For many of us, Christmas is our favourite time of the year filled with feasts, family get-togethers, BBQs with friends, holidays in the sun, and presents – bliss! Yet all this goodness can hit our wallets hard and leave us feeling financially hung over and stressed come the new year.
Before things get out of hand, there are some positive actions you can take now, to alleviate any problems down the track.
Here at Nectar, our budgeting professionals have put together an extensive list of ideas and disciplines you can adopt to ensure you’re ready to tackle the silly season with confidence and keep your bank balance intact.
Let’s take a look😊
1. Plan and save early.
Now when we say early, we’re talking January! We recommend setting up a weekly automatic transfer (e.g., $20) to a dedicated savings account. You’ll hardly notice it, but the gratification you’ll experience when it’s time to buy presents will be truly satisfying.
2. Christmas budget.
If you’ve already put money aside, you’ll know exactly how much you’ve got to spend – great work!
If you haven’t, now is the time to do some quick calculations. Take the total amount you earn each week and minus your outgoings. With that total, multiply it by the remaining number of weeks until Christmas – this is your Christmas budget. Divide your budget into three categories; events, gifts, and travel, and allocate an amount for each category.
For gifts, list the people you need to buy for and figure out what you want to spend. For travel, think about accommodation costs, petrol, and food costs. For events, work out what you’ll need to contribute – drinks, food, decorations, etc.
If the total cost is far more than you can afford, now is the time to make a few sacrifices.
3. Track your spending.
There is no use setting a budget plan if you don’t stick to it, so record your spending as you go. To help you make sensible purchasing decisions try asking yourself these three questions – do you really need it? Could you find it cheaper elsewhere? And why are you buying it?
4. Establish expectations early.
If you decide to cut down on spending this Christmas, it pays to establish expectations early with your family and children and explain why you’ve decided on this approach. A great way to cut down on your children’s gifts is instead of giving multiple gifts, just give three – one thing they want, one thing they need, and one experience to share with the family.
5. Don’t panic buy!
Don’t do your Christmas shopping in December. Spread the cost and start buying and stashing away presents early. Look out for sales and good lay-by offers. Get the kids to write their Christmas lists early and grab the gifts when they’re on sale.
6. Find the bargains.
This requires a little bit of research but will be worth it! Armed with your list of presents to buy, find out when the big sales are happening, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Look out for supermarkets’ non-perishable food specials and consider buying big items on Boxing Day – if you can bear the madness!
7. Online shopping.
The best way to compare before you buy is to shop online. Simply tap what you’re looking for into your search engine and click “shopping”. You’ll see where the item is available, its cost, and delivery expenses. Always dig deeper by heading to the websites as some offer free shipping and exclusive online codes for further savings.
8. Don’t compare with others.
Don’t be distracted by others who are sharing their Christmas purchases and plans. Stay focused on what’s best for your family and your budget. Think how good it will feel come the new year when others are drowning in Christmas debt and you’re already saving for next Christmas.
9. Suggest a Secret Santa.
‘Secret Santa’, also known as Kris Kringle, is a great way to save money and reduce holiday stress. You buy a single thoughtful gift instead of buying small gifts for many people.
One common method is to draw names from a hat and buy a gift for the person you draw. It’s a good idea to set a price limit.
Another variation is for everyone to contribute a gift to be randomly distributed by ‘Santa’s helper’ on Christmas Day. To add a little spice, you can allow guests to steal gifts from each other – not everyone’s cup of tea though.
We suggest keeping Secret Santa for adults only and making another gift plan for the kids.
10. Be a smart host.
Family get-togethers around Christmas are very special, but if you’re the one hosting, it can be super expensive. Make sure no one arrives empty-handed by giving everyone a specific dish to bring – this will save money and a lot of precious time too! And remember, everyone loves to contribute.
11. Clever wrapping.
Here we have some fabulous ways to wrap presents that save both money and the environment. Try making gift bags from fabric and reuse them each year. Or buy a roll of brown paper and have the kids decorate it, or for a touch of class add a sprig of rosemary! What about all that artwork the kids bring home at the end of the year? Consider using it as wrapping paper. These always look great and add some colour under the tree.
12. Homemade happiness.
Everyone loves edible homemade goods such as cookies, cakes, jams and pickles. These always get a smile and cost very little to make. Remember, there are always mouths to feed over the holiday season, so receiving a foodie gift is not only delicious but very handy too!
Why not give your Christmas Day a ‘Handmade’ theme? That way everyone gives and receives handmade presents – think baked goods, propagating plants, artwork, framed photos, wooden creations, etc.
13. Use your reward points!
You’ve been collecting them all year, but have you checked how many points you have? This is the perfect time to cash them in for gifts or vouchers and do it early so you can be sure they arrive on time.
14. Decorate with flowers.
Freshly cut flowers are a great way to brighten your home on Christmas Day. To save money, explore your garden for decorative plants, or kindly ask a gardening-savvy friend for a few blooms. If you’re without a Christmas tree, consider using a potted plant to save both money and the hassle of disposing of a real tree.
15. The gift of time.
A material gift is lovely, but equally special is a gift of time. This is a great idea particularly if you have teenage kids – subtly suggest that instead of spending pocket money, they give a voucher for their time e.g., an hour of gardening, cleaning, or a day at the beach together – a win-win for everyone.
Reach an understanding with your family to opt for charitable donations instead of traditional gift-giving. This is a heartfelt gift that will leave you with a sense of fufillment.
17. Beware of retail marketing.
Beware of traps like price deception – i.e., when prices are marked up and then down to make you think you’re getting a deal. Planning and researching ahead of time will ensure you’re not taken for a ride.
18. Alternative places to shop.
Try shopping around and looking for bargains in op shops, antique stores, and second-hand bookshops. It’s a great way to find a unique gift that no one else will have and could save you some cash at the same time.
19. Have a party plan.
Christmas parties are a heap of fun – but these shindigs can be expensive. To ensure you don’t overspend, consider just taking cash and leave your cards at home. Once the cash is gone, it’s gone and there’s no risk of blowing the budget (just don’t forget to save some for the taxi home!).
20. Save on travel.
Travel can often be the biggest cost of the Christmas season once you factor in flights, petrol, accommodation, catteries/kennels, food etc, etc. Plan well in advance for your holidays to ensure you get a great deal. Or why not consider camping as a way to keep costs down? There’s still the cost of petrol, site fees and food etc, but it’s generally considered cheaper than other holidays and feels like an adventure.
If you’re less inclined to camp, look out for discounts on hotels and resorts, etc. Browse bargain holiday websites such as kayak.com.au, Airbnb, Lastminute, Wotif.com, or Stayz, there you might find some cheaper options.
Or to keep costs right down, consider day trips like exploring the countryside, tramping, or visiting nearby beaches.
The holiday season is a magical time, but we all know it can bring about a whirlwind of stress, both for our wallets and our minds. We hope our tips, tricks, and hacks will help you navigate this busy season more smoothly. By giving them a try, you’ll be able to save money and have better control of your finances. So, take a deep breath, get ready, and have a fantastic festive season!