'Ber' months are here: Are you ready for holiday spending?

Posted at 09/01/14 11:45 AM

MANILA, Philippines - It’s September 1 – and the 'ber' months are here, ushering in what many call the longest Christmas celebration and presumably, the longest holiday shopping season as well.

Let’s face it, Christmas is usually the time when we overshoot our budgets as we get carried away in the spirit of good cheer. It doesn’t help that it is towards Christmas when the 13th month and Christmas bonuses are usually paid.

This is the time when parties and get-togethers are held in succession, each one attended by long lost friends and relatives who would appear with gifts, and who you want to give a present to. To add to the festivities, you add a few more dishes to your noche buena fare. Suddenly, you get visited by long-lost inaanaks (godchildren), messengers from various utility companies and credit card firms, and representatives of assorted charitable organizations, each one asking for aginaldo (Christmas gift).

With the holidays still some three months away, the good news is that you have ample time to plan your finances so that you can celebrate the holidays the way you want to. With proper planning, you can celebrate Christmas without breaking the bank.

Here are seven tips on how you can maximize your holiday spending:

Set your Christmas shopping budget.

How much can you allocate for your Christmas spending? This should be based on your finances. It may not be wise to finish up your entire 13th month pay on Christmas spending alone. Look at your past holiday spending and check this against your current budget so that you can come up with a figure that you can be comfortable with.

Make your Christmas expense list – and check it twice!

Include everything that you expect to spend on in this list – gifts for family, friends, your kids’ teachers, exchange gift items, etc.; Christmas bonuses for your household staff; Christmas Day and New Year meals; décor; travel costs; etc. You may want to differentiate between priority and non priority items. Also set a budget ceiling for each category of expenses.

Write down your gift list.

This is a good time to think of who you really want to give gifts to, and what you want to give them. Don’t feel pressured to give everyone. Consider giving gifts to groups of people – per family instead of per person. For your officemates, a collective gift may suffice. Don’t limit your gift choices to expensive gifts that come in a box.

Draw up your spending schedule.

Using your Christmas expense list as a guide, draw up a plan on when you would spend on the various items on your expense list. This way, you can spread out your expenses over a longer period so that you do not have to fork out money in one fell swoop.

Make bookings for your parties.

If you usually hold large parties or reunions, find a place now, while there is time to look for an appropriate one. If you plan to hold these reunions in a relative’s house, inform the family in advance so that they could book the date. If you prefer to hold your party in a public place, canvas while there is time and make your reservations early. Otherwise, only the expensive choices may be left.

Check out the sales and bazaars for gifts.

Take advantage of the sales approaching the end of the year to get gifts and other items that are still priced low. Bazaars also yield very inexpensive finds. Make sure you have your gift list with you when you go to shop.

Take advantage of credit card promotions and freebies.

Many promotions, running from zero percent interest to deferred payment schemes, are offered during the holiday season. Use these judiciously so that you do not go overboard with your spending, while allowing yourself to enjoy the flexibility that the promotions offer. The last thing you’d like to happen is to go into debt this Christmas.

In all these, try to be creative. Don’t think you need to get expensive presents or stage lavish parties. People can also be very touched with other meaningful gestures like helping them with their chores or just taking time to call them. Instead of grand Christmas parties, organize a visit to a charity like an orphanage or a hospice. This will be a more meaningful way to celebrate the spirit of Christmas.