Reducing the Financial Aftershock of Christmas

I bought an Advent Calendar in October. I know, it seemed early at the time but it is a popular one and I was afraid it might sell out. While paying for my purchase, I was chatting with the store employee and she mentioned how some or most people overspend during Christmas and are still paying for their purchases well into the month of March. I thought this could be a good topic for a column.

The first thing to do is to make a list. Lists do not only apply to grocery stores and chores. They are eye-openers; it’s on paper and you cannot ignore it. The list should not only be for gifts but for everything you will be buying during the Christmas season. Here are some examples of what it should include: food and alcohol, cards and wrapping paper, outfits, jewellery and hairstyling for parties, hostess gifts, travel expenses (airfare, hotel and additional gas), decorations (indoors and outdoors) and so on. Next, you should put a cost to each of your expenses and do a total. Finally, try to reduce the effects of the shock by removing or reducing the cost of some of these expenses by taking advantage of sales.

The second step is to try to use cash to pay for your purchases. Often, I have had $40 in my wallet and two days later it’s gone and I can’t remember what I spent it on! When you are using your plastic cards, the shock arrives in January and it is a lot more difficult to take than $40. If you have an envelope with your Christmas money in it, you will be able to see how fast you are replacing it with receipts and it will help with overspending.

At this point, you may be able to do a combination of both cash and plastic but this could be a goal for next year as you put money in your envelope or tax free savings account every month. I know it is easier to say or write it than to do it!

As a New Year’s resolution, let’s try to put $5 to $10 a week in the envelope. Let’s just take the change off the counter every week. (Men are usually the culprits.) My daughter gave me a toonie and a loonie for my coffee last week. I was grateful for her generosity but told her to keep it so that she could put it towards something special. She replied, “It’s ok, I keep finding change in the house and I put it in my piggy bank!” See, my husband had not even noticed it had been missing.

Finally, once you have crossed all the items off your list, stop shopping and resist the temptation of buying things that are not on your list.

Always ask yourself “Do I really need this?” “Can I make do with what I have for another year?” It all adds up. You will be amazed at how quickly you can reduce your expenses or come up with the extra cash you need.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

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I was introduced to the Fix during the winter of 2007, the winter we decided that we would be calling Fernie home. My husband came back from Overwaitea and handed me a magazine and told me, “I think you are going to love this one.” I read it cover to cover shushing away anyone who dared to interrupt my reading. It certainly did add another checkmark to our long list of reasons for moving to Fernie. Thank you and congratulations.