This post is contributed by Jacquelyn Sarah Wong, the co-author of The Secrets to Writing an Ebook in Three Easy Steps.

Christmas is coming and I have yet to finish my shopping for presents and all things related to the festive occasion. With the current economic situation, shopping is certainly not a priority and the least important compared to the monthly bills to pay. In the previous years, I have been known to be frugal with my spending relating to the Christmas season. This year I have decided to be even more frugal out of necessity.

Why is this so, you may ask? Well, the prospect of a possibility of not getting any bonus or salary increment in the coming year brings out a natural instinct to preserve and to protect whatever savings or money available in-hand. In addition, it correlates with the general subdued atmosphere projected by the general public as somehow the gloomy economic situation has affected each and everyone, one way or another.

Generally, monthly expenditure seems tough enough to control but when it comes to having celebrations like Christmas, there is a need to exert even more effort to control the purse-string. One must also have the foresight to anticipate future expenses like the coming Chinese New Year celebration next month coupled with the start of the new school year.

With that in mind, I decided to plan my budget more stringently while trying not to appear too stingy. The first thing to do is to create a list of tasks to be completed. Top of the list is to warn my two school-going children (ages 7 and 9) that each person will get to spend RM50 only for their Christmas presents. A few years ago, I started this habit of informing them beforehand on the available budget allocated for buying presents. Luckily they are used to it by now and I do the same thing during their birthdays. This year, the eldest son used his birthday money of RM100 to buy a RM50 cake and the balance on a simple toy for himself.

Next on the Christmas list is to decide on what to get for the relatives and cousins this year. Since the general priority is in making all the children happy, I decided to focus on what to give them, nothing expensive, just simple and fun. Forget the adults, if their kids are happy then I am sure the parents are happy as well. My budget is RM100 to get something for about 30 children. I decided to make a ‘goodies-bag’ for them. The goodies-bag shall contain balloons, lollipops, chocolates, candies, sweets and biscuits. The selections are done with the help of my two kids of course who are more than happy to help since they know they will receive one goodies-bag each later. Having completed this task recently, I am happy to say that I managed to keep within the budget.

Slightly below the list, I put down new apparels and shoes that are not a priority for me. Unless I meet with a very good bargain, I decided not to make any new purchases in this area. I am thankful that my kids are very understanding and do not nag me to buy them new clothes, shoes or expensive toys during Christmas.

What is a celebration without good food. Since Christmas is a time for families to get together and enjoy each others’ company, having good food is a must. Being on a tight budget, having a combination of home-prepared meals and catered food sounds quite reasonable to me. I am also thinking of suggesting a potluck lunch or dinner and this certainly will help to keep food cost down. For those averse to cooking, suggest to bring desserts like cakes or fruits that will add to the variety of food to be shared and enjoyed.

My simple budget for Christmas spending this year is summarized below:

Children’s presents : RM150 (for 3 kids)
Goodies bag : RM100
Presents for parents/spouse : RM200
Food & drinks : RM200
Unexpected expenses : RM200 (This covers spending for clothing or shoes and
other miscellaneous)
Total : RM850

Therefore all in all, I have to allocate about RM850 of my income this month for the Christmas celebration expenditure. I would expect to spend more without the planned budget above. In order not to get carried away, doing the math and seeing the numbers keeps me alert to the amount of money I am actually going to spend. Put in another way, it prevents me from kicking myself later on and having regrets for overspending unnecessarily.

My advice this Christmas is to have fun and enjoy being with your family members. The celebration does not have to be grand or expensive. You can make it simple and fun. Above all, be happy and grateful for the love and friendship found among family members and close friends. Enjoy your Christmas!

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