In the run-up to Christmas, there’s a lot of preparations to make: decorating your home, baking cookies and – some would argue, most importantly – buying presents. To make sure your Christmas will indeed be merry, here are some tips to get through the holidays without ruining yourself.

1. Listen to your voice of reason, a.k.a. your budget.

Shopping for your loved ones can be fun – until your bank statement arrives. To avoid unwanted surprises, it’s useful to set up a budget before you hit the mall, detailing exactly how much you can afford to spend on gifts, decorations, etc. This way, you won’t start the New Year with a financial headache.

2. Hands off the plastic.

Shopping before the holidays can be a stressful, aggravating, even downright traumatic experience. In the heat of the moment, most of us rely on our credit card to pay for our purchases. But beware: using your Visa & Co. can make you lose sight of the amounts you’re spending. Instead, try paying with cash as much as possible. Research indicates that a cash-only diet reduces the time lag between payment and consumption and makes you more aware of your expenses.

3. Watch out for drip pricing.   

Retailers often charge extra for certain services such as delivery, payment by credit card, etc. This is especially true when shopping online. The so-called drip pricing distorts the actual price of your purchase and makes it difficult to compare offers from different stores. So watch out for the drips or you’ll be left high and dry!

4. Surprise your loved ones – by getting them a gift they actually want 

You might cry out in joy if somebody gave you the new Lego Star Wars Millennium Falcon, but that doesn’t mean that your stepmother will feel the same way. According to a recent study, people prefer getting something they asked for rather than a surprise gift. If you feel that this takes all the magic out of Christmas morning, you can always ask your family and friends to make a list of several items to choose from. This way, there’s still a bit of mystery but without the potential of disappointment.

5. I’ll do it my way 

This might slightly contradict the previous point, but making a gift with your own two hands can be very satisfying. The so-called IKEA effect, coined by behavioural economist Dan Ariely, explains how we value things more if we made them ourselves. Likewise, people tend to appreciate the thought and effort that went into handmade gifts. So get the glue and macaroni ready!

6. Time is the most precious gift

If you’re really strapped for cash this Christmas, you can always give away so-called IOUs (stands for “I owe you”). Donate a day of quality time to a friend for an activity of their choice or save a weekend in your calendar for cleaning out your grandparents’ rain gutters. You can also donate your time instead of money to a charity and do some volunteering. As an added benefit, research shows that spending time with loved ones or in a community boosts happiness – so it’s a win-win situation.

Hopefully, these tips will prove useful to you in the coming weeks.


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