Christmas can be one of the most expensive times of year - and it doesn’t just apply to one day. The run-up to Christmas is where you actually spend your money, with all the presents, food, travel, and events, your bank account is going to be emptying very quickly. In the UK the average family spends over £300 on Christmas, $550 in Australia, and over $900 in the US. These aren’t small numbers, and where most people will read them and be dubious, do the calculations and see whether your Christmas is really that far off those numbers.
Getting Christmas costs under control really isn’t that tricky a thing to do - the main rule to live by is restraint. When it comes to buying for loved ones it can be so easy to see something and just think ‘I’ll just pick that up’, and the more you do, the more your spends go up. You have to set a budget and stick to it - but more on that in a bit.
Saving for Christmas year-round is where you need to start. You might think it’s strange tucking away money in May for December, but when that time rolls around, you’ll be more than ready to get your shopping boots on and smash the Christmas-filled stores. The other bonus is that when you have finished shopping (to your budget), you might find that you have some money left over that you can use to treat yourself - but after Christmas, of course. You never know what someone is going to buy you this year.
It sounds annoying, but budgeting is the only way you’ll keep your money under control over Christmas. Set a limit on each person you’re buying for, for the food, decorations and everything else you’re going to be paying out for this year. You might decide that you’re going to spend a little extra on your siblings than your friends, or that you’re going to have a set price for everyone in your life. If you over budget on things like travel and Christmas meals with work and friends, then you again have a little extra for you to enjoy.
Shopping throughout the year may feel odd, but it saves so much money. You can take advantage of the sales throughout the year - including the January sales after last Christmas. You can spread the cost of gift buying over twelve months rather than two. Using sites like http://www.giftbeta.com/category/best-stocking-stuffers/ will help give you ideas for gifts, and most of them can be brought year round.
Another great way of spreading the cost of gift giving is to implement Secret Santa into the mix. You might do this with colleagues, friends, or if you have a large family. Christmas can get very expensive if you’re buying for the masses, so shorten your list by only buying for one person in the group. You can even use sites like https://www.elfster.com/login/ to help you avoid everyone figuring out who each other has. Secret Santa also gives you the opportunity to set a lower budget, to find something fun and unique and to have fun guessing who it is who brought you your gift.
Introduce a new tradition to the family this year. If you’re the host then suggest one of two things - the first is that each part of your family contributes to the dinner, for example; one person brings the starter, you prepare the main, another person brings desert, and the rest bring the drinks. And then next year you can swap locations and courses - meaning that you don’t have to spend the most money each year.
The second idea is to travel around for your dinner. If your family lives quite close, then suggest a safari dinner, where you have different courses at different locations. This is a great idea for a few reasons; you don’t have to cook everything, no one gets those bored moments between gifts and food, and you can spread out the feast across the entire day. Perhaps rather than just courses you include breakfast into the deal - breakfast at Grandma’s, dinner at yours, and dessert at Uncle Mike’s.