‘Tis the season to be solvent

Christmas decorations and lights
are popping up everywhere and we hear carols on the radio. The question we are
asking now is “What gifts can I afford to buy for all my family and friends
without going broke?” 

And, that’s not the only thing.
There are many other things to take into account  facets in a typical holiday season — you’ve
got your gifts to buy, home to decorate, events to attend, food to prepare, and
don’t forget clothes/shoes you will need for these events. Holiday spending is
a common way for people to land themselves in debt and financial stress, especially
in these economic times.

 

Christmas on a budget

In the coming weeks we will be
tempted to reach into our wallets and overspend/use our savings and credit
cards to buy holiday gifts. Take time now to think ahead, plan and determine
what is important to you then you can alleviate unnecessary stress in the
future.

 

Tips for the season

Make a list of all the people and
events you will want to spend money on and prioritise accordingly. 

Assess how much you can spend ahead
of time and keep within a realistic budget. Ideally, you’ve saved up a little
all year long, so by December, Christmas expenses won’t require extra spending.
If this didn’t happen for you this year, jot down all necessary holiday
expenditure as you spend money, and use it as a basic template for next year’s
holiday budget.

The most important thing is to not
spend money you don’t have. Credit cards are never, ever an option for
Christmas (or for anything else, for that matter). You simply can’t spend
someone else’s money, hoping that one day, you’ll have the funds to pay it
back.

Save money by making homemade,
handcrafted Christmas decor. Cayman has so many beautiful natural materials for
use which are close to hand, such as seashells, flowers, twigs and vines. 

Set a limit on gift giving. Can you
lower your allotment for certain people? Who can you stop giving gifts to
altogether? Which family or friends can you give a gift to as a group? Secret
Santa is a great way to save on the number of gifts.

How about homemade gifts (cookies
in a jar), creating handmade coupons for services (dog sitting, a 30-minute
massage), or decorate a photo frame with sea shells or twigs you can find on
the beach?

Or — here’s a crazy idea — just
stop doing gifts all together. You can still have fun as a family without
giving gifts. Float the idea of all agreeing not to exchange gifts, but perhaps
everyone bring a pot-luck dish along to share at the Christmas get-together so
that everyone  which still feels as if
you have contributed.

When you go shopping, go with a
list, with a purpose in mind, and with cash. Leave even your debit card at
home.

Start a tradition of watching
Christmas movies together as a family or with friends. They are either free on TV
or in your DVD collection or fairly inexpensive at stores. Play your favourite
holiday music and make hot cocoa. It’ll feel more festive and you will focus
less on spending money on expensive gifts.

 

Budgeting

List all of the people that you
will buy a gift for this season. You can also use the list you made this year.

Put a dollar amount next to each
name on your list.  This represents the
total amount you can spend on them for a gift. The total will be what you will
need to save for next year.

Depending on when you start saving,
you can begin putting aside money each week for your Christmas fund. Add a
little extra for events and personal items you will need for the holidays.

Let the budget be your guide. Just
look for a better deal or coupons on the gifts you purchase. Follow these steps
and chances are you’ll be debt free in January or certainly be in a better financial
position than last time. Economically, times in Cayman are still tough – but
with a bit of financial planning and self-discipline, we can all have a very
merry Christmas.

To schedule a confidential
appointment regarding this or any other issue, please contact The Employee
Assistance Programme at 949-9559, or via our website www.eap.ky

FEATstory

Many people are tempted to reach into their wallets and overspend or use their savings and credit cards to buy holiday gifts.
Photo: File
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