|Ask Miss Smartypants - November 15, 2010||| Print ||
|Written by Miss Smartypants|
|Monday, 15 November 2010 00:00|
Dear Miss Smartypants,
Here's what I need help with: how do I set a Christmas budget? What's appropriate? Some background: in the last few years, my brother and sister have each gotten married and are now part of blended families. They have gone on to have children of their own. As such, I've gone from buying a handful of Christmas gifts to well over a dozen. I've got a steady job and make a decent wage, but nothing to have a splashy affair. Do you have any Christmas budget guidelines?
Cash Strapped Christmas
My first tip won't do you much good now, but it will serve you well for years to come: buy Christmas gifts year round. If you see something and think, "Oh, so-and-so would really love that!", don't hesitate to pick it up if you can afford it. Keep a gift list handy, so those presents don't end up buried in some closet for years.
Tip 2: Yes, set a budget and stick to it. You can do this one of two ways: 1) set the maximum amount you can comfortably spend and divide it equally or 2) decide how much you want to spend per person and multiply it. It will probably be easier to go with option number 1. Sometimes when you multiply as in 2, you find you end up with a number much higher than you would have if you had gone with one. Next year, if you find you do want to splash out more or wish money didn't get so tight at this time of the year, set up a savings account to automatically withdraw a pre-determined amount each pay period. When the time comes, the money will be there. As for what's appropriate, look at your financials. If you can only afford $20/person, then spend the best $20/person that you can. If you think Christmas is about how much you spend, you're doing it wrong.
Tip 3: Put the credit card down. Back away from the card. The worst thing you can do is bring your credit card with you when you shop. It's very easy to go over budget when you've got credit to your name and very difficult when you've only got so many dollars in your account. If your budget can't afford it, it's the wrong gift.
Tip 4: Solicit suggestions and don't be afraid to give your budget when you do so. If your relatives haven't also noticed that money is tight during the holidays, those must be some pretty rich relatives. Chances are that they can relate to a budget. So when you ask your sister or brother what to get their kids, tell them you're aiming to spend X amount per gift. If they can't think of anything in that range, ask about something all the kids could enjoy if you pooled the money together. One year, my nephews got a Wii from some relatives and games for it from others. There may be something like that that you can participate in if you only ask.
Tip 5: Make it. Making gifts isn't necessarily cheaper, so do the math before you follow through on this one. If you are going to make something, make it useful like mason jars of dry soup or brownie mix. Heck, if you came at me with a nice jar of pickled beets or spiced lemons, I'd be grateful. Save yourself a few bob by scouring your grandmother's cellar or nearby second hand shop for empty jars and sterilize them along with some new seals. If you're good at sewing, run up some oven mitts. If you knit, make some scarves. There's absolutely no shame in giving someone something you crafted with your own two hands.
Ultimately, everyone understands having a Christmas budget. Only the very, very rich or fools don't have one. And you know what they say about fools and their money.