Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Christmas on a Budget

Published:Monday | December 15, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Enjoy the holidays with as little as $5,000

Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator

With only a week to go for the height of the festive season to hit, whether or not you are into this 'Christmas thing', deep down everyone wants to have a merry Christmas - no matter how shallow the pocket. The reality is, in this challenging economic time, budgets for everyday living are getting smaller and smaller as the cost of living skyrockets, making the Christmas budget shrink even more.

Well, no matter how small the budget, you can have a merry Christmas - it really is all about having a positive outlook, embracing the joyous spirit, thinking outside the box, getting creative, and being vigilant and practical in your approach.

The Gleaner and the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) will help you to have that 'Merry Christmas on a Budget' by sharing some creative ideas for budgets of $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 or $30,000, for a family of four.

Here are our tips, ideas, suggestions and advice. Let's hope that in spite of your limited funds, with our help, you will have a Christmas that will leave you and your family with a smile and a spirit of love and togetherness.

Note: For each budget level, it is recommended that the family enjoys at least one activity - such as a bonfire party, a bottle of wine or a night out at a free concert in the park. It would also be lovely to go to church and enforce the Christ in Christmas. But most of all, have a Merry Christmas.

CHRISTMAS ON A BUDGET - $5,000

Share the purchasing of protein (chicken or beef) with family.

Buy vegetables at the Coronation Market on Thursday night when the price is lowest.

Save transportation cost for the free concert or tree-lighting ceremony in the park (free night out).

Go to watchnight service with the family (free).

Save the leftovers for seasoned rice, chop suey and other one-pot meals after Christmas.

Make gifts for each other with things you can find at home.


CHRISTMAS ON A BUDGET - $10,000

Window shop with family or, if you have the space, have a bonfire in the backyard and chill.

Buy Christmas cards for family (one per family).

Buy or bake cakes as a gift (buy the mix and add some fruits).

Mix canned vegetables with fresh vegetables to allow it to 'stretch'.

Blend fruits with premix and great flavoured drinks (e.g., FreshStart Mango drink with a ripe banana).

Buy ham slices pre-packaged instead of an entire ham.

Save the leftovers for sandwiches and one-pot meals.


CHRISTMAS ON A BUDGET - $20,000

Have a potluck Christmas - decide which family member will host this year's family Christmas dinner party, and each family contribute to it.

Decide who will prepare what meal, and share at the location.

Splurge on a bottle of Chilean wine, now locally distributed.

Buy a gift that the entire family can use (e.g., a phone with features that can record the holiday activities).

Share digital cards and videos with extended family.

Skype instead of driving around or out to the country.


CHRISTMAS ON A BUDGET - $30,000

Have a pot-luck Christmas - decide which family member will host this year's family Christmas dinner party, and each family contribute to it.

Decide who will prepare what meal, and share at the location.

Give the children a single gift that they must share.

Give gifts that are practical (school bag, shoes, etc.).

Take a drive into the country and record your every stop.

Send and share with family here and abroad.

BE VIGILANT AND PREPARED

The Consumer Affairs Commission and The Gleaner are urging everyone to be safe, vigilant, practical and practise proper budgeting and good money management during the festive season.

Before you start shopping, prepare an itemised budget and stick to it. Remember, your wants and needs are two different things. Budget and put away money for the important things - such as bills, rent, school fees, loans, lunch money - and so on. The expenses, including January's, won't disappear just because it's Christmas.

Not because the tag says 'sale!' or 'bargain!' or '50 per cent off!', don't get caught up in the mad rush and purchase stuff that aren't important or that you don't really need. Don't purchase things that aren't essential.

Don't head out shopping with more than you plan to spend. You will be tempted to spend more than intended, and it really isn't wise to walk around with too much cash.

Be vigilant when you are shopping. Be on the lookout for scams, scam artists and thieves. It is also wise to shop around for the best prices before you are ready to actually make the purchase. That way, you will know where to go directly when you are ready. You can also ask about discounted prices.

These practices will also help you to avoid impulse buying, which is a sure way to overspend.

No matter what is going on around you or what your neighbour is doing, don't get caught up in the mad Christmas spirit by thinking you have to buy a whole bunch of new stuff or redo your entire house for the season. If you can't afford it and your housewares are in good condition, all you need to do is clean them. For instance: Take down the curtains and give them a wash; get a pan of water with detergent and a cloth and have the children wipe the dirt spots off the walls; get another pan with mild detergent in the water and a cloth and wipe the furniture and sofa set; add some dollies and throws to spruce up the house. Make it into a family do-it-yourself project, where everyone chips in to clean and renew the home.

CAC CHRISTMAS SHOPPING TIPS

Take advantage of discount stores for novelty items and funny gifts.

Be creative - it is time consuming, but less expensive.

Ensure that products purchased are of superior quality and that a warranty is supplied, in writing. Insist that the delivery date agreed on is adhered to, or seek redress immediately.

Be aware of offers of 'no down payment', 'no GCT', and other store promotions that require you to forfeit some rights in order to win or to be eligible for a free gift.

Be wary of store promotions where you are required to leave your receipt in a box. Your receipt is needed in the event that you have to prove ownership of the item if you later request an exchange, refund or repair of the item or service.

Here's to a blessed, holy, joyous Christmas from The Gleaner and the Consumer Affairs Commission.

anastasia.cunningham@gleanerjm.com; CAC: 906-5425, toll-free 1-888-991-4470