MONEY MATTERS: This week, DD’s Finance columnist Shona Chambers from John McColgan Financial Services give our readers some vital tips for budgeting this festive season.
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals sweeping Irish and online retailers, I have seen many colleagues and friends take advantage of bargains to start their Christmas shopping early.
Christmas is a time for good tidings and cheer, but for many people, especially those on social welfare or low incomes, the constant advertisements encouraging us to ‘Spend, spend, spend!’ can create a lot of financial anxiety over the holiday season.
With that in mind, I decided to share some tips for staying within your means this Christmas.
Tip number 1: Make a budget! While this may seem obvious, I can’t stress how important it is to sit down and figure out how much you realistically can afford to spend, given your financial circumstances. Once you have a budget in place, you are taking control.
Tip number 2: Make a list and check it twice! Write down all essential items you need to buy, and when you need to buy them. Separate your list into grocery items, including your Christmas dinner, and non-grocery items such as presents and decorations. Once you have your list, look through it and decide if there are items you don’t need. Whittle down your list, and make a calendar. Planning your Christmas shopping will also help you avoid last-minute panic and impulse purchases, which can drive up your bills.
Tip number 3. De-clutter your home! Going through your closets and attic will give you a clearer sense of what toys, clothes, Christmas decorations, etc., you already own, so that you can avoid making unnecessary purchases.
Tip number 4: Buy second-hand. There are lots of groups on social media where parents sell pre-loved toys in good condition . You never know what bargains you may pick up! (On a side note, Letterkenny Community Childcare are taking a stand at the car boot sale, beside the Community Centre, this Saturday to raise funds for the centre. You may pick up a bargain and all donations are welcome!)
Tip number 5: Discuss Christmas presents in advance with family and friends. We all like giving and receiving nice presents, but sometimes this can lead to pressure to “Keep up with the Joneses.” Instead, maybe try Secret Santa or set a budget of €5 for each person. The secret is to make whatever you are doing special. You don’t always need to spend money on gifts.
Tip number 6: Shop around. This may seem obvious, but the price of toys and food can vary greatly from one shop to the next. This is where your lists from tip number two come in handy to help you keep track of all the items you need to buy.
Tip number 7: Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. A great believer in shopping local, I have found that local shops are more likely to offer discounts on big-ticket purchases if you ask for them.
Tip number 8: Cut up your credit card! May people get caught in the trap of Christmas shopping on plastic. They think they will pay it off after Christmas. Before they know it, it’s March or April and they are still trying to pay off those bills, often at interest rates of between 15% and 20%. If you can’t afford to pay for it in cash, then you can’t afford it!
Shona Chambers QFA RPA is a Qualified Financial Advisor and Retirement Planning Advisor with John McColgan Financial Services. You can contact Shona on 074 9124366 to make an appointment.Tags: