Your 10-week plan to prepare for Christmas

Christmas is 10 weeks away, which gives you plenty of time to plan and budget. Photo: Ryan Mcvay

Christmas is 10 weeks away, which gives you plenty of time to plan and budget. Photo: Ryan Mcvay

The first mentions of Christmas are creeping into retail marketing, and for many Australians that signals unbridled spending and a January spent worrying how to pay-off the credit cards.

But try thinking about it this way: you now have 10 weeks to get your act together and make a plan to get through Christmas without creating a debt headache.

Costs: the goal should be to get through the holidays with cash, not debt, so start with a clear picture of your costs. You basically know what you have to spend so make a list and make it an honest one. Include the cost of throwing a Christmas Day party, emergency presents and even taxi travel to avoid drink-driving. Know what it will cost you.

Cash flow planning: Once you've allocated your income to basic overheads, how much each week can you allocate to Christmas spending? Cash flow planning is something that has gone out the window for many families because of easy credit. But planning for what happens to income every week or fortnight is a powerful way to take control of your finances, especially when it's for a finite project such as a ten-week plan.

Budget: if you know your Christmas costs and your cash-flow over the holiday period, you can budget for it. You can plan for buying gifts and party supplies on a weekly basis from cash income, without dipping into the credit cards. This is a popular way to do it, judging by how many Christmas-budgeting tools are on the internet: most of them are formatted Excel spread sheets, so anyone can run them on a computer, tablet or phone.

Smart buying: One of the benefits of making Christmas a 10-week plan is that you can do your buying early and save cash. For instance, right now the mid-season sales are on - some of the signs in the windows claim 50 per cent off, or two-for-one. By starting early you can also use internet-based retailers and get the lower prices by waiting for delivery. When you start early with gift-buying you have the time to find what you want and stick to the plan, not be forced into last-minute purchases that bust your budget.

Buying policy: planning for Christmas means you can set policies for gift-giving. It's practical to get your friends and family to agree to spend-limits on gifts this week - it's not practical to do it one week before Christmas Day. Spend-limits save everyone money and you'll rarely get push-back. Even if you do, you can articulate your own policy and stick with it.

Party planning: if you're the one who does Christmas Day hosting, you can get in early and allocate who brings what. It saves you money and lets others contribute.

The Christmas holiday period can be a time of financial pressure for many families, but it doesn't have to be. To relieve some of the burden, start early, know your costs, understand your cash-flow, and make a plan.

And stick to it.

Mark Bouris is the executive chairman of Yellow Brick Road.

The story Your 10-week plan to prepare for Christmas first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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