As the dark nights draw in, many are turning their minds to a much lighter topic: Christmas. A time for festivities, family, food and gifts. Lots and lots of gifts. 

Christmas is a time that many look forward to but it can actually provoke fear, guilt and overwhelm in many too. The pressure to conform to the Christmas ideology of buying in abundance is very real, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

The concept of “Keeping up with the Joneses” and the pressure that imposes is something we address in the Financielle Playbook. Feeling under pressure to behave a certain way, buy certain things, maintain a certain way of life can feel like it comes from others.

If you look more closely how much of this pressure comes from within yourself? How much is tied to what you think you should be doing? Certain times of year can trigger habits to please others and Christmas is a prime example of this. We are bombarded with advertising from all angles about this year’s sell out gift or must have M&S dessert.

Many of us have been fortunate enough to have received some unforgettable Christmas gifts over the years, millennial highlights being gifts such as a Post Office, a Sega Mega Drive and a Girls World – but think about this, it is usually one meaningful gift as opposed to mountains of things to wrap that get lost in the moment.

As we fast approach the second Christmas to be affected by the pandemic, this year we’re in danger of throwing even more money at Christmas than ever before. With last year being a relatively quiet year for most, this year we can predict that the Joneses will go bigger and harder than ever before. Christmas tends to bring out all of the things we feel particularly guilty about, not seeing a friend or relative, not being able to take our children on holiday or not knowing what this years trendy gifts are. Let’s just take a pause and use this as an opportunity to have the kind of Christmas done on your own terms. 

Many situations over the past two years have been out of our control and won’t be made better by purchasing lavish gifts at Christmas that quite frankly we can’t afford – we don’t want to be stuck paying for Christmas gifts long after January! Now is a great opportunity to free yourself and set new expectations for the festive period

So how do we prepare ourselves to have a loving, enjoyable, affordable and stress-free Christmas?

1. Create a budget and stick to it

If you are a Financielle Playbook user, you may have created a monthly sinking fund dedicated to Christmas at the start of your Playbook journey. This set amount each month will be safely ring fenced allowing you to create a realistic budget to stick to.

If you have no money set aside for Christmas yet, then perhaps you have one pay day to go where you can create one?

Create a budget, divided up with the people you’re buying for. Once the budget is gone, it is gone. No more Christmas on a credit card.

2. Focus on mindful spending

Create a specific Christmas gift list and stick to it, where you are mindfully searching for a gift that your loved one will appreciate. This is where gift-giving can truly come into its own!

Retailers will bombard you with emails, prompt you with “too good to miss” offers and as we all know, we are likely to face massive influencer persuasion on social media this Christmas shopping period. Be prepared for this and be mindful!

3. Try to focus on supporting Independents

Large retailers generally dominate during the Christmas period, specifically online retailers like Amazon. Why not research local or independent retailers that expertly make amazing Christmas gifts?

The feel good factor will support your mental wellbeing as well as supporting a small business!

4. Get Creative

If you are sticking to a strict budget this year you may want to think outside the box and get creative with your gifts. The creative experience on top of the time being invested into the gift can really add to the festive feeling!

We’ve linked some ideas from the BBC here focussing on homemade gifts: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/homemade-gift-kit-recipes

5. Be honest and create boundaries

We’ve all been there when you look at the ever growing list of people you buy presents for at Christmas. Second aunties, third cousins, old neighbours, teachers – the list is endless.

Take a good long look at your list, are you buying presents because you really want to or because you feel like you have to? Are you ready to swallow your pride and start the conversation about gift giving?

Some families decide that Christmas should be about the children and only buy for children – adults then are relieved not to have to buy presents for each other any more. People could have spent years tearing their hair out wondering what to buy each other when all that time people were feeling resentful of the situation wishing somebody would speak up and call out the madness that buying Christmas gifts brings.

Many also get around this with a Secret Santa concept also – a creative way to put focus and energy into gift giving without it being about the value, but the thought!

Whether you have a Christmas strategy or not – the buying season is well upon us, so be prepared and remember what the festive period is all about.

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