With December here, you’ll constantly be reminded of how close Christmas is when you venture into any big box store.
At my local Costco, the Christmas trees are out and the shelves are stocked with advent calendars. Everywhere I go is like a new aisle of Santa’s workshop…
Although you still might be trying to avoid thinking about Christmas shopping – you’d be wise to make a financial plan on how you’ll stay out of the red for the Holidays.
With the right planning, you could even come out ahead.
Consider the following 3 strategies:
- Create a holiday-specific budget,
- make some extra money, and
- cut what you think you’ll spend in half.
1) Create a holiday-specific budget
First and foremost, you need to make a holiday budget outside of your regular budget.
If you think December will be just like any other month of the year, you may be in for a nasty surprise when your bills come in.
Even if you don’t have children or a spouse to buy gifts for, the number of holiday parties and end of year sales close to Christmas will have you reaching for your wallet more often than you think.
While I don’t buy all my friends and extended family members gifts, I do tend to do a bit more hosting and attending parties during the season, which means I need to save for larger grocery expenses and hostess gifts.
The 4 gift rule
I try and stay within reasonable limits when purchasing Christmas gifts for my kids by following these simple rules:
- Something they want: This can be any sort of entertainment, like toys, video games, or gift cards for the movies.
- Something they need: Whether it be a better winter jacket or a new bookbag, this category can be used for things that are more necessary for their daily lives.
- Something they wear: Usually something simple like a shirt or some pants.
- Something they read: A book in a series they’ve been reading, or maybe even a book that’s completely new to them.
Often, the gifts I get fall under both "need" and “wear” rules, and because “need” tends to be the most expensive category, I’ll usually just give 1 gift for both.
Also, the "reading" gift is part of their stocking, which cuts down on the number of gifts to wrap.
Whatever method of gift giving you use, make sure to choose a budget that works for your family.
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2) Make some money
Now that you have a set budget in mind, you need to make a plan on where you’ll get that money.
After the summer ends and I’ve finished all the back to school shopping for the kids, I tend to go on a "no shopping diet" for September and October. This is because I know November and December will be heavier spending months.
But if that’s not a possibility for you, you could add money to your budget in other ways.
If you have a side hustle, now’s the time to ramp it up. Or if there’s one you’ve been thinking about launching for some time, there’s no time like the present.
Here’s a list of a few side-gigs that have low start-up costs:
If you enjoy doing the grocery shopping for your family, Instacart may be right up your alley.
You can become a personal shopper for families that are too busy to go in store themselves.
There are 2 options:
- Full-Service: If you have a car, you can do the shopping and the delivery.
- In-Store Shopping: If you don’t have a car, you can do the shopping and get the bags ready to go in-store for someone else to deliver.
Both options earn you some fun and easy money.
You’ll need a license and access to a car for this side hustle, but if you enjoy driving and have some free time, this may be the right gig for you to make some fast cash.
You can also handle deliveries as an Uber Driver, so if you’re a bit worried about dealing with strangers, this option may help you reconsider.
If you enjoy writing and are pretty good at it, consider writing for businesses or blogs.
You might want to start your own blog first to showcase your writing. There are free websites that can help you with this, such as Wix.
Then, consider searching your local jobsearch site to see if anyone is in need of writers for their business.
You can also try emailing small companies. It won’t hurt to try.
Both Upwork or Fiverr offer a plethora of jobs for people of all talents and skill levels.
Even if you’re starting with little experience and big motivation, you could find work doing anything from data entry, research, updating business Facebook pages, etc.
If you’re just starting out in the field of freelance and not sure where to begin, these websites could give you some great ideas and opportunities to get you started.
However, if you want to make some serious money, keep improving your skills then reach out to bigger clients who have larger budgets to pay you.
Get a part-time job
I know I’m going back to the basics a bit here, but ‘tis the season for seasonal hiring.
Many stores will be looking for extra help for the holidays, and if you have flexible hours, why not apply at some of the businesses you’re interested in, or at least willing to work at for a couple of months.
Another perk is potential employee discounts at some of these places, which can lower your holiday shopping costs.
If your hours are less flexible, or you have a family at home to care for, consider babysitting or dog walking for the neighbourhood.
Sell your stuff
If you lack the time to start a side hustle or get a second job, consider selling what you have to make extra money for the season.
I’m a huge fan of consignment, and love to make a bit of money selling my clothes, accessories, and shoes that I no longer wear. As my children grow, I also sell their stuff too.
If you only have a few pieces to sell, consider posting them on Craigslist, Kijiji or Varagesale to get the most bang for your buck. This way, potential buyers will come to you.
Don’t overlook good condition furniture, appliances, and home decor that you no longer use.
Not only can you make a bit of extra money, but you’ll have more space in your home too!
3) Cut holiday expenses in half
I know this will sound cliché, but bear with me...
It’s the thought that counts.
This saying is especially true during the holidays.
Even though Canadians on average spend close to $700 on Christmas gifts, it doesn’t mean your family needs to be part of the average – or even anywhere near it.
If the holidays are a big deal for your family and you enjoy buying presents for everyone you know, then go for it… as long as you have the money to do so in advance.
Don’t depend on a Christmas bonus or a red envelope in the new year to cover it, in case that money never comes.
If the idea of being together with family is your priority, then consider taking the focus away from gifts by opting for skipping the gifts completely, employing a secret-santa type of exchange, or simply cutting down on how much you spend on each gift.
Despite what marketers tell us, Christmas isn’t all about gifts.
If you choose to cut the holiday budget in half or more, consider it a fun family challenge to get creative with gift giving.
Perhaps you could encourage giving experiences, rather than material goods.
My young kids enjoy spending time alone with my husband and I, so we’ll often take them on 1-on-1 dates to their favourite activities. Consider a day of ice-skating or tobogganing.
Encourage your family to make their gifts, or go shopping at places that offer one of a kind gifts. For my board game loving son, I am often on the hunt for new and different board games at thrift stores and consignment shops.
It’s fun to learn a new game with him, especially one that cost me just a few bucks.
For holiday parties, consider non-traditional menus that cost less than an expensive turkey or roast would, such as tacos, lasagna, or a potluck style where all the guests chip in.
When it comes to hostess gifts, consider putting together the dry ingredients for chocolate chip cookies in a mason jar with the recipe attached. This gift can cost less than $5, and it’s always a crowd pleaser.
A quick recap
The holidays can be a stressful time of year, but when you plan for it in advance, and put the focus on the things that really matter, you can end the year in a peaceful and prosperous way.
If you’re willing to share, how much do you typically spend for the holidays? How do you budget for it?
Do you think this year will be any different?