I think most people would agree that Christmas time is probably one of the most stressful times of the year, when in reality it should be one of the best times of year. So, why isn’t it? I suppose there are a whole range of answers to that question but the one I think most people would say that the stress is mainly caused by the amount of money that is spent at this time of year.
If you’re wondering why I am posting this in October there is a simple reason; people have already started to plan and shop for the upcoming festive event! Over the last few weeks I have not only seen shops start to stock presents, decorations and chocolate that are all dedicated to the holiday, I have also seen people fill their trollies with the Christmas goodies like advent calendars, Christmas scented candles and all the Christmas chocolate one can find. And to add to that, I cannot deny that I have also bought a few of those candles recently! I am trying my best to resist the urge to fill my trolly with everything Christmas related but I am going to try and see Halloween through first!
The reason I wanted to make this blog post was because for the first time I have to set a strict budget this Christmas now I have moved out, and it came to my attention after some research that many other people feel the same scary worry that Christmas expenses face me this year. Research shows that the UK as a whole spends billions at Christmas time every year with families spending at least £500 more in December than any other month in the year. Some people say they spend most on their children, teenagers and spouses and with 46% of people spending between £200 – £300 on everything else but food like food, drinks, decorations, parties and clothes you can see how Christmas is a billion pound industry. Why are we spending so much on Christmas? Well of course that depends on the person you ask but people have sited a whole range of things for the reason they spend so much at this time of year including wanting to please the children, being pressured by family and friends (parties and presents etc), and the idea that Christmas should be like it is in the movies that we see in movies and on TV.
The question that I have asked myself and I’m sure many others have asked themselves is ‘ How can I have an amazing Christmas but stay on budget?!’ I pondered the question for a while, worrying that I either wouldn’t have enough money to have the magical Christmas I wanted with my family or I would have to go over my budget to achieve that magical Christmas. After doing some research and taking what I already know about saving money and budgeting, I sat down and made a plan and I think maybe those ideas I had to help me stay on budget but still have an amazing Christmas may be able to help others who are worried about the Christmas season that is fast approaching.
Before you even begin to bring your budget together you need to work out how many days your holiday lasts. What I mean by this is you need to work out whether you only celebrate the 12 days leading up to Christmas, or whether the whole month is full of festive events which can include: going to the grotto, family parties, work nights out, going to your towns annual Christmas light switch on etc. These things often get over looked when setting your budget because people only think of presents, food and decorations when thinking of how much they have to spend, but all the extras cost money as well. That is not to say you shouldn’t do these things, as in my opinion these festive events are what make the Christmas time so special, but just make sure you consider them when setting your budget. Once you have decided whether your budget needs to cover the whole month or just the days leading up to Christmas you can sit down and begin to set your budget. I personally class the whole month as Christmas (1st Dec-1st Jan) and set my budget to cover the whole month.
My advice for setting your budget is to sit down with a notepad, your calendar/dairy for December and access to the internet (for quick price searches for an estimated prices). Now, you need to write a brief list of everything that is going to cost you money, don’t worry about the prices right now, just jot down the things that may cost something. You don’t need to go into great detail here, just write your child’s name, not every present they want. I normally section my budget into categories, making sure to leave enough space to pencil in a price limit for each item later.
Big or small, write it down. Think about everything in December that could possibly cost you. When budgeting people often miscalculate how much will be spent in this month because they do not take into account all of the other expenses that this festive time brings. Think about the parties and how much you’ll need to spend on outfits, gifts and drinks while there. Think about the events leading up to Christmas that require money; Christmas tree lighting, Christmas festivals and going out for meals and cosy cafe trips for hot chocolate. All these things add up without you even thinking about it, but if you budget with these expenses in mind, you’ll have a better chance of staying on budget this Christmas.
One of the best ways to stay on budget is one of the most simple concepts out there – stick to the list! I know, I know, its easier said than done. It’s something we all think will keep us on budget but most of the time we end up adding more to the trolly then what is on the list. Or even if we do keep to what is on the list, we end up spending over our budget because items end up costing more than we think. My advice to try and combat this is not by just writing a list but jotting down the most you are willing to spend on something, if the item ends up being more, skip it or try and find a cheaper alternative.
The last piece of advice I have is not directly related to budgeting but will help you with keeping the lost low this year. Going to 20 different shops in two weeks can be stressful. So websites like Amazon are amazing for keeping it simple. However, they aren’t always the most cost effective place to shop for all of your Christmas needs. Browse your local shops in advance to find the best deals and write them down. You could buy it now and save it for Christmas or come back closer to the date. If you normally shop at places that may be a little more expensive, try discount stores to see if you can snag any deals. Shops like Home Bargains and B&M are good for decorations and additional food items like sauces and tinned vegetables. Shops like TK MAX are great for getting a deal on name brand items like makeup and clothes, in fact they even do amazing deals on home ware items. Shopping at stores that offer a lot of deals could save you at least a hundred pound which could really benefit your budget, and of course your bank account.
Christmas can be a magical and exciting time, not just for the children but for you as well. A little planning and budgeting can help you relax and can take a lot of the worry away, so you can wake up on Christmas day and feel excited just like the kids. I have to admit that this time of year can cause a lot of stress, but since getting the hang on how and where I spend my money, I have been able to enjoy the holidays much more.