
So, 4 more paydays until Christmas. How much money will you be left with when it is all done?