It’s that time of year again when glittery ads are on the telly and yes, Christmas is upon us… If the thought of Christmas makes you shiver when you think of how much it’s going to cost, take a deep breath and a moment to think. It is very easy to get caught up in the moment, which is why it is so important to take control of your finances when you can. Remember, if you are the person who keeps track of the money in your household, you deserve a Christmas too so don’t let it turn into a nightmare. It might be too late to budget for Christmas but here are some useful tips to survive the season!
The 12 steps of Christmas:
1. Make a list of what you Need to buy for Christmas and not what you Want! Divide it into gifts, food, clothes and socialising.
2. Prioritise – if you have a limited amount of money, what can you cut from that list? Work your way through, numbering items in order of importance – Needs v Wants!
3. Try to estimate how much money you expect to spend on each of these items. What does it add up to?
4. If it’s a very large figure and the number makes your eyes bulge, look at each individual item again. How can you reduce the cost?
5. What does it add up to now? Is that a better figure?
6. Keep doing this until you get to a figure you can afford –be fully honest with yourself!
7. This is the amount of money you Need for Christmas.
8. If you have been able to put aside a few euro over the year to meet the cost of Christmas, great. Will it be enough to cover the costs you have planned for?
9. If what you have saved is not enough, then you have a choice; either you cut the amount again which you intend to spend, until your savings can cover it, or you may decide to borrow.
10. Try not to build your plans on the basis of a bonus or overtime payment, or any other payment that you are not absolutely certain you will get – only count the money you are sure of getting.
11. Be Smart • Try to get the best value you can when shopping for gifts – look for offers in the shops, three-for two deals and so on, but remember the value is only there if you actually Need the three items • Stick to cash – you will spend less than if you use debit or credit cards • Keep all receipts in case something needs to be exchanged • Work from a list to avoid unplanned, impulse shopping • Leave the children at home • Remember the shops only close for one or two days, so there is no need to bulk buy and buy too much food.
12. If you really believe borrowing is your only option, then remember these points: Only borrow what you truly Need and not one cent more • Try to make sure you can pay back this loan before the middle of next year if at all possible, otherwise it makes it difficult to save for next Christmas • Find out what the weekly or monthly repayments are going to be and see how this will affect your budget next year – can you afford that amount, and still pay your regular bills and expenses? • When looking for a loan, try to get the best value you can! Generally, loans available from a money lender will cost you much more than a loan from your Credit Union or Bank. Using a credit card is also a very expensive way of borrowing money • Remember to read the terms and conditions of any credit application, make sure you understand what you are getting into. Get advice before you sign. • Contact MABS before borrowing to see if you can afford the repayments • Before you borrow, look again at your list – is it worth it? Are you sure this is what you and your family Need?
Guide to Surviving Christmas:
MABS have a lot of helpful information available online at www.mabs.ie. Advice and information is also available by calling the MABS Helpline 0761 07 2000 (Monday – Friday 9.00am to 8.00pm.) or from Roscommon MABS – Tel. No: 0761 07 2720.
Cutting the cloth:
When we struggle all year round, with little cash to spare, we often feel we need to make up for this at Christmas! We want our children and loved ones to have the best. But that doesn’t always mean we need to spend a fortune and get into debt – particularly a fortune you don’t have. Be open and honest with your family! Talk to your friends and extended family – do you need to exchange gifts at all? Or would you rather spend time together? Many people have less money now than before so you could be the one to bring up the subject in your circle of friends and family and suggest that this is the year to bring back more basic values. Take time instead to be with those you love who will not want you to worry or struggle for the next six months or longer to pay for gifts they didn’t need and you couldn’t afford!