Every year it seems that retailers bring out the Christmas decorations and music that little bit earlier, often to a chorus of complaints. After all, even if you love the festive season, it can feel a little diluted if it lasts for three months and who isn’t more than a little bit jaded by Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody come December 25th?
But while it might be a little early for the shops to be playing Christmas hits on loop, it is actually a good time of the year for us to start a little planning — even if you do find those people who smugly announce they have wrapped all their presents by Hallowe’en, a bit irritating. After all, Christmas is a time when many of us find ourselves stretched both financially and for free time.
In the spirit of the financial life planning we do here at Serenity Financial, often the key can be finding some balance between planning ahead while still enjoying the moment. So whilst you embrace autumn, bear in mind these few tips which might make this Christmas calmer and happier.
- Start thinking about what presents for the most important people in your life.
It could be that they’d love some kind of experience, or you might have an arrangement where they heavily hint or just tell you what they want. Whatever the choice, you can find better and more cost effective options if you have a bit more time. It’s also more likely if this is in the back of your mind that you’ll stumble across that perfect, really thoughtful gesture that shows them you understand them and care about them — often these are the gifts that cost less and mean much more.
- Browse charity shops
There are three good reasons to try this. Firstly, studies reveals we’re often happier if we do something that helps others, and supporting charity shops is a simple way to do this, especially if you drop off some bags of really saleable items when you go in. Secondly, there are often some beautiful discarded things — vintage dresses, coffee table books or toys — tucked away in charity shops which make for unique and thoughtful gifts. Thirdly, recycling or upcycling finds from charity shops is simply better for the planet.
- Set a budget
It’s not just Christmas gifts that dent the bank balance, it’s the parties, the food, the decorations and also the travelling. Thinking about these costs – especially if you have been through the Serenity Financial life planning process – allows you to remember what it is that is most important in your life, and to allocate both time and money accordingly, so that those are the things you focus on this Christmas. Often family and relationships are at the top of the list of our priorities and yet precisely the things we tend to neglect. Christmas is a natural time for us to put them back where they should be so setting out a budget now means you will have a sense of control and banish any guilt that is so often associated with spending money at Christmas.
- Block out key dates in your calendar
Once October arrives, Christmas can tend to sneak up on us. All the work events and social commitments can leave us with little time for those we really do want to spend time with. Block out time for family outings, going to some of those events such as theatre or Christmas fayres that you always want to go to and never do. This way, it is easier to ensure that the things you really love take priority.
- Think about Christmases yet to come
It may be that the way your finances are running things will be leaner this year, so talk to your Serenity Financial life planner about planning for Christmases in the future. It might be that a little saving here is more bearable if you know that in two years time you can afford that wonderful trip to Lapland. You’ll truly enjoy the holiday, you have it to look forward to, and you are also teaching your children how to manage their finances well by saving.