The winter festive season will be here before we know it, so now’s the time to give your personal finances the once-over. How are you fixed? Are you ready for what’s coming?
Keep your personal finances in check over the festive period with these three tips:
Tip 1 – Set a budget NOW
Decide now where you want to be financially at the end of January 2017 and base your festive spending plans on that goal.
However you decide to define the festive period, it’s good to have a rough idea of what you’re prepared to spend and what you’re not, over the winter break. And the sooner you make a plan, the longer you’ve got to support it by saving up.
Keep track of what you’re spending on a spreadsheet. And be disciplined about checking your credit card and bank statements so you’re not tempted to pull the wool over your own eyes.
On the other hand, be generous when it comes to planning for the “little” costs that might add up on drinks/parties/presents. These costs WILL add up. And if you are unrealistic and give yourself a measly budget, you run the risk of getting frustrated and blowing the budget altogether! (It is Christmas, after all!)
Tip 2 – Be canny if you’re going abroad
Don’t forget to cash in any “air-mile” equivalents you might have earned through your credit card. They are easy to forget about.
For cheap travel money, look no further than your friendly financial brokers who, by virtue of their brokering contacts across Foreign Exchange, might be able to get you a good deal. Look around for yourself online.
Check that your airline won’t charge you for checking in personally without doing so online first. Remember that this applies on the way back from your holiday destination too.
When it comes to airport security, plan ahead. Do some online research to see what often unpredictable rules apply where you are going. In the UK, for example, the rules on carrying liquids (100ml max bottles in a clear 20cm x 20cm bag) are precise.
And when it comes to getting on the plane itself, check and double-check that your luggage is in line with airline size and weight restrictions before you leave home! Fines can be excessive.
Remember to switch off your mobile 3G/4G/data roaming to avoid surprise fines from your phone company. Turn your phone off or put it in “airplane” mode whilst you are away.
Tip 3 – Be creative with gifts
For those of us who give Christmas presents to friends and family, a touch of creativity can go a long way to cutting costs.
And those costs are generally high! Last year in the UK, Brits bought a total of 760m gifts valued at over £24bn, buying on average 18 gifts each with an average spend of £596 (figures from statista.com, Radiumone, Retail Gazette 2016).
So look at gift ideas you may not have considered. That’s where the creativity comes in. Just do it differently this year! And see what you find out! You may well unearth a whole new way of festive shopping that is cost-effective and fulfilling – rather than a pain in the neck. Just broaden your net. Look at big savings websites like Groupon, for example. Browse potential gifts that are experiences rather than products. Consider offering your time as a gift (you might be surprised who would appreciate your full attention for a given period). And, if all else fails, cash in all your loyalty points across all your cards and see what you can get your hands on!