Christmas is a notoriously difficult time of year when it comes to finances. It’s that time when you want to splash the cash, to get your loved ones the best gifts as well as looking to treat yourself and it can so easily end up costing so much more than you had budgeted for.
So what’s the best way to go about getting the best bang for your buck?
The art of stretching a budget is of course the subject of more reading material than you’d ever get through, and who’d want to read all of that conflicting info anyway, and in many ways the sheer weight of advice out there can lead you to go into some form of denial, and that way lies anguish.
The phrase ‘retail therapy’ is more than a slogan, it’s a reality many of us live within and the level of ‘therapy’ in action in the lead up to the holiday season is beyond belief and in many ways it’s a trap that is very hard to avoid falling into.
Whether it’s getting gifts for your girlfriend or boyfriend or for your kids or other members of your close circle, there is always an internal pressure to outdo yourself. Especially as 2020 has been such a tough year, there is an in built desire to please, to reward and celebrate those loved ones with gifts that are perhaps outside your price range.
There is an impulse to complete such purchases but it’s important to think clearly and cleverly before you proceed. Otherwise the ramifications can very much take the shine off the gift you’ve procured.
A good tip is to ‘rehearse buy’, especially online, where you might go through the process of purchasing a gift but then hold off on clicking on the ‘buy’ button and then moving away and thinking about it. Often that moment, and it might only be seconds, allows you to make a separation between the act of thinking about a purchase and making it.
You’ll be surprised how much this can help. Don’t be rushed into making a purchase.
Make lists, plan out the entirety of your christmas gifting and work out how best to complete the process. Outline potential retailers that have the gift you wish, and then shop around for price, again this is so much easier in the online age and is far superior to the act of wandering around a mall.
Doing the homework, in many ways the act of making the whole process more of an ‘assignment’ than an individual act, helps you to mentally separate yourself, and your emotions, from the purchases themselves.
This act of being dispassionate will stand you in good stead for sure.
Take advantage of coupons or cashback. Credit cards have started to partner with hundreds of online retailers to help find the lowest price and get the biggest bang for your buck. With over 3 million already using the capitaloneshopping.com Chrome extension, you can save money and time.
Buy Now, Pay Later Plans
Now, on the face of it, buy now and pay later schemes can appear a little misleading or at the very least are used to help ease you into a purchase, knowing that the cost of the impending deal is some way in the future. However, if used correctly these schemes are certainly viable.
Many leading outlets will offer you the chance to offset the immediate cost, or a portion of it at least, for a later date. As long as doing so doesn’t incur interest, then it’s worth considering, just so long as the purchase is still within your means.
So perhaps you’ve seen a great pair of stylish round glasses, which will last for a long period of time and are not just a one off luxury purchase, then it may be worth considering a deal that means you pay later.
However such a deal is less feasible for other items and generally speaking you should always check if any return policy is affected by the pay later scheme, in case the person you incurred the initial cost for, isn’t keen on the present you got for them.
Going the Homemade Option
For some it’s the act of receiving a gift more than the gift itself, perhaps in these instances you can look to go down the homemade route. This is of course only relevant if you feel yourself capable of putting in the work, and attention to detail, required to pull this off.
This option works more effectively when it comes for gifts for young children, who may well be especially thrilled by your efforts. What is key here is that the gift you choose to make is indeed ideal for the recipient receiving it. Again, this requires research, especially if one has to factor in costs of materials.
Saving Ahead of Schedule
Don’t let the season creep up on you. We all know Christmas comes around the same time every year and a lack of planning almost always means an increased level of spending as desperation kicks in.
Start saving weeks in advance, this will take the pain out of the costs in the long run and can also be a nice exercise in restraint. Perhaps you give up on a vice of some sort in the weeks or months leading up to the holidays, this will help boost your capital and then your Xmas shopping will feel less like a painful chore and more like a reward.
After all, the holidays should be a time of celebration, especially as it caps off a trying year and is an opportunity for us to be thankful for those around us, perhaps now more than ever.