Bonolo Mokua

Christmas on a budget? Tips to set financial boundaries this festive season

Values & Money , Planning , Budgeting , Festive season , Spending , Family

'Tis the season for overspending and wrecking your credit… but it doesn’t have to be. Even with rising food costs and higher living expenses, you can plan your spending this ‘silly season’.

The year is slowly coming to an end and we are just weeks away from packing our bags and traveling across the country. For many of us, December is about being home with family and stuffing our faces until our tummies ache; from roast lamb and gammon, to delicious salmon, to tasty salads, to homemade trifle and the best cheesecakes, we sure are in for a treat – but can you afford it?

Many of us have faced financial hardships these past 12 months from numerous interest rate hikes, fuel price increases and rising costs in food, so we might have to settle for grilled chicken instead of lamb this year. You might need to reconcile with the fact that December won’t be like all the other Christmases you’ve spent with your family.

So what does a realistic celebration look like for the upcoming holidays?

Here are some tips for setting financial boundaries during the Christmas season without putting excessive strain on your pocket:

Create a budget

We have spent all year keeping track of our spending and how to stay within budget to avoid debt. Don't let silly season derail your plans.

  • List your expenses: Make a list of all the potential Christmas-related expenses, including gifts, decorations, food, travel, and any other costs. Sit down with your family beforehand and ask how much each person is able to contribute towards the family Christmas lunch.

  • Set spending limits: Assign a specific amount to each category based on what you can comfortably afford. It’s easy to get wrapped up in creating Instagram-worthy moments, but remember it’s not worth getting into debt just to live up to unrealistic social media standards.

Prioritize spending

We all want to add a special touch to our Christmas celebrations and you might consider getting gifts, swapping the lamb chops for mutton, or simply setting up a Christmas tree so you can capture images to add to your family photobook:

  • Identify priorities: Determine which aspects of the holidays are most important to you and your family. Allocate a larger portion of your budget to these priorities.

Make a gift list

  • List recipients: Make a list of people you plan to buy gifts for. This could include family, friends, coworkers, and others. Remember that Christmas is about spending time with friends and family and gifts are secondary.

  • Set gift limits: Establish a spending limit for each person on your list. Consider creative and thoughtful gifts that may not be as expensive.

Consider alternatives

  • Homemade gifts: Think about making homemade gifts, which can often be more personal and cost-effective.

  • Secret Santa or gift exchanges: If you have a large group of friends or extended family, suggest a Secret Santa or gift exchange to reduce the number of gifts you need to buy.

Shop mindfully

  • Look for sales and discounts: Keep an eye out for sales, discounts, and promotions to stretch your budget further. But remember to stay within your budget.

Set clear expectations: We want to really celebrate

  • Communicate with others: Discuss financial boundaries with friends and family. Set expectations about gift-giving limits to avoid uncomfortable situations.

Get creative with your festive activities

  • Low-cost celebrations: Plan holiday activities that don't require significant spending, such as a potluck dinner, a movie night, or a festive games night.

Use cash or a debit card

  • Avoid credit card debt: If possible, use cash or a debit card to make your purchases. Avoid accumulating credit card debt during the holidays so that you aren't pressured to take out a loan when the new year comes around.

Review and adjust your budget

  • Regularly assessing your spending against your budget will help you stay on track with your spending. This will help you adjust as needed to stay on track.

The holiday season is about spending time with loved ones and creating meaningful memories, not about the amount of money you should spend. Setting financial boundaries allows you to enjoy the festivities without having to worry about how you will survive the post-festive blues.

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Bonolo Mokua

Bonolo is a multimedia journalist and content creator at Heartlines. She has experience in online and radio media production and helps spread the Heartlines message on multiple platforms.


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