With household budgets squeezed, many families are worried about covering the cost of Christmas this year, and don’t want to take a debt hangover into the new year. It can be hard to manage and keep track of your expenses when Christmas is creeping closer and closer and we are all trying to juggle end of year parties and get-togethers with family and friends.
Here are 10 money-saving ways to help manage your finances over Christmas so the start of 2017 can be stress-free.
1. Set a budget for your Christmas spending
First, draw up a budget for your Christmas spending – not just presents, but the additional spending on food, drink and socialising. Embed this Christmas element of your budget within the rest of the household budget, so that you can manage the overall effect Christmas spending has on your finances over a number of months.
Try not to allow yourself to be pressured – even by your children or close family – into spending more than you can really afford.
2. Keep a running total
Keep a close check on your spending – maybe by compiling the running total on your mobile phone or tablet. The bills will come in after Christmas as surely as night follows day, but you’ll be better placed to manage them, if you know what the bottom line of your spend amounts to on each card.
3. Pare your present list
Now is the time to sit down with family and friends and broach the subject of presents. Agree with certain friends that you won’t exchange gifts this year, or set a price limit for family presents, particularly those for adults. Alternatively, have a “children only” rule, or set up a Secret Santa. Here you draw names out of a hat so that everyone has to buy only one gift (and then guess who it is from). If a maximum price is set in advance, this can be an effective way of keeping costs.
4. Plan for affordability, not desirability
Before you start planning, consider this: many list every lusted-for item, gifts for all, and a corking meal, then only afterwards consider: “How will I pay for it?” That’s a recipe to be broke.
Instead, calculate your budget (contact Proxima for a budget planner), and ask: “What can I afford to spend on Christmas?” Christmas is one day – don’t ruin the whole of the next year for it.
5. Consider starting some new Christmas traditions
You could also embrace the digital age and email Christmas cards to save on postage. There are lots of free websites that let you create your own cards, with family photos and videos. If you want to stay with traditional Christmas cards, mark your envelopes with ‘card only’ and they can be posted at a reduced rate during November and December.
6. Why not spend your holiday at home
There are many beautiful destinations in Australia that families choose to go to for their Christmas holidays but this often comes at a high price. Why not holiday in your own home by planning fun activities at your local beach or park? If you do choose to go away, plan far in advance and keep a look out for great accommodation deals that could potentially be half the price of the original cost.
7. Get on eBay
No, not to buy presents – to make room for them! If you’re worried about where you’re going to put your haul, it could be time to decide what has to go. Selling your old things could generate quite a bit of money for the Christmas kitty, but it will require some effort, as you’ll have to photograph the item, list it and ship it. If this sounds like hard work, there are alternatives. Gumtree or local Facebook buy and sell pages are worth a look too, as many let you list items for nothing and the chances are that someone in the local area won’t mind coming to pick them up.
8. Bargain hunt online
Research the Internet and find the item you want for the best price. Just make sure you buy from a secure site and a reputable company. Remember the golden rule, ‘if the price is too good to be true, then it probably is not true’.
9. Share the cost of Christmas
Preparing a meal for family and friends can be enjoyable but tiring and stressful at the same time. Make a list of food and ingredients needed. Buy as many non-perishable food items as you can in advance when they are on special – supermarkets on Christmas Eve are generally extremely busy. If Christmas dinner is at your place, then ask family and friends to bring a dish and their own drinks. This way the financial load will be spread between you all.
10. Shop early for next year
The earlier you start, the greater your chances of finding a bargain. One per cent of shoppers buy Christmas presents for the following festive season as soon as the previous one is over – in the January sales. Another 7pc have all their Christmas shopping out of the way by the end of September, according to HSBC.
Christmas is a wonderful time of year to spend with family and friends, so it is important to budget and plan so you can avoid that horrible Christmas debt hanging over your shoulders.