By Frank Conway
With little over [a month] to go until Christmas, now is the perfect time to plan for the big spend.
The following 12 Financial Tips for Christmas Bliss are developed to make the festive season a truly family one and less of a debt-filled one.
- Ban the guilt gifts – OK, we all know how much gift giving has expanded over the years but often, we are as much influenced by savvy advertising as we are by our own convictions. Forget the advertisers; they won’t pay your bills when they arrive after the holidays, be prudent and buy smart and don’t buy out of guilt.
- Gift List – Having a list completed early means that every time you see an item on the Gift List, you may be able to grab it for less than you might closer to Christmas, when you may be under more pressure to buy, the item may be sold out or you have to seek more expensive options to acquire it.
- Time Tricks – This is key, starting early means that you will have plenty of time to not only shop around but also avoid any last minute express shipping costs if you buy online.
- Vanishing Vouchers – Vouchers can sound like a convenient means of expressing Christmas wishes but they have experienced problems in recent years where issuing retailers have gone belly-up. And while some retailers have been great, do you really want to take the chance of a voucher becoming as worthless?
- Spread the Joy – why not consider buying some token gifts for your Gift List before Christmas and having a family fun day after Christmas to bag some bargains at the post-Christmas sales to secure some of the more expensive items, it’s a great way to show you care…without depleting your finances.
- Kid Kraft – unlike adults, young kids can have an amazing appreciation for unwrapping gifts and before you think you might just get away with a nicely wrapped box, not so fast. However, kids aren’t always the retail snobs that adults can sometimes be. The point here is that it can be OK to hold back on buying certain branded items and go with more practical options, the level of appreciation can be just as great!
- Web Wonders – There isn’t a whole pile you won’t find on the web these days, and I am not just talking about buying. Every good purchase begins with good research and the web provides a world of analysis, from best products to deals. A simple trick is to begin with your list and use some of the top comparison sites, like Amazon.com and eBay.com to check out what deals are to be had (including local ones). You might just find that your local retailer can match the best deals, before or after any shipping costs are added on. Also, if you are planning gifts on the expensive side, check out what reviews they receive. This is especially true of weekend-breaks, hotels, travel gift vouchers and even electronics. Better to pay once for quality than several times over for questionable quality!
- Crimbo Cash – You might want to consider becoming a bit of a retailer yourself. Why not dust off some old ‘stuff’ and see if there is a market for it. Check out eBay or DoneDeal.
- Cent–sense – this year, you can make a real difference in the financial literacy space. With the one and two-cent round-up (and round-down), use the ‘unwanted’ cash to teach your kids about money. Develop a reward based incentive for young kids that you and they can interact with and use to teach the value of money – yes, pennies really can add up.
- Return Rewards – Make sure you have all of your receipts in order. You never know, your receiving party may just want to switch that jumper for a different colour. So, they will need to act quickly and having receipts ensures a fast and secure return experience for them.
- Consider others – while there are many charities to choose from, making a donation to a cause that you feel makes a real difference can be a great way to help where it matters most. So, review your options and choose carefully but do look for charities that serve those over the Christmas period that make a real difference in the lives of others.
- Become a volunteer – if you do not have the ready-cash to make a donation, why not consider giving time. There are many volunteer groups that offer fantastic services to the most needy in our society and even an hour of your time can make a real difference in the life of another.
Frank Conway is a qualified financial adviser and founder of MoneyWhizz, the financial literacy initiative. He is author of Ireland’s Essential Guide to Personal Finance.