Christmas is a wonderful time of year – but not for your finances.
The festive season is notoriously hard on personal budgets and post-Christmas credit card debt is a sad fact of life for many Australians.
It’s harder to enjoy the yuletide spirit when you’re worried about how you’re going to afford it all, so here are some practical tips to help you stay within your Christmas budget so you can financially survive December and beyond:
Track your spending
Stick a money-managing app on your phone that tracks every dollar you spend on Christmas-related items: everything from wrapping paper and eggnog to mangoes and petrol for those endless shopping trips. You can’t stick to a budget if you don’t know where all the money that’s magically disappearing out of your wallet is going. You can use also use our saving goal calculator to plan your budget & savings.
Shop earlier and smarter
The Easter sales aren’t too early to start thinking about picking up a few Christmas gifts. Starting your shopping earlier in the year means you can fit in more research, access more online bargains and not have to do the last-minute rush in late December.
Make it your mission to not pay full price for a single one of your gifts this year – buy everything on sale.
Opt for a local budget holiday
Instead of jetting off to Singapore or having an expensive snowy Christmas in Canada, plan a closer-to-home holiday that’ll save you loads of money but still be fun.
Camping by the ocean or a nice lake in summer can be brilliant, and if you’ve already got a tent and most of the necessary camping gear, it’ll just cost you a bit of petrol and camping fees. Be aware that camping spots fill up rapidly at Christmas-time, so book well in advance so you don’t miss out.
Ditch the cocktails
The ‘silly season’ is a time for parties, and the urge to go out and experiment with wild and exotic new beverages can be hard to resist. You’ll save loads of cash by sticking to beer and wine, however.
Those elaborate mixed drinks and obscure liqueur concoctions can burn a hole in your nightly budget faster than you can say “shaken, not stirred”.
Make a list (then check it twice)
At least a month before Christmas, make a list of what you intend to spend money on. Break it down into sub-headings: gifts, decorations, food, alcohol, travel expenses, etc.
Try to think of absolutely everything you might possibly need to buy before the big day, and then do some homework so you can estimate how much you’ll need to have on hand to pay for it all. You may even find that some items can be crossed off the list entirely.
Become a DIY legend this year
Make some of this year’s gifts instead of buying them. If you have the barest minimum of craft skills, cooking ability or artistic flair, see if you can create some presents for those you love.
Biscuits, decorative fruit baskets, homemade candles, handmade jewellery and other creative gifts will cost you more in time but less in cash – and the recipients will adore them.
Don’t buy presents for yourself
This one’s a real trap: in the course of looking for the perfect gift for others, you find the perfect gift for yourself. Resist the urge to treat yourself – there’s a good chance the item will still be available in the New Year when your finances are better able to handle the purchase.
Let someone else do the cooking
Are you the one who ends up spending a fortune on food and preparing a big feast each year? Try to come up with an alternative plan this Christmas. See if one of your relatives would like to take over culinary responsibilities this time.
Chop your gift spending in half
This sounds impossible but it’s actually quite easy. One way is to agree with all your other relatives to buy presents for kids only this year – none for adults. Take advantage of sales and coupons.
Do some of your shopping at second-hand stores. Place a reasonable limit on how much you’ll spend on each recipient, and stick to it. Many stores will ‘price match’ at Christmas, so use that to your benefit. Buy less of everything for everyone.
Recycle wrapping paper
Christmas wrapping paper often gets so destroyed that recycling is impractical, but where possible, aim to re-use as much of the paper, ribbons, bows, gift cards and wine bottle gift bags as you can. The more you can hang on to, the less you’ll have to buy next year.
Spread some Christmas cheer
One of the coolest gifts you can give someone is to donate money to a charity on their behalf. Choose a charity they strongly believe in. You might also want to consider contributing unwanted household items, groceries and clothing to charities that help out those in our society who might be doing it tough this Christmas.
- The key to financially surviving Christmas is to create a firm budget and then use a money management app to track all your spending in the lead-up
- Reducing your alcohol consumption and spending starts with ditching the expensive cocktails at parties; stick to more affordable wine and beer
- If you’re planning to go away this holiday season, consider a local camping adventure or road trip rather than an expensive overseas jaunt