Sing it with me now: "All I want for Christmas is no new debt, no new debt, no regrets…" Believe it or not, it's less than three months away. And with Christmas advertising steadily encroaching into stores, the temptation to spend will only increase in the coming months.
Fortunately, there's still time to sock away cash so that we're on track for everything we want to happen at Christmas, New Year's and beyond. That means paying ourselves first, automatically if possible.
And this includes all those unexpected expenses that tend to make their appearance around that time of year. Family dropping in, spontaneous trips or even just heading down to the beach will all need money to fuel the fun.
The 12 tips of Christmas:
Here's another carol to sing as we count down to the end of the year. "For the 12 tips of Christmas, my future said to me…"
12. Online's for shopping
Skipping the mad rush in stores in favour of a browse online can be great, but it needs to work for you. Make sure those gifts will get delivered and make it under the tree in time! There's also a lot of online fakery out there, so the online store needs to be legit (ending in ".co.nz" is no guarantee).
And while it may seem like your online find is a better deal than one in the store, don't forget to include the extras in your comparison, like shipping costs and currency exchange rates.
11. Skip impulse buying
You may find yourself pulling the trigger on all sorts of gift ideas, but the goal is to make a plan and stick to it. There are two things working against us: the feeling of limited time (it's running out) and scarcity (there are only so many gifts available). Don't be swayed by the feeding frenzy out there and end up feeling that your money didn't go where you wanted it to.
10. Costs need comparing
Beyond the convenience, online is the perfect place to quickly compare the cost of gifts. The mark of someone who's good with money is that they comparison shop and get the best deal available. It doesn't take long, but it's worth that bit of extra time.
9. Willpower fuelling
Just as you would never – hopefully – go food shopping on an empty stomach, you need fuel for gift shopping, too. It's important to fill the tank to make good decisions and not cave in to every deal you see. Studies have shown that glucose is the fuel for willpower, so don't forget to eat first!
8. Dollar limit choosing
Secret Santa's your best friend, as one way to limit the holiday money haemorrhaging is to set a dollar limit on gifts and have family or friends just pick a name out of a hat. It's still heaps of fun, and no one feels obligated to give to absolutely everyone – and overextend themselves moneywise along the way.
7. Points need redeeming
Rewards points are a great way to save money at Christmastime. If you've been building them up all year, you may be pleasantly surprised how many you actually have and how far they can go towards ticking off your giving list.
6. Try DIYing
There's something undeniably special about giving a "do-it-yourself" gift. There is often more of an authentic Christmas experience in homemade gingerbread cookies than many a store-bought present. Another moneyless alternative is homemade vouchers – pledging free dog walking, babysitting, dishwashing etc.
5. Debt's such a drag!
The goal is to get through Christmas and the holidays with as little interest-bearing debt as possible. People can spend the better part of the year afterward paying back holiday spending! Fees and interest have the effect of dragging on our ability to get ahead financially, so whatever you can accomplish without putting it on a card, HP, personal loan or mortgage is one of the best Christmas gifts to yourself.
4. Check your list twice
Lists and checklists keep us on point, focused on the task at hand – the exact opposite of a shopping experience that is screaming out "Buy me! Buy me! Buy me!" all the time. And hey, Santa does it, so it must work around this time of year, right? Check yours twice… at least.
3. Stick to your plan
There are many plans for our money these days, and of course many of them are not ours. (Just ask the kids!) While your plan may be hopefully to get ahead and grow your money over time, unfortunately many of the others' plans tend to be much more short term. Do whatever it takes to stick to yours this holiday season and stay on track.
2. Flip the FOMO
FOMO is fear of missing out on what everyone else is up to. It's been said that "comparison is the thief of joy", and less joy is decidedly not what we're after at Christmastime… Whatever you choose to spend money on, don't bother copying what everybody else is up to or what expectations dictate. These are your gifts you're giving after all.
1. May your spend buy more Christmas cheer!
If you've ever seen children on Christmas morning having more fun with the box than the toy that came in it, you know that more spending does not necessarily mean more Christmas. Are we getting the most out of what we spend? The more joy we can get out of our money choices, the better a Christmas it will be.
Admittedly there are a lot of raised eyebrows when I start bringing up Christmas so early (including from my own kids), especially as I play carols around the house.
There's just no way to plan ahead without enough time to do so. Enjoy the season!
- Get Sorted is written by Sorted's resident blogger, Tom Hartmann (@TomHartmannNZ). Check out the guides and tools from Sorted – brought to you by the Commission for Financial Capability – at sorted.org.nz.