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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Christmas on a Budget

   Christmas Tree & Gifts

Whenever I take Scott, my son, shopping, he points to another toy or gadget that he wants me to buy for him.

"It's so cool, Mom. I'll die if I don't get it!"

"I didn't buy a few of the toys you wanted, and you're still alive."

"This one is different. It has lots of special features," Scott will say, giving me numerous reasons why the gadget is a "must have."

I cannot keep up with the toy manufacturers. If I do buy an item, another is advertised, making the current one yesterday's news. It's a no win situation for me. The prices of some of the toys are ridiculously high too. My latest excuse for not purchasing some of the things my son wants, is that the Christmas Holidays is near, and we need presents to put under the Christmas tree. If everything is bought now, there won't be any gifts on that special day. This excuse works very well, which makes me feel less guilty for not giving in to the endless requests that are often made.

As Christmas approaches, so will the anxiety many of us experience, wondering what our spending budgets will be like. Here are a few tips on how I save time and money, while reducing stress that sometimes comes with the holidays.

1. Write a Check List

This eliminates the confusion of remembering what to buy and for whom. Make categories on this list by putting names of children and their items in one group, form another for adults in the family, and a third for your friends. It does not matter how many categories you have, as the main focus is to get an easy, organized planner in place. Writing a check list ensures that some things are not bought twice.

2. Shop in Advance

One of the things I try to avoid is the hectic rush of shopping during the festive season. Those long lines at the checkout counters and overcrowded malls will wear a person out. I no longer wait for Christmas to approach to start my shopping. Some of my purchases are bought months ahead and is stored in a closet. This plan works well, especially when the stores have summer sales. I'm able to save a few dollars, allowing me to purchase something else that I might want.

Another advantage of shopping early is that you will have a wider variety of affordable products to choose from. I have found out from past experience that shopping late or even a couple days before Christmas, can leave you with very few selections that you probably will not like. Some items are also overpriced and not worth buying. "The early bird catches the worm," as the saying goes, leaving the expensive merchandise on the shelves.

3. Lay-A-Way Plan

Many stores have this option which will help you to stay on your budget. The stores will keep your gift for a specific time period, once a deposit is made. This allows you extra time to save towards the final payment, without feeling pressured. It is also an alternative to using your credit card which may be better to save for use in the event of emergencies.

4. Gift Certificates

This is another ideal way to give someone a present, especially if you are unsure what the person like. These are what I like to give teens, and they all receive the same spending limit. No-one argues about one getting more than the other. Gift certificates have different price values so it is easy to choose the ones that meet your needs.

5. Books

One of my favourite things to give a child or adult is books. Bookstores are always having sales so I am able to get good bargains. I have seen the disappointed looks on some children's faces when they realized that they have gotten books, instead of the toys they were expecting. Children should be taught that books can be enjoyable to read. To be honest, my son does not mind receiving books as well as toys, because he enjoys reading just as much as me. I'm still buying a few books for kids this year allowing other shoppers to purchase most of the toys.

6. Christmas Cards

Cards can be costly if you need a lot to send to family and friends. Although it is appreciated by the recipients, not everyone keeps them after the holidays end. What I now do is send e-greetings to some family members and friends. The handwritten cards are only given to my elderly relatives who are not internet savvy, as well as a few clients.There is an interesting variety of e-cards to choose from and they are fun to send too. My friends love getting these and have started sending e-cards too

Holidays are Happy Times

Although I lamented on the downside of Christmas, it is a wonderful festive time for me. It is a season filled with much love, laughter and happiness. Christmas is one of the occasions where relatives and friends get to spend quality time together. A lot of family reunions are held during this holiday as some relatives live out of town, and are unable to see each other as often as they would like.

I would like to hear your comments and tips on the things you do to make the holidays more enjoyable. Do have a Merry Christmas when it comes.

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