Top tips for getting your Christmas budget in order – straight from a professional!
The financial burden of Christmas festivities and the endless associated events can make the coming months a nerve-racking time when it comes to money – especially when combined with tax season! As the invitations for holiday parties, concerts and fairs roll in, so does the inevitable FOMO as you realise you can’t go to everything and still have money left over to buy presents. Or can you?
Ahead, I’m sharing five Christmas budget hacks to help you make the most of the festive season – without spiralling into debt.
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For flights and holidays, you may be surprised at how much money you can save by buying early. I recommend searching comparison websites and setting up offer alerts from various airlines to keep on track of all the best deals.
Although the lack of storage space in Hong Kong might put you off stocking up on gifts early, it goes without saying that getting it all sorted in a timely manner will save you money. Not only does buying early give you the freedom to search out the best prices (and take advantage of seasonal sales like Black Friday), but it also affords you time to make considered and sensible purchases. Last-minute panic buying has a tendency to make budgets go out the window as you desperately focus on getting everything done on time!
The other thing that I find very useful is saving unwanted gifts throughout the year and using them for Secret Santa and office presents in the festive season. It may seem like a cheap thing to do, but I would rather it brought joy to someone else than it sit in landfill. Plus, if you’re looking to buy presents for overseas friends, I find it helpful to bulk buy something fairly typically “Hong Kong” from somewhere like Temple Street Market or Mong Kok.
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Most credit cards, bank accounts and shops offer loyalty points and bonuses. As long as they don’t expire, I tend to save these up until the end of the year. The supermarket ones are especially welcome when shopping for a party or buying wine and spirits as gifts!
Suddenly needing to have a lot of cash all at once can feel very overwhelming. However, by saving a little bit each month in a separate account, you will find yourself with a healthy spending budget for the festive season, which is much more preferable than relying on credit cards or loans! My clients and I always find that moving money into a separate account right when you get paid is the easiest way of making sure that you prioritise your commitments and don’t end up over spending each month.
If saving a couple of hundred dollars a month seems like too much, then maybe you need to analyse your expenses and your expectations for Christmas. If you can get to January and feel like you are starting the New Year financially in control, it will make for a much more positive start to 2020.
There are an enormous number of Christmas fairs that start in November and go all the way through to the big day. These can be a great place to pick up one-of-a-kind presents and crafts at reasonable prices. Plus with the added bonus of shopping local!
Just make sure you are buying things for the right reasons. Is it a good present or are you being swept up in the “fair vibe” and buying with no one in mind? Make a list of who you need to buy for and try to stick to it, no matter how much mulled wine you consume!
Experiences Not Gifts
Years ago, my best friend and I gave up on buying Christmas presents for each other for the sake of it. Instead, we take the money that we might have spent and go for a lovely meal somewhere we wouldn’t usually treat ourselves.
We all own a lot of stuff we don’t use these days, and the frequency we have to clear out our apartments stands testament to this. Rather than buying more stuff for your friends and family, why not look at an experience that they would enjoy?
Something me and my friends do each year is walk through Central looking at the Christmas decorations in the various buildings before going to the roof of ifc mall to look at the lights in TST. Walking around, enjoying the decorations and taking photos costs nothing, and for us has become a wonderful Christmas tradition that we appreciate a lot more than gifts!
Embrace JOMO And Saying No
I know these hacks are supposed to help you attend more events not less, but hear me out. In Hong Kong especially, there are an overwhelming number of lunches, happy hours, work dos, brunches, drinks at friends, pub crawls and nights out that will appear in your diary from November onwards. Christmas is my favourite time of year, but it can be very stressful if you feel you need to say yes to everything. It’s very easy to run around trying to see everyone for a quick drink and never actually feel like you have spent proper time with friends or family. That’s why I’m a big proponent of saying “no” from time to time.
With this in mind, why not set aside an evening to devote to yourself amidst it all? Having down time is vital in order to recharge during the chaos. Pick and choose your events carefully, and make sure that you are devoting your energies (and dollars!) to the events that will make you the happiest.