The best way to avoid money stress after December, is to do your planning before December. Now is a good time to start.
The starting point for your festive season budget is your mindset. Especially during holidays, a budget can feel like a thing that spoils the fun, but the opposite is actually true: a budget is there to keep the fun going by helping you to not run out of money through reckless and unnecessary spending. Your budget really is your friend.
When you think about a budget as nothing more than a plan to spend your money, it becomes a useful tool rather than a restriction.
Here is how to use it:
1. Before you even look at the money you have available, draw up a plan for your holiday and/or festive season celebrations and activities. A vague idea to have as much fun as possible is no use when it comes to planning your spending, so take 30 minutes or so to really think about what you’d like to do and experience this December. If you have a spouse, partner or children, involve them too.
2. Now look at the money you have available for non-routine spending. But wait – how do you know what that amount is? The answer is your budget. If you have a budget planner that you use every month, it will be easy to know how much you have available for holiday spending. If not, you have to make a list of all the HAVE-TOs – the bills you have to pay and the things you have to buy (like food, electricity and loan repayments) to get through the month. When you have that amount, you subtract it from your total income for December. The balance is – in theory – what you have to spend on holiday fun.
3. Before you turn your mind to your holiday list, remember that January is around the corner. Have you made provision for back-to-school expenses, for example? Remember that your December salary – which is often paid early – has to stretch all the way to the end of January.
4. Now it’s time to look at the fun list. Decide what you really WANT TO do, find out what it will cost, and work out the amount you need to save by December to do everything you want to. Add that to your December have-to list to know what you will need to get through the month without concerns.
5. Chances are you will need some serious saving to afford your holiday budget. Here are a few tips that can boost your pre-December savings and reduce your holiday budget:
- If possible, put some of your subscriptions on hold for the time you will be away from home. That will give you a saving in December.
- Rethink outings and combine trips to save on fuel and parking costs.
- Plan your meals a few days in advance so that you only must go shopping once. Only buy the ingredients you need and use everything you buy.
- Drink more water and less soft drinks.
- Always compare prices to make sure you get the best value for your money.
- Do your own nails and skincare. Even if you buy salon products but do the treatments yourself at home. You are bound to save a bundle.
- Instead of buying something the moment you see it, stop and ask yourself whether you need it or only want it. If you really need it, wait one full day before you buy it, just to make sure.
- Check your receipts to make sure you were charged correctly. Also keep those receipts so that you can track your spending and, if necessary, can return items to the store.
- In terms of trimming down the holiday budget, consider a picnic in the park instead of a restaurant meal, or joining forces with a friend or family member to do bulk food preparation.
- Gifts are a huge money guzzler, and you can often save a lot by thinking about them differently. Focus on experiences rather than things, or agree with your loved ones on a limit per person.
6. Use these savings opportunities to adjust both your budget and your holiday list to give a new and more accurate picture of your finances.
7. Track your spending and put all the extra savings in your holiday savings pot until you have reached your goal amount. Any further savings can either be spent on a treat or, better still, help you to clear debt quicker or boost your January savings.
Need some help? Use the Bayport budget tool to do your holiday planning and budget calculations.