If you are one of those people who, like me, have just realized how near Christmas is, then you are feeling the sudden urgency of needing to get organised and with only 24 shopping days left until Christmas, we really need to get to it.

So here are my 6 steps to a financially successful Christmas:

1. Do a budget – sorry about the ‘b’ word but if you want to come out on top this Christmas, this really is necessary.
If you have been organised and have a Christmas account or envelope with your Christmas savings ready to go – then you know what your budget is by how much you have saved but if not write down what income you are expecting from now until the end of December and what house hold expenses you have – bills , food, petrol etc Whatever is left – that’s the budget – No matter how small.

2. Decide what that budget needs to cover. Extra food/ drinks for entertaining, gifts, petrol for visiting friends and family, giving to those in need. Whatever you like to do at Christmas . Write it down and put an expected cost next to each item

3. Now match the two together – income less expense. if you have money left over, fantastic. If the two match – great. If the expected expenses exceed the income then you’ve got work to do. (See step 4)

4. Get creative – if money is tight why not consider just putting on a special meal, or BBQ for all those you’d love to buy for. You can reduce the cost further by getting everyone to ‘ bring a plate’ that way you can say happy Christmas to them all at once and put on a treasure hunt for the kids and they can go “hunting” for lollies or make a piƱata for them to enjoy.
Get ‘crafty’ and make your gifts – if you can sew, things like cushions make great gifts.
Home made jams and vinegars are wonderful gifts to give if you are talented in that way and little gift boxes of chocolate yummy things are always well received.
Email everyone a Christmas letter instead of sending Christmas cards – I receive quite a few from overseas and interstate friends and family every year and I love reading what’s been happening in their lives over the last twelve months. Writing a letter may seem like hard work but you can fill it out with pictures and you really only have to do it once and then send it out many times.
So there’ s just a few ideas to get you thinking . you may be able to get more from ‘Pinterest’ – a great, visual, idea inspiring social media site where you can pick up some fantastic ideas.

5. Be happy with your decision- if you really are doing it tough then explain that to your family and friends. If they are people who love and support you they will be fine with it as long as it doesn’t happen every Christmas. If it does then you need to get your finances in order – I know a great company www.coachchris.com.au !!!!!

6. Reflect – if you are happy to do this every year then pull out the 6 step plan next November but if you felt a little squashed go back to step 2 and see what you would have liked to have spent. Divide that figure by 12 and set up a monthly direct debit into a Christmas account so that by the time next year happens you’ll be ready.

So there you have it – Whatever you do, enjoy the time you have with your loved ones. The time together is for making memories and no amount of money can buy the best of those.

Let me know how you go. I’d love to hear your stories.