The year has gone by and Christmas is here again. And so it’s the merry season of giving and sharing of gifts with family and friends. Christmas is indeed the season of giving as you buy lovely gifts for loved ones and yourself. In all the excitement, it’s easy to lose track especially if you’re not following a budget for all your expenses. As much as you want to celebrate and be jolly during this festive season, you also want to make sure you avoid that post-Christmas financial hangover.
Christmas shopping usually begins much earlier as you make plans for travel, what to purchase and so on. So it is necessary to take time to plan to ensure you spend your money wisely over the festive period.
1. Set a budget–and stick to it
It’s easy to get carried away buying presents, a Christmas tree, decorations and attending all the seasonal parties that are filling up your diary, but if you’re not careful you will have spent way beyond your means. The best thing to do is draw up a list of all the events you need to attend as well as a budget for all you need to buy-and stick to it. No cheating or you’ll only get into money troubles later! Make sure you have been realistic enough in your projections and prioritize between your ‘must-do’s’ and your ‘like- to’s’.
You will then need discipline to stick to your budget through-out the season. If you use a debit card it is easier to spend within your means since each time you spend, the money is instantly drawn directly from your bank account. Transactions on your Visa Debit card can be tracked on your card issuer’s web site or over the phone and your monthly account statement will provide full details of your purchases, including merchant name, location, date and amount. Keep track of your receipts and check them against your bank statement. It pays to be organized!
2. Give the gift of charity
Instead of excessively spending on each other this year, consider giving to those who may not have the means to put gifts under the tree this year. Get family and friends to agree to make a donation to charity which ultimately buys a gift for someone in need.
3. Bag the best deals online
Online shopping has got to be one of the best innovations to come a long for the savvy shopper. Instead of trawling the malls for gifts in the hectic pre-Christmas shopping season, you can leisurely browse through the best deals from the comfort of your own home or office. Coffee (and budget) in hand and with your card at the ready, you can compare prices across sites and get the best deal for that perfect gift. In fact, in a Visasurvey1, 70percent of people said that they shop online because it allows them to find and compare items easily. A lot of online shopping sites will also offer free shipping or home delivery to try and get the edge over their competitors, so take advantage.
But don’t forget to be safe online, look for secure websites that have an address that starts with http”s”for ‘secure’. You can also look for a padlock icon in the browser that means your payment information is protected. Some websites will also provide further protection with identity authentication services such as Verified by Visa which requires you to enter a password before you can make a purchase. All you need to do is register your Visa card with your card-issuing bank or during the check out process at a participating website, and then you’re good to go.
4. Book ahead
If you are one of those who’ll be travelling a distance to visit family and friends over the festive period, reserve your flight or bus ticket online with your Visa debit card or via mobile money payment option and collect your ticket just before departing. This not only means you have are served seat at a time that suits you and can enjoy a more comfortable journey, but it also means you can grab the best early-bird deals and stick to the all-important budget. As you are monitoring your account to make sure you are sticking to your budget, you should also watch out for any unauthorized transactions and report such to your bank immediately to stay protected.
5. Try ‘bring your own food and drink’ parties
If you are hosting a Christmas party, why don’t you get each family member or friend to bring their favorite dish or beverage? It gives a seasonal feeling of sharing to the occasion and creates a great deal of conversation when everyone unveils their dishes. What’s more, not only do you save time and money, but it also means that everyone has their favorite food to eat.
6. Shopping early has its benefits
Although it may seem stressful to start holiday shopping so early, in fact, it is quite the opposite. Getting a head start on your holiday shopping can help to ease the pressure of last-minute shopping, which can force you to make unwise decisions. It will also allow you plenty of time to find the right items at the right price. When the holidays start, you will have ample time to enjoy your family and the holiday season.
Another way to spend your Christmas together is to go out for the day-lots of places offer deals to encourage you to spend the day with them and if you are a Visa cardholder, there is usually a range of travel, shopping, dining and spa offers that you and your family may be able to enjoy. Check with your local bank on what deals your Visa card offers you to be a savvy spender rand really get the most out of your budget for the season.
Now the only thing left to do is relax in the knowledge that you are looking after your money and enjoy the festive celebrations. Merry Christmas!
by Victor Ndlovu, Country Manager for Kenya