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How to prevent a Christmas blow-out; stay calm, carry on and don’t borrow to buy.

This year I have decided to boycott Christmas. Well not entirely. I’ll buy something for the children but as we’re off to see family overseas our presence is their present. I expect they’ll think me Grinchy but given my occupation I think they’ll understand. I never did get the whole Christmas consumer blow-out. It was great as a kid when the magic of Christmas was still in the air but as an adult I found it all a bit much. My mother would get hugely stressed out by the pressure of having to celebrate a perfect Christmas, I’d get a headache dealing with traffic, crowds and trying to find suitable gifts because I’d invariably left it to the last minute and then there was the awkwardness of receiving gifts from someone you didn’t buy for it. This year I’m dispensing with all that business. I’ll be celebrating on a beach in Maui with my Canadian family most of whom I haven’t seen in two years. Bonus, one of my best friends will be there with her two kids.

​Because not everyone is as stingy as me or lucky enough be heading off on a holiday in lieu of Christmas here’s my suggestions for preventing a budget blow-out. You can watch the video below as well where I discuss this further with TVOne’s Nadine Chalmers on the Breakfast show.

  1. Don’t panic; if you have left your shopping until the last minute, take a deep breath, sit down and draw up a list of whose been naughty and nice and then whittle it down.
  2. Set a budget; calculate how much you want to spend all up and then start to price out amounts for the individuals on your good list. Try to come up with some ideas before you hit the mall to avoid those impulse buys which will put you outside your budget.
  3. Pre-load; if you worry about going over your limit, perhaps leave the wallet and cards at home. Just withdraw the exact amount of cash you need or else pre-load it onto one of those gift cards that work at the mall so you’ll be forced to work within your prescribed budget.
  4. Get creative; you don’t have to buy for everyone on your list. In fact, some people really don’t want more stuff, they’re just too polite to say so . Acts of service are a great way to show your appreciation, love, and respect for someone. Vouchers for babysitting, back rubs, or help with household projects are hugely appreciated by most. If you have certain skills that may be valuable to another person why not gift your time, for example offering help with resume writing, introducing people to your networks, teaching them how to cook, you name it.
  5. Don’t borrow to buy; I’m sure the temptation may be strong but if you’re already in debt this is a terrible way to start off 2013, by setting yourself further back. Resist those offers from finance companies and the like for pre-approved loans that come with their own X-mas stickers. See number four instead.
  6. Shop online and look for discounts; Chances are you’ll find most things that you’re looking for on-line for much cheaper. If you’re like me and you don’t like fighting traffic or crowds this is a good way to combat the Christmas stress but still get the job done.
  7. Don’t drink and shop; it’s a great excuse to get together with friends but stay away from the vinos which could cause you to ignore all of the good advice above and blow your budget – completely.
  8. Think ahead; if you’re a shopper through and through you probably don’t need any advice. Some of the best shoppers I know, know that the best time to shop for Christmas is Boxing Day when everything is 50% less or more than what you’ll pay next Christmas. Personally I can’t bear the thought of it so will lobby for another boycott next year or else pare to back to picking names out of a virtual hat.

Stay calm, keep the credit cards at home and reflect on the things and people that are truly important at Christmas time and throughout the year.