Christmas is such an exciting time of year with the nonstop flow of social events, gift giving, and festive family get-togethers. However, there is also a serious side to the festive season, and that is the financial one as it is so easy to over spend, over indulge and end up paying for it well into the new year.
Too many families adopt a ‘worry about it later’ approach and then find themselves dipping into their savings — or worse, ending up in debt to kick-start the new year, which is far from ideal.
Here are some top tips to ensure you get through the festive season without a serious financial hangover.
1 BILLS DON’T STOP
Bills such as rent, insurance, loan repayments and utilities do not disappear for Christmas.
These all still need to be paid, so put that money to one side as soon as your income hits your account in December, if possible (or even transfer these funds into a separate account that you cannot touch).
2 DON’T OVERBUY
Over-buying groceries at Christmas is very easy.
Know exactly how many mouths you’re feeding and make a shopping list to stick to before entering the supermarket madness. If you do end up with leftovers, be sure to make the most of them — there are plenty of tasty recipes to be found online for festive leftovers.
3 GROUND RULES
It is important to establish some ground rules when it comes to gifting.
Have a conversation upfront with family and friends to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Agree on spending limits and who you will and won’t be buying for — this avoids offending anyone and any possible awkward moments on Christmas Day. If you are meeting with your family for Christmas, consider just giving gifts to the children — or, if you do want to exchange presents between the adults, make it a Kris Kringle situation where a limit is set and everyone receives one nice gift.
4 MEANINGFUL GIFTS
Try to swap pricey gifts for meaningful experiences for your loved ones — like a trip to the cinema, an indoor play area or to a nice café for a festive brunch.
These gifting experiences can sometimes be a cheaper alternative to presents and can create opportunities to make new memories with your loved ones. If you have a skill or talent, you can also offer a personalised experience as a special gift such as a cooking lesson, driving lessons, or a language tutorial, to be redeemed at a time that suits.
5 CHECK YOUR BALANCE
As we spend more on gifts and luxurious food and drink over the Christmas period, you are likely to have a bigger-than-usual credit card bill waiting in the wings.
This makes for awkward timing in January, when some are forced to make the December paycheque last longer. Check the balance on your credit card and try to pay off the minimum payment as soon money comes through. This will give you a clearer picture of how much you’ve got left to budget with for January.
Try to embrace pre-loved items whilst also doing your bit for sustainability.
Shop for pre-loved Christmas gifts and for your festive outfits this year. You can find fabulous party clothes, kidswear, Christmas jumpers and even decorations second-hand. Embracing pre-loved at Christmas helps the environment by giving things a second life. Local bric-a-brac and charity shops are great places to source presents, or try Etsy, eBay or Notonthehighstreet online.
7 DITCH THE APP
Try to ditch Apple Pay and saved credit card details straight after Christmas, as sometimes we forget that we are spending real-life money when it takes only seconds to make a purchase. This is especially the case when the winter sales start from
St Stephen’s Day.
8 ASK FOR HELP
Should you find yourself in debt because of overspending at Christmas (or in general), there is plenty of professional assistance available. Reach out to MABS (mabs.ie), who are specialists in guiding people on how best to deal with debt, or alternatively contact a personal insolvency practitioner. Ignoring the situation and not taking immediate action now could have serious repercussions.
With such huge increases to the cost of living in recent years, many people find it hard to keep ahead of their bills and are under incredible pressure.
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SVP) has a wide range of support. From practical help and advice to a friendly ear, all contact is strictly confidential. Reach out to svp.ie or calling 01-8550022.
By taking some of these small measures onboard, hopefully all that will be left to worry about at Christmas is what to do with that left-over turkey on St Stephen’s Day.
Carol Brick hails from a dairy farm in Kilmoyley, Co Kerry and is managing director of CWM Wealth Management Ltd. She has a particular interest in financial planning for Irish women and launched HerMoney, a specialist service, in 2017 with an all-female team of advisors. Carol advocates for urgent legislative change around the qualifying criteria for a state pension. If you have a question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.