10 steps to Christmas shopping
Kristen Hartnett, Salvation Army Moneycare Counsellor, shares her plan to cut the financial stress out of your Christmas.
Tips to help you through the stress of Christmas shopping
1. Start early
Don’t wait until the tinsel is up and the carols are playing – start planning your Christmas as early as possible. This will give you more time to set aside money and look for the gifts you want at pre-Christmas sales.
2. Squirrel your money away
Do you have a Christmas savings account? If not, create one. Even if it’s a simple “change jar” for coins that you bank at the end of the week, it all adds up and will give you a good head start for your Christmas spending.
Think back to last Christmas. Where did you overspend? Write down what you would like to do better this year.
4. On the hunt
Take a look around your house – do you have presents stored for future use? Note what you already have so you don’t forget.
Make a list. Who do you need to buy gifts for this year? (Check off gifts you already have.) What food items will you need to buy? Don’t forget to budget for wrapping paper, cards, petrol for long drives or anything else you will spend money on at Christmas that you don’t include in your weekly expenses.
Christmas is a time for connecting with those we love. Speak to friends and family members to set up realistic expectations: “Who is buying for whom?” “Around how much money will be spent on each gift?” (Often it is easy to cut down expenses on children’s gifts.)
Homemade gifts lower expenses and are a wonderful, unique expression of your love. Freshly baked treats tied in a festive bow might make the perfect gift for a teacher or friend; hand-sewn or knitted baby toys or clothes are cherished. Show off your talents with creative wrapping – affordable presents can look extravagant.
Now you have checked your home for already-purchased gifts, discussed with family and friends the expectations at Christmas time, and made a list of items you need to buy or create, take a moment to check your list one last time. Is everything there? Are there any other ways you can save?
9. Do the sums
Carefully add up each item in your list. Then add a buffer of about 10 per cent to the final tally to account for emergencies or anything you may have forgotten. Consider the final dollar figure and work out how many weeks you have left before Christmas. Can you save that much money in time? If not – where will you reduce expenses? (You may need to go back and re-do some of the earlier steps in this process.)
The very last step in the process is to go shopping! Stick to your list and your budget, using your savings – not credit cards – to make your purchases.
The cost of a gift is not a reflection of your love. Not only are the best things in life free, the best things in life are not “things”.
If you do get into financial difficulties The Salvation Army Moneycare service can help. The financial counselling service provides help free of charge.
Visit salvos.org.au/moneycare for more information.