Making a Christmas budget – and sticking to it

Choose gifts carefully
Choose gifts carefully 

Christmas is such a wonderful time of the year, but it can be very expensive. Here are some tips on how to budget - and how to stick to it.

Start early
Yes, yes, we always have the best of intentions when it comes to getting our Christmas shopping done – but that doesn’t stop us from having to rush out on the twenty-somethingth of December to buy those dozen or so gifts that we just didn’t get around to finding earlier. The problem, though, with shopping at the last minute is that we feel pressured into buying whatever we can find. That usually translates into spending more – often a lot more – than we had intended.

Make a list and check it twice
Lists make everything easier, and Christmas is no exception. So write down the name of everyone – and I mean everyone – who needs to be on your Santa list this year. Family, friends, neighbours – and don’t forget your child’s teacher. A really thorough list helps you to pace your gift-buying over the next few weeks.

Give yourself a set-in-stone $ limit per person
Once you have your totally comprehensive list (above) you can start putting some dollar figures onto your gift-buying. And – you might get a shock at just how much you spend! The best way to prevent budget blow-outs though is to nominate a specific (albeit different) dollar figure for each person and vow that you will not exceed it. Otherwise it’s far too easy to spend just a bit more here and a bit more there, which can all add up to a lot more overall.

Start saving
Once you've set your dollar limits, add them up and divide the total figure by the number of pay periods between now and Christmas. That is (ideally) how much you need to put aside from each pay between now and then. If it’s not achievable then you might need to revisit your dollar limits and lower then a bit!

Brainstorm and research
Now that you have your list and your budget, you need some gift ideas! So jot down a few potential presents for each person. Gifts which complement or build on things that they already have can work well, and technology makes it so very easy nowadays to not only find any possible gift – but also to find the best value for money. So once you know what items you’re looking for, surf the net and scan the brochures before you start buying -  to make sure that you are stretching your dollars as far as possible!  

Buy strategically
Many consumers now divide their dollars between bricks and mortar and the internet. The key to getting good value is to be strategic about which items you buy online and which you buy in store. Buying lots of individual items online (all with individual postage costs) may not work for your budget, but for larger gifts it’s definitely worth doing some online research. Just remember to start your shopping early for online purchases!

Keep an eye on your credit card
Watch not only the amount that you’re spending on it, but the interest rate that you’re paying as well! According to RateCity, the interest rates on 113 cards went up last December by an average of 25 basis points– despite the fact that there was no move in the government’s official interest rate. Talk about cheeky!