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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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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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