Save yourself this Christmas
If the festive season usually leaves you out of pocket and feeling like you spent more time and money battling the crowds than relaxing with friends and loved ones, why not simplify things this year?
Here are some quick and easy tips to help you enjoy the festive season without breaking the bank.
- Make a list and check it twice
- Grab your gift cards
- Master the art of Christmas gift hacking
- Shop like you’re Santa
- Track your spending
- Lighten your load on Christmas Day
- Plan for next Christmas
Make a list and check it twice
Make lists of the things you need to buy and the food you need to prepare for the festive season. Having lists will help you plan your spending and keep you on track.
Presents – Make a list of who you’re buying for, what you want to get them, and how much money you’re prepared to spend on each person.
Entertainment supplies – List the food and drinks you’ll need, and how much you can spend. Buy in advance where possible to take advantage of specials, especially if items can be frozen or have a long shelf life.
Travel plans – Whether you’re flying or driving, there are ways to save on holiday travel costs. List all your costs like flights, accommodation, travel insurance, airport transfers and petrol. Shop around for deals as early as you can, to avoid paying a premium for last-minute bookings or peak season increases. If you’re going on a driving holiday, work out which day is cheapest to fill up on petrol, and do it the week before Christmas.
Grab your gift cards
Australians love gift cards and vouchers, but too many of us let the funds expire before we use them. Check the expiry date on any gift cards you still have credit on, and consider putting this money towards your Christmas costs. Every dollar of gift card credit you use means you’re spending one less dollar of your own money. Every little bit helps!
Gift cards can also make good presents for people who are hard to buy for, or if you just don’t know what to get them. Giving gift cards at Christmas also means the recipient can use them in the post-Christmas sales.
Master the art of Christmas gift hacking
There’s a lot of pressure to spend up big on gifts at this time of year, but expensive presents aren’t necessarily the way to go. Here are some ways you can show you care, while keeping a lid on your spending:
Agree on a spending limit – Suggest to your loved ones that you set a limit on how much you will spend on gifts for each other to keep your budgets under control
Kids only – Talk to the other adults in your extended family about only buying presents for the kids this year, rather than for the adults
Savvy sales – Take advantage of sales throughout the year to nab some good deals and store them away for Christmas. But, even in December there are good deals to be had. You can also check out any clearance outlets near you, or sign up to their newsletters so that you’ll be in the know when they have a sale.
Compare offers – Some stores match or beat competitors’ deals, so compare their offers and take all the details with you when you go into the store. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount – you might just get a Christmas miracle!
Second-hand bargains – Op shops, antique stores and second-hand bookshops can be a treasure trove for the thrifty Christmas shopper. If you’re prepared to spend the time looking through their stock, you can often find good quality items at a fraction of the price you’d pay at big name stores.
Shop like you’re Santa
Santa is always well-prepared and does his shopping on time, so why don’t you? If you are going to shop in-store, consider these rules-of-thumb to reduce Christmas shopping stress and limit the temptation to over spend:
Set a time limit on your shopping – Get in, get it done and get out so you aren’t tempted to spend more than you want to.
Shop at odd hours – Take advantage of extended trading hours and go when it’s less crowded so you can choose carefully without having to jostle for space.
Buy less expensive stuff first – If you buy larger and pricier items first you can lose perspective on what is a good price, so set your budget, buy small first, and then tackle the big stuff so you stick to your gift budget.
Pre-pay – If you buy online, check if there’s an option to pick up in-store. You’ll save on freight, skip any lines, and there will be less temptation to buy more.
Limit your shopping locations – Only go to shops that you need to visit so you don’t get distracted and impulse buy.
Track your spending
Keeping track of your festive spending is the best way to avoid going over your budget this Christmas.
Lighten your load on Christmas Day
The costs of entertaining can skyrocket at this time of year. But, with some simple planning, both you and your wallet can enjoy the fruits of your labour. Here are some ways to lighten the Christmas load:
Share the catering – Even if you’re hosting Christmas Day lunch or dinner, there’s no need to shoulder all the work yourself. Ask others to bring nibblies, drinks, salads or desserts.
Buy only what you need – It can be easy to overestimate how much food you’ll need at Christmas, only to end up throwing some away or eating leftovers for days.
Switch supermarkets – Make a list of the groceries you need for Christmas, then take advantage of the competition between supermarkets by checking out the advertised specials and stocking up. Don’t buy everything at the same shop if you can get it cheaper elsewhere. You might even get better deals at your local butcher or fruit shop.
Use loyalty credits – If you belong to a supermarket loyalty scheme that builds up credit after you’ve spent a certain amount, check if you can use the credit to get a discount on your Christmas grocery shop.
Plan for next Christmas
Once this Christmas is done and dusted, you should start planning ahead for next year. Here are some ideas to make sure you are set up for next Christmas:
Start saving now – Open a high interest savings account in January and contribute a small amount to it every payday. Saving $20 per week will add up to over $1,000 in a year’s time.
Shop the sales – Shop for presents throughout the year, especially during sales. This will spread your costs and make them more manageable.
Layby – Pre-plan larger gifts and layby them a few months ahead so you can pay them off over time.
Merry Christmas from the Investment Options (Aust) Team!
Source: ASIC’s MoneySmart Team.