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How Not To Overspend On Your Christmas Shopping

How Not To Overspend On Your Christmas Shopping
Christmas shopping

    Christmas – it’s the lovely time of the year again; the time for giving and sharing of gifts with family and friends. As much as we want to celebrate and be jolly during this festive season, we want to make sure that we are careful about spending so that we don’t spoil the festive mood.

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    From past years’ experiences, my challenge with Christmas shopping has always been overspending. Retailers are really good at running promotions and coming up with the latest gift ideas to entice shoppers to spend more money than I really want to. Once at the shopping mall, I’m just constantly bombarded with opportunities to buy, buy, buy… Without realizing it, multiple small purchases accumulated into big amounts which gave me a big shock when the credit card bill came later.

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    This year, I’m going to be prepared for my Christmas shopping by have a shopping list and budget before I head down to the mall.

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    Here are some tips to prevent overspending and bursting your pockets this Christmas:

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    1. Have a list – List the people who you are going to buy a Christmas gift for. This is a good place to start as the exercise will help you see the ‘magnitude’ of the shopping you need to do. Here are some of the people who you will probably include in this list:
      • Family.
      • Close friends.
      • Colleagues.
      • Gift exchanges for Christmas parties.
    2. Think of a gift – For each person in the list, think of a suitable gift that you will like to buy for him/her. If you are not very sure at this point, have a few potential items listed so that you at least have something in mind when you are in the mall.
    3. Start a budget – For each gift, estimate how much you would spend on that gift. Total the prices for all the gifts you have listed and that’ll be your budget. If you have a few possible items listed for one person, use the price of the most expensive item to calculating the budget. You want to make sure you are prepared for the worst case scenario. Take a look at the total. Is this budget affordable? If not, you may have to review step 2 and 3 until you have a final budget that you are comfortable with.
    4. Do online research – A good way to check if your budget is realistic is to do some online research before you actually head down to the mall. Not only is this a good way to gather gift ideas and market rates, it also saves you time and energy you would waste going to the crowded mall simply for research purpose. Here are some great sites to start you off:
      • Amazon.com – the grandfather of online shopping for books, electronics, CD/DVD for music and movies. Now, it even includes apparel, jewelry, tools and sports gears.
      • Ikea.com – I get great ideas for cheap home furnishing gifts here.
      • Overstock.com – Covers a wide range of gift ideas, and offers gifts by budget ranges from under $25 to above $100 (only US shipping destinations).
      • Bizrate.com – Great site for price research as it aggregates catalogues from many online retailers into one site. When making actual online purchase, you will be redirected to the online retailer’s site.
    5. Do your shopping – Here’s where the real action starts. Get down to the shopping mall or go to online stores to do your shopping. Retailers like to run promotions during the Christmas season to encourage consumer spending. At the malls, be prepared to be tempted by irresistible offers and promotions. Having the shopping list and budget in hand will certainly help you stay focused. You are less likely to get distracted into opportunistic shopping which will result in you bursting your pockets.
    6. Review actual spending against budget – For each actual purchase that you make, update your budget with the actual money spent. If you have burst your budget on some items, then you’ll have to lower the spending on other items to make up for the differences. Likewise, if you make some savings on certain items, then you’ll have more slack to play with on other items. Keep doing this for the entire shopping list and you will be able to constantly track your actual spending against your budget. This is vitally important to help you keep within your shopping budget.

    I have included a sample budget in Excel to get you started on budgeting for your Christmas shopping. You can download Christmas shopping budget template here.

    It does take some upfront efforts to plan your Christmas shopping. However, the effort will allow you to shop with focus and saves you time and money later on. With the above tips, I hope you will enjoy a guilt and worry free holiday. There will not be any nasty surprises when the January bill comes in as you know very well how much you have spent. Have a joyous and enjoyable shopping experience!

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    Lawrence Cheok

    Lawrence writes about living a balance life and provide tips for improving your career.

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
    Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

    1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
    2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
    3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
    4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
    5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
    6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
    7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
    8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
    9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
    10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
    11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
    12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
    13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
    14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
    15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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