Thursday, November 15, 2012

Enjoying a Fun Filled Holiday -- Without Going into Debt

If each December you promise not to over-stress or go crazy with holiday spending, yet things never seem to go as planned -- this article is for you. Staying on budget without losing your mind is possible, but it requires a bit of planning.

Getting organized is the easiest way to reign in spending and still enjoy the holidays. By mapping out the festive season (and doing so early on), you set yourself up for a stress free and economical closeout to the year. Prioritize. Break tasks down into manageable chunks. Target weekly goals and tick items off your list, as you go. By investing a little bit of effort upfront, you’ll save time, money and a great deal of unnecessary aggro.

February through December:
  • Pick up ideal and/or silly price gift items, as you see them. These will be great for holidays, birthdays and much more.

  • For bargains, shop at discount stores, big box retailers, warehouse or seasonal sales, outlet malls, craft fairs, flea markets, second hand shops, etc.
  • For holiday travel, get transportation, accommodations and activities booked early; Otherwise, prepare to be flexible with dates and arrangements.

  • Align family celebrations well in advance, to avoid disappointment.

  • Hosting a holiday party? Send ‘save-the-date’ notifications so your invite doesn’t arrive too late to be accepted.

  • If you exchange wish lists, request (and create) them promptly. This allows time for the purchaser to compare prices and easily locate items.
  • Send or RSVP to holiday invitations, and mark them in your calendar.

  • Identify volunteer activities in which you’d like participate. Budget sufficient time for them, in your schedule.

  • Plan for ‘can’t miss’ holiday events i.e. School Recital, Office Party, Santa Claus Parade, Nutcracker Ballet, etc.

  • Pick up parcel items and post international packages first.

  • To reduce holiday spending and free up time, draw names for gift exchanges, set spending limits, or agree to gift embargos (where appropriate).

  • Leave ego out of it. Don’t spend more than you can afford just to impress.

  • Eliminate unnecessary or unappreciated gifts and donate to charity instead.

  • Perform a gift inventory and shop to fill gaps. Some items are impossible to find on sale i.e. gift cards -- and malls are far saner in November.

  • Choose your 2012 holiday d├ęcor theme (if different from last year).

  • Shop for entertainment non-perishables early. This may include alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, party plates, napkins and cutlery, candy, crackers and nuts.

  • Buy more cards than you’ll need, along with sufficient postage. Write and mail cards and keep the remainder handy for anyone that you may have missed.

  • Purchase gift bags and coloured tissue at the dollar store. They’re a fraction of the regular price and can be re-used, year after year.

  • Hang outdoor lights while the weather’s still relatively mild.

  • Bake your socks off and freeze what you can. It’s extremely satisfying to pull out home-baked goodies for any occasion, even at the last minute!
  • Cook/bake edibles that can’t be frozen or perish quickly, and purchase remaining seasonal treats for parties or entertaining.

  • Erect and decorate the Christmas tree. This can be a time-honoured family tradition, a relaxing solo pursuit, or fun social affair with friends.

  • Wrap gifts. Again, gift bags and tissue render this a far less onerous task.

  • Play your favourite Christmas carols while you work, to get you into the holiday spirit.

  • Enjoy the festivities and savour the magic of the season!
  • Keep the holidays feeling ‘special’ by dismantling Christmas trees, holiday lights and decorations promptly. Raggedy icicle lights don’t add curb appeal in mid-March!

  • Store your holiday decorations carefully, so you can enjoy them in coming years. Plastic drawer bins provide both good protection and easy access.

  • Shop Boxing week sales for deep discounts on next year’s cards, decorations, etc.
If you feel you’ve already fallen behind, don’t worry -- there’s still time to catch up. Many steps don’t apply in all cases. Start with October tasks and compress the roadmap to suit your particular needs. You’ll enjoy the 2012 holiday season like never before…and stay on budget. Season’s greetings to all!

* Please note that this roadmap is designed with Christmas in mind, but many elements could be employed for Chanukah, Kwanza, or other seasonal celebrations.

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