We are all just a couple of bad decisions away from disaster at any moment, but the odds seem to unfairly increase over Christmas. Juggling bills plus Christmas expenses, dealing with the mental and emotional stress that comes hand in hand with quality family time and making good choices that don't set you back as the new year approaches. As they say, failing to plan is a plan to fail so make yourself a cup of something strong and start writing some lists.
1. Prioritise rent payments early
Rent happens every month, all year round and getting behind in December due to poor financial planning will be really frustrating as you spend January, February, March and possibly beyond trying to catch up. If it's feasible, why not pay a little extra towards your rent in the months leading up to December to get some credit into your account?
Some tenants choose to round their rent figure up to the nearest thousand and bank the difference. It doesn't hurt to develop a habit of paying 'more' rent psychologically and putting it away in a savings account. Not only does it mean you never get caught out not being able to cover it, but you also practice good habits for when you decide to buy your own property.
Prioritising paying your rent above the once off expenses that come with Christmas, will ensure that it gets paid before other non-essentials like fancy hams and too many cocktails.
2. Write a budget and stick to it
This is a tip for everyday life but it's especially useful at Christmas. Write and maintain a budget that includes all of your possible expenses - from rent, to utilities, to groceries, to parking fees and all the socialising in between. Throughout the year there will always be additional expenses - you might take some unexpected trips, decide to upgrade the fridge, or have pesky new health expenses like new glasses or a new knee!
Christmas should also be considered an additional expense that you budget for throughout the year, put money aside for, and are then able to manage in a productive and stress-free way when the time comes. Don't just budget for 'Christmas' either - break up the expenses into groups, such as presents, lunch and dinner costs, social functions (oh the endless stream of Christmas parties), holiday, clothes, and so on.
Knowing how much you have to spend gives you surprising freedom - more so than blindly handing over a credit card and knowing you'll be dealing with the aftermath for most of next year.
3. Decorate responsibly
The sparkle of Christmas lights can be the undoing of even the best of us. No lease states that tenants must not get into the festive spirit, however there are precautions to be taken with regard to hanging decorations, caring for a fresh tree and installing elaborate (and yes - incredible) Christmas light displays.
Reacquaint yourself with the distinction between 'wear and tear' and 'damage' and make choices accordingly. Getting permission to hang pictures does not necessarily apply to randomly nailing decorations all over the house. Painting the front of your house green with red stripes will also become an issue on the condition report and you may not exactly get your bond released when you move out. Which might be sooner than you think if you paint an entire house with Christmas themed stripes.
Simple choices will make all the difference: put some protection over the carpet and under the tree to avoid stains from water and pine needles; choose solar powered lights over endless strings of DC powered voltage; fix decorations to walls with removable stick-on utility hooks; and remember that glitter will remain on every surface, everywhere, until the end of time. Say no to glitter.
4. Consider the risks of hosting
We all deal with the question at some point and deciding to host Christmas at your place comes with mixed blessings. If you're in a rental property however there's an extra layer of challenges to deal with - because it's not your house! Visitors are an everyday occurrence of course, but Christmas is a whole different ball game.
5. Safety first while you're away
Taking off on a holiday is always exciting but coming back to a house torn apart by thieves is the opposite. If you're heading away for an extended block of time, put a few simple measures in place before you leave to make sure there are signs of life. Get a neighbour, or a close friend or relative to pop over once or twice a week and potter about a bit on your behalf. They could open or close the curtains and blinds, turn some lights on or off, empty the bins and the mailbox and put the TV on as they leave to make it sound like someone is home! If you're away for more than a few weeks, it might be worth getting a gardener to drop by and tidy things up - overgrown lawns and weedy yards are a dead giveaway that nobody's home and won't be for a while.
This has been said countless times before, but don't leave a spare key out anywhere, for anyone, under any circumstances. If someone intends to access or use the property while you're away, organize a spare to be given to them. It's guaranteed that whatever nifty, nobody-will-ever-find-it secret place you have, is not good enough. Most importantly though, stay safe, stay well and congratulate yourself on all you have achieved and navigated in 2020. It's been quite a ride. A very merry Christmas to you and the people you love, from all the team at First National Real Estate.