Jim Duffy comment: One man’s strategy to solve Christmas spending

A spending strategy is vital at Christmas. We focus on the presents budgets but forget the mince pies and mulled wine., says Duffy. Picture: contributed.
A spending strategy is vital at Christmas. We focus on the presents budgets but forget the mince pies and mulled wine., says Duffy. Picture: contributed.
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Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh…and so it goes on.

Jings, it’s nearly Christmas and, as someone told me the other day, the countdown is on. Less than 90 days to go. Certainly, we still have Halloween and Guy Fawkes to spend a few bob on, but the big one is just around the corner. What is your strategy for 25 December this year?

I always get caught out. Despite stating my clear intentions to have most, or all, of my pressies brought and wrapped by the end of November, I always have one or two that evade me. So, this year, I am determined to get it right with a few new additions to my Christmas toolkit.

The first new tactic is to set a strict limit on how much I am prepared to spend. I know we all have a good go at this one, but having been stung in the past with credit card bills hitting the mat in January, I want a stress-free New Year this time. To make this happen, I am dividing my Yuletide budget into two distinct buckets. One bucket will cover food, drinks and entertainment, while the other pot will purchase presents for my nearest and dearest. And this prevents the first mistake most of us seem to make each year.

We focus on the presents and gift budgets, but fail to take full cognisance of the mince pies and mulled wine. So, I’m pencilling in £300 for food and bevvy. This will cover pre Christmas tipples, Christmas Day food and drink and Boxing Day. I’ll watch all the Christmas adverts on TV and pick the best all-rounder for quality and value. I must admit, I feel that Aldi and Lidl will be tough contenders to beat this year. But, out of fairness to all the others, I will wait and see what they market to me and make my informed decision.

That’s one bucket filled. I’m already feeling pretty organised and disciplined. This new strategy could well pay off. However, the next part is definitely trickier. What price limit will I set for gifts?

The easier question to focus upon may be: how many people do I have to buy for? Then work out a mean average for each of them. But, I’m not going to get lost in that one. I’ll simply set a budget and go for it. So, drum roll please… my Christmas budget for 2018 is a whopping £500.

“Too low,” I hear many of you scream. “Not realistic,” shout others. “Cheapskate,” accuse the rest. Well, it’s all relative is it not? And as far as I can remember, the joy is in the giving and receiving, not how much daddy spends.

So, I’ve set the budget for both of my Yuletide spending buckets. But, I’d be an even bigger fool if I did not stick in a contingency line – just in case. So, I’ll go for a nice round ten per cent on top, which gives me a total Christmas budget of £880. And I have to stick to this. Too easy to round it up to a grand. But that £120 would do well in January, would it not?

The next step in my new survival guide is to be clear on how I intend to pay for the goods. Do I simply go to my piggy bank and raid it for the cash? This means my liquidity is out of kilter. But, I then have no debt and the holiday season is paid for, lock, stock and barrel.

Or, do I stick a fair chunk of it on my credit card and pay it off over two or three months? This will incur small interest payments, but allow me to build in Christmas to my budget over the next few months or so. I’m opting for the full monty. £880 out of my savings and just go for it. A bit like the stock market, I’m building in the sentiment now to cover off future risks.

Finally, where will I buy my presents? I’m a fan of Amazon, but is this a lazy man’s strategy? Should I support my local stores and get that warm, fuzzy feeling as they wrap my gifts and pop them in polybags ready to be stored in my wardrobe for the big day? Perhaps a blend of online and offline will work.

Job done. That was easy. Now my question is: do you have a strategy in place and if not, maybe now is the time to get planning…Ho ho ho.

- Jim Duffy MBE, Create Special.