Top tips from the author of Real Life Money - Clare Seal (@myfrugalyear)
Financial pressure can really build around Christmas and last long into the new year, tainting what should be a wonderful time with a tinge of worry. This year in particular, many of us are dealing with new and unfamiliar financial circumstances, whether we’ve managed to save more thanks to a reduction in commuting and socialising costs, or we’ve lost income and are feeling more precarious. Regardless of your material financial situation, it’s important to be mindful of your money throughout the festive season and beyond, and make budgeting your best friend.
Discover our helpful tips for last-minute Christmas budgeting - as well as guidance on making a successful budget for January, so that you can plan better for next Christmas, too:
Make sure your Christmas budget is realistic
One of the most important things to remember when creating your budget - especially at Christmas time - is that it needs to be realistic. If you make your budget based on an assumption that you’ll go over it, you likely will, and things can get unaffordable very quickly.
Here are some ways to make a Christmas budget you can stick to:
- For your Christmas budget, it’s a good idea to split the costs of gifts and food or entertaining, and set a separate budget for each.
- If hosting, do a practice online food shop to make sure that you know how much it’s going to cost.
- Include cards and wrapping with your gift budget - those little extras can really add up and cause you to overspend.
If things aren’t adding up, see where you can make adjustments
It might feel frustrating to have to scale back in a few areas this Christmas, but it will be worth it in the long run. There are some small changes that you can make to make the most of your money, without impacting your enjoyment:
- Look at cheaper cuts of meat for festive meals. Buying a turkey crown can work out far cheaper and less wasteful if your bubble aren’t hanging around for leftovers this year.
- With so many missed experiences this year, an IOU on a pretty note card makes a lovely gift. Things like a meal together, a trip to the cinema or a day at the beach will give your loved one something to really look forward to.
- Smaller or token gifts are also a great way to show someone you care. Be guided by what the gift will mean to them, rather than fixating on an amount you feel you should spend on them.
- Paper chains and snowflakes double up as a great school holiday craft activity and an affordable way to decorate your home.
Start the new year with a financial audit
Clearing the financial skeletons out of your closet can be a nerve-wracking act in itself, but it’s a great way to start the year. It means that you can make a plan to ease any worries - and start saving for next Christmas!
The first step is to get everything out in the open, and write all of your balances and financial commitments down, then use a spreadsheet or budget planner to map out your income and outgoings.
Don’t over-complicate things
Budgeting doesn’t need to be complicated - in fact, the simpler, the better. For a monthly budget, start by listing out your income and outgoings, and see if there’s anything you’ve been paying for that you’re no longer using or enjoying.
This will help you to cut any unnecessary expenses, and give you a good idea of how your finances balance. Once you know how much of your income is going towards living expenses, you can decide what to do with the rest of it, whether it goes into a pot for Christmas, or is put to one side for the new year.
If your new year’s resolution is always to get on top of your finances, but you never quite manage it, look back at any mistakes you might have made and think about how you can do things differently. A good rule of thumb to use is the 50-30-20 rule, where you try to allocate 50% of your income to bills, 30% to enjoyment and 20% to savings.
Do a weekly check-in and keep a note of your expenses
Creating your budget then leaving it to gather dust is not the way to feel more empowered financially. Creating a routine or ritual where you check your budget on a weekly basis, and adapt it for any changing circumstances, is a great new year’s resolution to make. After a while it becomes second nature, and it’s a great way to look after yourself and your family, helping you to feel more in control.
It’s best not to try and sweep any unexpected costs under the carpet, but rather to make sure you keep a record of them. Not only will this help you to feel more in control, but it also helps you to see where you might be making unnecessary purchases so that you can nip those habits in the bud.