Sticking to a budget is hard enough, but it can feel pretty close to impossible during the holidays, especially so if you happen to be Filipino. Face it, we feel especially embarrassed, ashamed even, if someone presents us with a gift and we don’t have anything to give them in return, so a lot of us end up buying gifts for everyone, just to be on the safe side.
Still, I read somewhere that breaking down a goal into smaller, more specific steps often helps. So, rather than blindly trying to “create a budget and stick to it,” let’s examine what this endeavor entails exactly:
1. Start saving up for Christmas early.
Don’t wait until the “ber” months to build up your gift-giving fund. You can actually start as early as January (that’s right after Christmas, I know, but bear with me here).
Once you figure out how much you are willing to spend for everyone’s presents, divide that amount by 12, and then set aside the quotient every month. The earlier you start, the less money you’ll need to squirrel away during every payday.
2. Shop for gifts early.
I know of someone who does all of her holiday shopping in October. Considering how the Philippine Christmas season starts as early as September 1, that’s not too unusual, and is quite smart, in fact.
Buying presents before the end of November not only gives you more time to canvas for the best prices, but it also allows you to do so without the mad rush and pressure that comes with cramming. The latter, by the way, also makes you more susceptible to impulse purchases, making it harder to stick to your budget.
As a bonus, big sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday also help you save money on presents and may even result in you having a little more extra cash during the holidays.
3. As much as possible, pay for everything in cash.
Credit cards are great for online shopping, but unless you carefully track everything you’ve charged to your card, spending more than you intended becomes far too easy. Furthermore, you’re more likely to go into debt because credit cards can create the illusion that you’ve got more cash to burn. (Come on, how else are you going to pay for that credit card bill in a few months?)
Using cash to pay for things on the other hand, can be less convenient, but it gives you a real-time update on your actual balance. Seeing how exactly much money you’ve been shelling out can be quite sobering as well, so this compels you to think twice before ringing up your purchases.
And the best part is, you aren’t ambushed with any heart attack-inducing bills after the holidays!
4. Include a few extra gifts into your budget.
Make sure they’re generic, gender-neutral, and appropriate for all ages. Stocking your arsenal with a couple of spare presents is a precaution in case you may have forgotten to get someone something, sparing you from having to scramble and spend more money at the last minute.
5. Make allowances for shipping charges.
Ah, the wonders of online shopping. With just a few clicks, you can pretty much tick off your entire gift-giving list in seconds.
However, do bear in mind that some retailing websites may charge additional fees for shipping, especially if you live in the province. These sneaky little buggers can sometimes be as high as Php200 or even Php500, depending on how far your location is from Manila, so try to come up with a total that’s a few hundred bucks less than your actual budget just to hedge against freight charges.
6. Buy a little something for yourself too.
Provided that you have a little leftover after you’ve bought up everyone’s presents, of course. Consider it something of a special treat as well as motivation for keeping to your allocated funds.
Overspending might feel like an inevitability at Christmas, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re really short on cash and can’t really afford to splurge this season, why not try exploring other ways to give?
For instance, you can perhaps take time to help your parents with their errands, lend your ear and counsel to a friend who’s desperately in need of it, or even volunteer to help out at an animal shelter or a church feeding program. None of these things cost a single centavo, yet they can still speak volumes about one’s generosity, don’t you think?