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16 Ways to Celebrate a Budget Christmas

16 Ways to Celebrate a Budget Christmas

Decorations

1. Decorate with what is meaningful to you

When you think about the real meaning behind Christmas decorations, they are used to add a festive touch according to your tastes and based on what the holiday means for you. Whether you believe in the religious roots of Christmas, or just like the magic of the whole season, pick your decorations to express that, without feeling pressure for more. You can’t compete with Martha Stewart or the big shopping malls, but you can choose what is displayed at your home. Below are some easy ways:

(i) Pick children’s favorite ornaments or toys to add to the tree or hang in their rooms

(ii) Make simple handmade tree trimmings

(iii) Choose a string of lights

If your budget Christmas has minimal or no allowance for decorations, choose a string of lights only. They will instantly make any room look Christmas-y

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(iv) Use Fresh greenery you find while walking out in nature or garden

2. Set the right atmosphere

Christmas is one of the most atmospheric times, when memories are recalled, scents encourage thoughts, and there’s a feeling in the air that makes everything seems possible. To make sure you will have a beautiful celebration at home, set the right atmosphere, by including warm and festive smells, cozy corners and of course the right tunes. You can do these:

(i) Play a CD or YouTube videos

(ii) Take out cozy blankets

(iii) Put a few spices and fruit simmering on the stove

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Activities

3. Plan family activities ahead

Include board games or classic group activities during and/or after the Christmas meal, to have something to look forward to and shift the focus from the food or the gifts. No one remembers how many side dishes they had last year, but memories from funny times and inside jokes created over board games are more likely to stay forever. Start brainstorming ideas beforehand and ask for everyone’s opinion on what they’d like to do. This also teaches your kids that family time needs planning too, same as presents and food. If you’re not really fond of games, looking at family photo albums would be lovely and fun too.

4. Cook together as a family

What you are serving on your table doesn’t matter if everyone is grumpy and disappointed or rushing to get to a party afterwards. A happy meal is made of happy sharing. To encourage more interaction and fun in your family, try to involve everyone with the food preparations. Even toddlers can help wash vegetables or cut cheese. Having everyone work as a team will ensure a fun time; just remember to ignore the mess and be more open to things not being done your way. In the end, all of you will appreciate the labor of love sitting on the table and might even linger a bit more sitting around and talking to each other, instead of heading for the phone or TV.

5. Stretch the joy in the whole season

Being on a budget sometimes means less things to look forward to, compared to old times. This can lead to a moody feeling. To avoid this, spread out the little things on different days leading to Christmas and leave some for after. There’s no reason why you can’t watch a movie every single day of December instead of doing a marathon night or why you can’t have a festive brunch on other days besides Christmas morning. You can also write everything on a calendar or put it on your advent, so each member of the family can look forward to some fun. Focusing on a couple of activities you enjoy most will create meaningful memories for your children.

Gatherings and social interaction

6. Create your own traditions

Traveling to celebrate with family and friends equals great holidays, but sometimes the high cost of flights, the bad weather and the full houses you visit aren’t worth it. If you are used to visiting your big families every year, stay at home this Christmas for a change. You might even like this more, but you have to try it. Prepare your children, if they have been looking forward to meeting their cousins all year long, by telling them you will be on a different adventure this year. Mention things like discovering your town, visiting different festive events and celebrating your own magical way at home. If you think about it, you’ve been leaving home every year, to be part of big loud tables, when you don’t always have the opportunity to spend productive time with those you care about most, or avoid relatives you don’t get along with. When you celebrate with a big crowd, you are often following others’ traditions and way of doing Christmas. Why not sit down and think how you really want to spend this holiday? Write a few thoughts and ask everyone in the family for one thing they’d like to do. Limit it to one thing or you’ll create unwanted stress. Be sure to balance quiet time with some fun and eventually create your own version of Christmas. If you like it, next year you can start inviting people over to your house, or go back to traveling if you realize that’s what your ideal Christmas looks like.

7. Show people your way of doing Christmas

Don’t sit there stressing about what others might think of you, especially if it’s the first time you’re doing a budget Christmas. Instead, make the first move and let them know about your decision to celebrate differently this year and tell them what to expect. You might even make them want to adopt your way or join you for some of the new activities. By letting people know your intentions, you will have fewer of them judge you or express disappointment later. Learning to say no to anything that doesn’t align with your intentions is one of the most common pieces of advice that experts give for having a stress-free holiday season.

