In the blink of an eye the 2018 calendar will be long gone. And, since it has been such a fast-paced year, it is understandable that you probably haven’t given Christmas, and its expenses, a single thought – but you should…

Carla Oberholzer, debt adviser at DebtSafe, says that NOW is the perfect time to get your proactivity and silly season’s financial aka ‘calculation’ plan going. If you wait too long, you may end up miserable and flat broke before you get the chance to sing: “It’s the season to be jolly…”

Carla recommends four proactive ways to prepare yourself financially for Christmas, as this will prevent you being caught off guard with certain expenses:

Get a grip on the financial ‘framework’ of your Christmas festivities

Know exactly what the holistic / overall picture is of what you are planning to do this coming festive season.

This involves the budget amount of what you have available, what the amount of savings is that you still need to add, what your travel costs entail (if necessary), what food you will need to buy and the celebration activities you are going to do – basically, what these costs are going to add up to. Draw a mind map, pin it down or set up an online list and sheet that is also accessible via your phone.

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It is always a jolly good idea to share food costs and recipes

This coming silly season should not be your SPENDING season. If you have decided where the Christmas dinner or party will take place, let everybody club in and pay a certain amount to cover the costs or let each person bring their own drinks, meat and a family favourite dish along. It is only fair since it is the season of giving after all.

Keep activities, gifts and decorations simple, yet fun and frugal this year

Activities – a thrifty activity is the best way to go. Consider priceless indoor and outdoor activities like a fun gift hunt with young and old.

When it comes to gifts – what about a personalised gift like a gingerbread cookie? Memories create value and don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Gingerbread Cookies recipe

Decorations – it’s always best to use what is available. Dust off the old, but memorable, Christmas tree decorations, or let the kids use existing items (such as ribbons and pine cones) to implement their arts and crafts skills.

DIY: 5 Budget Christmas decorations

Make sure to write / note down a ‘next-year-improvement’ list

Perhaps you have already noticed some of the financially draining commitments you are stuck with this Christmas and don’t want to repeat again next year. Things like: travelling too far from home (that gulps your budget AND energy), over-promising on gifts or playing host with the lack of financial help from family members or friends.

Start a ‘next-year-improvement’ list and complete it as soon as Christmas is done and dusted. This will allow you to acknowledge a few financial missteps that you underwent during the 2018 festive season and aim to avoid in 2019.

Christmas is a time to take a breather, a time to be content with your financial situation, and a time to spend time with those you love most. It is therefore important to plan and prep ahead for the upcoming festivities to ensure that you stay within budget and not allow your debt to escalate.

Don’t delay and start being proactive right away to make sure you can enjoy a financially stress-free Christmas this 2018 as well as many future Christmases to come.