OMG! There are only 42 days until Christmas!
The festive season can be a financially stressful time for many people. It’s not just the cost of gifts that contribute to the financial stress it’s the cost of the celebratory events as well as holiday travel.
The great news is that 42 days is not too late to start planning an affordable festive season, so you can avoid the new year debt hangover.
Follow Santa’s lead and make a list; check it twice.
You’re probably already making a list to avoid the embarrassment of missing someone. Go one step further to benefit your financial fitness and write a dollar figure next to every name.
Writing the list down is a critical step in building healthy financial habits because it provides you with an obvious cue.
Then carry the list with you and just like Santa, check it twice before you make a purchase.
If the total dollar figure at the bottom of the list shocked or scared you then consider some of the below ideas to save money.
Refresh Secret Santa
Secret Santa or Kris Kringle is a great way to lower your costs by giving one present rather than a gift to every member of that group. So if your friends or family haven’t yet initiated this idea, now’s a great time to suggest it.
It can be great fun to set a Secret Santa theme, but the obvious idea of the ‘craziest gift under $10’ isn’t very environmentally friendly because it leads to lots of cheap disposable plastic.
An even cheaper, fun theme is ‘best pre-loved gift’ because it legitimises regifting. Everyone hunts through their home and finds something they no longer use, or never used, and gives it a new home.
I also enjoy the ‘home-baked gift’ theme, especially if we suspend competitiveness. For some of us, producing an edible packet cake or unburnt batch of biscuits is a Christmas miracle to be grateful for.
Give them their love language
The best way to save money is to avoid spending any, and one way to do that is to give an experience rather than an item.
In his book The 5 Love Languages, Dr Gary Chapman explains that everyone gives and receives love and appreciation differently. And each of us will have a hierarchy of the five languages such that one or two methods really mean a lot to us, while another method may barely register for us.
Giving and receiving gifts is only one of the five love languages, and for some (like me) it barely registers.
Christmas is a great time to tune in and give a priceless gift that costs you nothing.
The 5 Love Languages are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
Words of Affirmation
- Give them a heartfelt message detailing the many things you appreciate about them and memories of moments you’ve shared.
- This could be a card or even a video or audio message, which smartphones make easy.
- Take them out 1-on-1 to share an activity they really enjoy. For example, if my children went on a bike ride with me without whinging that’d be a miraculous gift.
- Or do the activity at home such as playing board games.
- Offer to volunteer with them for a few hours at their favourite charity. Many retirees do volunteer work and don’t need more stuff, so this could be a precious gift for your parents.
Acts of Service
- Think of their least favourite errand or household chore and do it for them.
- Gardening: spread mulch, weed, mow, prune
- Cleaning: car, windows, gutters, kitchen exhaust fan, pool, ironing
- Grocery shopping
- Give them a massage rather than buy a voucher for a massage.
- Got teenagers who are too cool to hug you anymore? Drop the hint that you want a ‘gift card’ of 10 hugs, which you may redeem individually.
Combine the love languages
Once the creative juices flow you discover how easy it is to combine multiple love languages:
- Cook them a meal, eat together and really talk. Sprinkle in some words of affirmation.
- Volunteer together at a festive season charity event that they choose
- Give the experience before Christmas, take a photo and stick it to the front of a home-made card, including a heartfelt message.
To have something to ‘give’ them on Christmas day make a voucher detailing the experience you are offering them and slip it into a card.
What other ideas do you have? Share them in the comments on my social channels.
Be even less stressed next year
The best way to eliminate financial stress at Christmas is to know the money’s there and budgeted, which is part of the key cash flow control concept to plan for the predictable.
Use one of the free automated tracking apps to track what you spend this year. Then from January begin setting aside a regular amount each pay cycle into a dedicated savings account, so that you’ll have enough saved by next November.