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Food

8. Use all you have in your pantry

Doing a budget Christmas is a great opportunity to take out every food item from your fridge and cupboards. Make a rule of buying no food unless you have used everything you already have at home. Plan your meals around them and incorporate some in the festive meal too. You might come up with interesting combinations and new flavors.

9. Serve finger food

If you are having guests over, serve meatless dishes and a lot of appetizer-style ones. Small bites and finger food are child-friendly, too. Anything that can be served cold or at room temperature will cut your time.

10. Put a theme on it

To add interest to a simple celebration with minimal spending, put a theme on it and pay attention to adding a couple of details. Everything will look more exciting if it’s part of the “Christmas at the English pub” or “Beach-cottage Christmas”. Pasta, pie, sparkling water with lemon, or wine with sliced apples will never look more fancy than on your thematic gathering. A Subtle Revelry magazine founder and book author Victoria Hudgins is a big advocate of making everyday food festive with a few details added. Here are a few ideas to get inspired.

11. Same food, different way

You can totally cook your usual dishes for Christmas, with a slight variation in presentation. If you normally cut your roasted veggies in big chunks, cube them or slice them diagonally this time. You won’t believe what a difference such small trick makes. Make sure there are two or more colors in there for visual interest. On the same note, slice the meat thinly if you normally serve it whole.

Gifts

12. Teach children the joy of giving

A sudden Christmas without presents for a child used to getting 10 wrapped packages under the tree will be disappointing and dramatic. Instead of making drastic changes, slowly introduce new traditions to your children, while dropping old ones you don’t want to continue. Assign one person for each child and help them make or buy a gift for them. It can be a relative, a senior, or a struggling neighbor, but it is more real and encouraging when the child knows that person. The joy in their eyes when unwrapping presents under the Christmas tree might be less with fewer gifts. However, your children will get to know a deeper and longer-lasting joy, that of giving and sharing, which often wins over the joy of getting. The younger they are when you introduce this tradition, the easier it will be for you to establish more meaningful and non-materialistic Christmas celebrations. Joy Cho has been doing this with her three-year-old daughter since she was born.

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13. Re-gifting done right

If you haven’t already, start to embrace re-gifting right now. Even experts give it a thumbs up, as long as it’s done right. Ditch the guilt and the social embarrassment fear by following these simple tips:

  • Make sure you know who gave the item to you
  • Don’t re-gift it to someone related to the person who gave it to you
  • The item should be new and functioning
  • The person who will get it will love it and use it

14. Spend your time instead of money

Don’t spend a dime on wrapping paper or gift tags, fancy bottled beverages or anything you can make yourself easily. If you really want to commit to spending less this year, consider every coin you can save and be ready to spend a little more time making things. Also, follow the rule of one present per person only. You’d be surprised, but studies have led to the conclusion that a second gift actually lowers the value of the whole experience. It’s actually called the “Presenter’s Paradox”.

Where to start

15. Make a bouncy budget

As with every other aspect of your life, there’s no reason not to make a budget for Christmas. To avoid feeling like a Scrooge about it, bounce your categories. Pay attention to each of them and choose where you want to spend more and where you wouldn’t mind cutting back. For example, after the initial equal division between all categories, feel free to bounce some money from the food category to the gifts one, if you don’t want your kids to get disappointed, while you enjoy making food from scratch. Alter whatever works for you and bounce everything according to your needs, so everyone is content even on a budget.

16. Be honest about it

If the whole Christmas-celebration thing still looks intimidating to you, follow none of the above tips. Simply be honest with yourself and go through the reasons you need to do a budget Christmas this year. Be it financial problems or just the need to establish a more simplified and meaningful life, tell everyone in your family why you are doing it and you can all speed up the process of getting where you want to be together. Experts like Leo Batuta always advice to dig through the reality of your current life, in order to be able to achieve the changes you want. Get started with these five questions.
If you manage to establish healthy habits, try to continue them after Christmas too. Especially with kids, consistency is the key to sticking with new behaviors.

Go on and enjoy Christmas your own way! Don’t stress too much about pleasing everyone or getting the best gifts. Only you know what is best for your family right now. After all, every single study agrees that it’s the experiences that make us happy on the long run, rather than material objects. Focus on spending time with those who matter for you, rather than anxiously waiting for a January full of debt to come.

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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