The 100-day Christmas Money Plan
Whisper it quietly, but we’re already heading towards the last quarter of the year, and the decorations will no doubt be on the shelves soon. The cost of Christmas can be a real strain, but by planning ahead you can take the stresses out of your festive finances this year. Here are my tips.
It’s only a day
Every year we’re bombarded by months of adverts and promotions in the shops and online. Amid the madness, remember: Christmas is just one day out of 365. Don’t spoil 2019 by starting out in debt for the sake of 24 hours out of the 8,760 hours in the year!
You should only ever borrow to buy assets, not create liabilities. It’s tempting to put everything on credit cards and think, “I’ll worry about that when the bill comes.” With a little forethought, you can avoid the dread of checking your statements in the new year.
By thinking ahead with 100 days to go before the big day, you can go a long way to enjoying your festivities without the January financial blues. This is a great time of year to get financially organised using my Bank Account System – you can find full details in my book The Money Plan.
This is a system that automates your money as much as possible, taking emotion out of everyday financial decisions and giving you control over your Christmas spending and beyond. Here’s how it works:
- Set up two accounts: one for bills and another for personal spending.
- Arrange ALL your regular payments, standing orders and direct debits to come out of your bills account – which is also where you keep your incoming money. Go through each payment and ask yourself three things: do I need this, do I want this, can I get it cheaper elsewhere? Act accordingly, you might be surprised at how much you can save.
- Put some WAM into your life! WAM is your weekly WalkAbout Money, and it pays for all your variable spending and fun: beer, coffee, haircuts and so on. Work out how much you want (or have) to spend in a month after your outgoings, divide it by four, and you’ll get your weekly WAM.
- Set up a weekly payment for this amount from your bills account to your WAM account. Make it happen on a Wednesday, because then you don’t have too long to wait after the weekend, which is when most of us spend our cash.
- Your WAM is your weekly allowance; it’s finite. DON’T dip into your bills account for more if it runs out, it’s not too long to wait for the next Wednesday to come around!
This system gives you boundaries that stop you overstretching: if you can’t afford something, save a little of your WAM each week until you can. The bank accounts system works for everyone from those on low income through to very high-net worth individuals, and it will work for you too.
I have three rules when it comes to Christmas shopping:
- Shop with a plan: if you think about what you intend to buy and stick to it, you’re more likely to spend less.
- Shop around: compare prices before buying, this is so quick and simple to do online.
- Shop with rewards: check if there are any offers which can save you money from sites such as VoucherCloud.com and VoucherCodes.co.uk. Also check on sites such as TopCashBack.co.uk and QuidCo.co.uk to see if they are offering cashback on any of your intended purchases, they’re free to join.
Boost your income
These days it’s incredibly easy to sell things you no longer want or need. Whether through eBay and Facebook, or through the many apps that require little more than a photo on your phone, there are plenty of ways to cash in on unwanted gifts from years past!
These sites can also be great for finding a bargain, so you can kill two birds with one stone here when it comes to your shopping.
If you’re going to visit friends or relatives at home or abroad, then buy your tickets as much in advance as you can. You can save a lot of money on train fares in particular by booking months ahead. Those savings can easily add up to a present or two!
Change your habits
For many of us, Christmas is a time for an abundance of food and drink. You could break the mould this year by steering clear of the booze and save plenty of money doing so; or if you don’t fancy that, then consider doing it beforehand – Go Sober for October is an annual campaign to stop drinking for a month, and not only will you save cash but you can also raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support in the process. Win-win!
The gift of giving
Plenty of Christmas presents and knickknacks are given out and then left in a drawer for months. Why not make Christmas about people, time and connections and not things? Spending time with loved ones is the most valuable thing most of us can give.
Or perhaps you can do something for others in need: homeless charity Crisis needs over 10,000 volunteers every year for its activities, organisations supporting the elderly are always looking for people to spend time with those at home alone…there are so many ways to help and truly give a gift this December. It doesn’t need to be all about the money.