Surviving the Silly Season on a Budget
By Katherine Houston
It's about that time again. When the sun is making a constant appearance (or at least trying to), work's winding down and the Christmas party invites that have been rolling in since October are now kicking off. What a time to be alive.
There's only one downfall: your bank account. The outgoings are a constant stream of Christmas gifts, Christmas lunches, drinks, catering, recovery coffees, and general festivity provisions; all marching their way out of your bank account with so much confidence. Living in denial might work for the first couple of weeks, but when you're midway through December and haven't started your Christmas shopping, there's still events to attend, and the Kris Kringle gifts seem to be multiplying, you may find yourself counting down the days 'til payday sooner than you'd hoped.
"You can't have fun on a budget"
Whoever said you can't have fun on a budget, clearly hasn't been successful with theirs. When you're trying to budget for fun it can be challenging, so we'll make it simple. Consider the costs that are going towards Christmas gifts and set yourself a budget for those, this will be in addition to your standard outgoings of rent, travel, bills and so on. You might have varying budgets, depending whether it's your, say, Mother, versus a distant cousin's newborn baby (hey, you need to cut costs somewhere). You can do another budget dedicated to general festive season outings, which can be helpful as we can naturally be more generous and relaxed with our spending around this time.
One of the easiest ways to sticking to your budget is by keeping track of your spending. There are plenty of budget tracking apps out there, and Investopedia has done a good summary of personal finance apps depending on your purpose. Alternatively, check out which budget tracking apps are rated the highest in your app store and give it a go.
Partying like it's 1999
With parties come outfits. And Christmas outfits rapidly become a big deal. There's just something about the festive season that elevates the dress code from smart casual to black tie. Try to borrow something rather than buying a new outfit that won't get another wear for 12 months. With all the Christmas events and gatherings, even work events that you may take a taxi home from, it can all add up. When tracking your spending you may need to cut back on other regular but not essential costs or luxuries to ensure the real festivities are enjoyable, and not just adding pressure on your bank account.
If you're hosting a Christmas party of your own, setting a budget with a buffer for emergencies goes a long way. Ideally, it'll prevent you from getting too carried away. There's decorating, then there's mounting Santa clause, a sleigh and eight reindeer onto your roof. So, make sure you know your limits. You could borrow sets of glasses or plates from friends, family or even hire them, because chances are you won't need 50 wine glasses every weekend next year.
This one's on me!
We get it. Christmas is exciting. But as much as your generosity may not have a limit, your credit card sure does. Consider the number of Christmas lunches, dinners or drinks you'll be attending. Some you may have prepaid for (resented it at the time, loving it come December), some may be covered by your company, and others touch and go on arrival. Don't be afraid to suss out the menu and check the costs of food and drinks in advance. Many affordable meals can skyrocket in price when it turns out the wine you've been drinking was second from the top not second from the bottom. Pick your moments and enjoy yourself. If you're playing host, delegate like it's your job and the evening is sure to be a lot less stressed, on your mind and pocket. Your budget is important to stick to and your friends or family wouldn't want you to feel strained on their behalf.
The festive season is filled with temptations and expenses every way you turn, but with a budget in place it can help you draw the line somewhere, and relish in the festivities. You could also change the limit on your credit card or consider a low rate credit card, such as our Latitude Low Rate Mastercard, now even better since we lowered the interest rate from 15.49% p.a. to 11.99% p.a. and added some complimentary insurance benefits. This way, you'll hopefully have something to play with come January, even if your plans only involve lying on a beach!