Have a merry Christmas on a budget

The festive season comes with a lot of excitement. Because of this excitement, many spend a fortune to make the season a memorable one. But there’s no reason why anyone should feel pressured to spend beyond their means. Christmas can still be merry on a budget, and here’s how.

Financial experts warn that to avoid a ‘Christmas hangover’, people need to plan ahead and evade debt, and most importantly, the January blues.

Set up a Christmas fund. This requires planning ahead. One can set up a Christmas fund, for instance, a savings account where they keep all the money they plan to use during the festive season, says finance manager, Theogene Uwiringiyimana.

“Set an estimate of the amount of money you will spend during Christmas, then determine the amount you can save each month. By the time Christmas sets in, you will be ready for the expenses and trust me, the only burden will be where and when the shopping will happen,” he says.

Decide on how to have the celebrations. Uwiringiyimana says the cheapest way to have Christmas is to have the festivities at home. Having them at a hotel or a holiday destination can really be fun but the expenses will be way up high.

He, therefore, recommends that for someone to enjoy Christmas on a shoestring budget, have it at home; home cooked meals are always cheaper and still the best.

Make a list of what needs to be bought. If one is to prepare for the holidays, it is very important to make lists of the things needed because it helps to stay on track during shopping and also respect the spending budget.

This always works best if one has a shopping list that also includes an estimate of the possible prices for the listed items, the finance manager points out.

Avoid taking loans. The festive season can really be tempting for one to use their credit cards or go for ‘buy now pay later’ services because most want to make the best out of this season. But this is not a good idea because the holiday will be over and there will still be bills to pay. You’ll only end up in a credit crunch or suffer severe January blues if you take up loans for this season.

Always shop early. When one does their shopping early enough before the Christmas hype sets in, it is easier for them to get stuff at an affordable price, says Christine Tuyisenge, a store owner.

“At times shops tend to hike prices during the festive season. So when one has a tight budget it is always better to shop early, at least during the first week of December,” she says.

Re-use Christmas decorations, Tuyisenge advises, adding  that it is always best to keep Christmas decorations and store them safely when the holidays are over because they can always be used the next time. For example, the Christmas tree and Christmas lights can work for years. Buying new decorations every year can be really expensive.

Many families love to exchange gifts on Christmas Day.

“It is not necessary to spend a lot on Christmas decorations because you can buy cheap ones and decorate them in a simple but stylish way, and you can still celebrate your Christmas without going overboard on expenses,” she advises.

Mind the gifts you buy. Christmas is a time where friends and family give out gifts, but for some who mind their budget, to not exceed one’s planned expenses, they can always go for simple but meaningful gifts, such as Christmas cards. Or better still, one can always give out homemade gifts.

Stick to your budget. Uwiringiyimana notes that at times, during such celebrations, one can be tempted to exceed their planned budget because they want to make the most out of the festivities. However, spending beyond what you planned will increase stress and lead you into debt during the period after the holiday season.

Use cash. It is always better to pay for bills using cash because using credit cards makes it easier for one to overspend.  Tracking your spending on the other hand using credit cards can be a little bit hard.

Choose travel places wisely. Some might have a tight budget yet still want to break the routine of having Christmas at home. In this case, Uwiringiyimana advises that if someone wants to have their Christmas at a certain destination, aspects like accommodation and ticket fares should be planned for in advance.

“One can still select places that won’t require them to over spend. Having a good time doesn’t call for over spending. Proper planning is the best way to go if one is to survive the festive season.”





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