Are you ready for Christmas? It will be here in three weeks. Where are you in the myriad of things to do–shopping, packages to wrap and ship, food to
buy (not to mention prepare), places to go, and parties to attend. This festive time of the year can certainly test a mmitment to be frugal.
Let’s talk about being frugal. I remember when I was a child adults would talk about Christmas as if it were a joke, one that was not very funny. Someone would say something like “I’ve bought all of my gifts for this year, and I’m going to spend all of next year paying for them.” That kind of comment sucks all the enjoyment out of the moment, doesn’t it? Years later, I discovered they weren’t kidding. That’s just sad. I’m so glad that I discovered that by using frugal principles I can keep a sense of pleasure about what I do that lasts well beyond the season.
One of the major principles of frugal living is planning ahead. Like start planning now for next year.
I know some will say it’s way too early to start thinking about next year. After all, we’re still trying to make it through this one without losing our wits or devastating our finances. But really, what better time is there than now to evaluate your performance. While you have everything fresh in your mind—think. How is your plan (You do have one—right?) working for you?
Stay with me for a minute. This won’t take very long. Let’s look at the two most common challenges of the holiday season: budget and time.
How much did you budget for Christmas this year? Are you on track with it? Or, is it likely you’ll overspend? (Would it be more accurate to say that’s already happened?)
If you’ve over spent
Was your Christmas budget reasonable? When a person begins to set up a budget it can take time to develop something that is both reasonable and workable. Assuming you had a budget for this year…if you overspent, what happened? You’ll want to make adjustments so you can avoid going over budget again next year. To do that you need to know what went right this year so you’ll have something to build on. And it’s really important to understand what your weaknesses were: You don’t want a repeat next year…
Did you wait too long to do your shopping? Did you underestimate the cost of your gifts? Maybe you didn’t take the time to shop around for the best price? Those are all fairly easy fixes: Start earlier, preferably before the demands on your time become too heavy. Also, you could ask someone to shop for you. Because their emotional involvement will not equal yours, they will be less likely than you to waver if you give them your list and price criteria. Another alternative is to shop online. You can do this anytime and comparing prices is simplified. You can do it from your desk—no need to run from store to store. If you find the gifts you wish to buy are more expensive than you thought they would be, you can change your mind and buy different gifts. Whatever the reason, you can make a plan for next year that keeps you on budget.
Make a plan that seems reasonably actionable, and make adjustments that will give you your desired result—the pleasure of pleasing others—and keeps you in line with your overall financial strategy (budget).
During this season there is so much to do, and so little time to do it. (That’s not quite true: If Christmas is your social, entertainment and gift-giving highpoint of the year, you can make preparations for it a yearlong project.) I’ve written a couple articles about the subject of shopping online. Online shopping can save time and money. One article deals directly with shopping on Wal-Mart’s site. The other article is about shopping online with Amazon. I’ve done both and found them to be reasonably successful.
Wal-Mart’s service is very convenient for grocery shopping. From your computer or other device go to walmart.com and place your order. You can do this from anywhere—work, home, anywhere. A store employee does the work for you, and you will be notified you your groceries are ready for pick up by your choice of text or email. If you wish, a Wal-Mart employee will even bring your groceries to your car and load them for you. Check out my article shopping online with Wal-Mart for details.
Think about this
If you were to place your order from work, you could pick it on your way home. Remember they’ll shop, bring your groceries to the car and load them. Would that save you some time?
Who hasn’t heard of Amazon? One nice aspect of Amazon is they work extra diligently to protect their reputation. I’m not going to say they are perfect, but they have an awesome track record. There is plenty of testimony on the internet about Amazon as the king of online shopping sites.
You can go to the Amazon site and order 24/7. Make a purchase and they will tell you when it will be delivered. (When you pay with a credit card, pay it off immediately. Don’t carry debt.)
If you have a Prime account you can get free two-day shipping on many orders. Shipping is the expensive part of online shopping. Compare free shipping to what you’ll spend on the standard cost and you’ll see that you can save quite a bit of money with a Prime account. (Of course, that hold true only if you place a significant number of orders because you do have to pay to have a Prime account.)
If you have a good idea as to what you’ll want to (1) buy and (2) spend, you could do comparison shopping on Amazon and start buying next year’s Christmas gifts today. (You could…but it’s possible that some of the people you’d like to buy for haven’t made their preferences known for this year—even at this late date.) You might have to “wing it.” If that’s the case, you’ll be glad to know that Amazon has a decent return policy: If you (you???) don’t like something you purchased, most items can be returned. Check out the return policy at Amazon.com
Christmastime can be difficult because of the demands on our money and time. That’s a given, but we can manage how we spend those commodities. We can have a reasonable budget and a good shopping strategy. Online shopping can figure significantly in that strategy.