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.
2020 has been a testing year for us all but real resilience will be required at Christmas time when people tend to throw money at the the situation - money they often don't have. They may feel guilt that they haven’t seen a friend or relative, they may feel bad they never managed to take their children on holiday or they may just get carried away in the middle aisle of Aldi! 2020 has been a very different year, which may mean your income or outlook has shifted. Why not use it as an opportunity to have a different kind of Christmas on your own terms.
Many 2020 situations have been outside 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.
One of our Playbookers got in touch a couple of weeks ago to share how in previous years they would be worrying now about how to pay for Christmas long into the new year, that is months of worry about one day of the year and all that spend going on credit cards. Fast forward to this year and it looks a lot different. Christmas has been saved for using a sinking fund so it’s covered already. There’s a set list for gifts, each one well thought out, quality over quantity. No shocks when the credit card lands in the new year. Not only is spending reduced and budgeted for, it means time with family and friends over the festive period can actually be enjoyed. Freedom.
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.