Even though most of us have completely lost the concept of time aside from pre- and post-COVID, Christmas is almost upon us once again, and with that comes a whole bunch of monetary stress sprinkled in with some holiday joy if you’re lucky. Here are some top tips to hack the Christmas season and come out the other side more relaxed and with your savings still safely in the bank.
Only spend on quality time
COVID has left us with a couple of lessons, and has changed particularly the way we see getting together. Many people have been intermittently or completely separated from family and loved ones throughout the past 18 months, and for most of us, the greatest Christmas gift will be to be united with our biological or chosen family. So why not nix most of the gift giving this year, and focus on time spent together?
Get creative with decor
Department stores have an absolute field day with Christmas decorations, and the prices can be astronomical. If you’re of the belief that less is more, consider a minimalist approach to decorations this year. A tree and a few thoughtfully placed twinkle lights are more than enough to feel the festivities, and if you already have a box from last year, there’s no need to buy something new! Alternatively, it could be worth looking in op shops for decor, or getting crafty with some coloured paper and scissors.
Make a plan for kids’ gifts
Generally speaking, one of the biggest gift costs to families is buying gifts for kids. Whether than be your own children, nieces and nephews, cousins, or friends’ kids, spending can easily add up. You might like to consider limiting the spend on kids’ gifts among your family and friend groups to a Secret Santa arrangement, or pooling money together from all the families for a fun day out for all of your kids in the seemingly never-ending school holidays. Another option is to hold a big swapping day where the kids can trade their books and toys. With a bit of thinking outside the (gift) box, there are plenty of options that won’t cost an arm and a leg!
Start putting away Christmas cash
Christmas is alarmingly close, but by putting a bit of money away each pay day, you can still get a nice little sum together before the big day. If you have a savings system already in place, consider placing a percentage of the amount you would usually save aside especially for Christmas, or forgo a couple of coffees, lunches, or shopping trips and put the extra cash in a Christmas-specific account.
Wrap your head around debt and get financial help
Anyone who has ever been in debt or under financial stress will tell you it’s not pretty. It’s very stressful, and that stress can cause the situation to worsen, or cause a person to avoid getting help or support. There are a lot of societal barriers to admitting to, or seeking help with financial problems, but it’s not a lost cause! Take one step at a time, and start working on a plan to get back where you need to be.
Face the facts
The longer you run and avoid your problems, not only will they get worse, but it will become harder and harder to face them. Financial problems are not blisters: they won’t heal up on their own. Before you even consider seeking help, you will need to understand and accept the problem.
Recruit a support person
This might be the time to tell a friend, partner, or family member what’s going on. Pick someone who will hold you to account but also be a supportive shoulder to lean on. They say a problem shared is a problem halved, and while that might be a slight exaggeration, having someone who cares about you on your side will be invaluable in this process.
Understand the situation
If you’re in a tough spot with debt, it’s likely you have ignored the problems. Out of sight, out of mind, right? You probably don’t know how bad things are exactly, you just know they’re bad. Once you have accepted that there is a problem, your next step is to assess exactly how bad the problem is. This will be one of the hardest steps, but it’s crucial in understanding your own situation, and accessing the support you need.
Cut off the cause
This step isn’t always straightforward, and it may not be applicable to everyone. For example, if your spending has gotten out of control, this is the time for you to cut up the credit cards that are enabling you. Cut off your access to buy now, pay later accounts for online shopping, and wipe your browsers of all credit and debit card information. Understand that this is a very early step and it won’t change everything overnight. Your goal here should be to prevent the situation from getting considerably worse.
Make a plan
Lofty goals are a big no-no here, and you want to avoid setting yourself up for failure or overwhelm, but now is the time to sit down with your support person and talk about how you’re going to tackle the problem. And this doesn’t have to be a week-by-week payment plan or include multi-sheet spreadsheets, it can be as simple as an intention to seek out a professional who can help you, kicking around some ideas about how you could make some extra cash, and starting to think about your less-necessary expenses.
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