Australian shoppers will spend around $45 billion between November 15 and December 24, including $18.5 billion on food alone. These are big numbers so here are a few tips on how to get through the season with your finances intact.
- Make a budget for the season; it has to cover presents, food and drink, but most importantly, it has to cover all your usual overheads: don’t miss mortgage, rent, finance and insurance payments because you overspent on gifts.
- Make a list for presents with a dollar limit. Once the list is finalised, stick to it.
- Communicate with other family members and negotiate cost limits on gifts. It doesn’t mean you’re cheap – everyone is relieved when someone suggests a limit.
- Don’t enter a shop without a list. Impulse buying and duplication will always blow your budget.
- Plan and budget your Christmas lunches and get-togethers. Once you buy a ham, a turkey and some wine, the costs are starting to mount. So coordinate your guests to bring salads, desserts and bubbly.
- If you’re the one doing the visiting, plan in advance for gifts and a plate, and plan for a ride home or budget for the taxi fare.
- Do your shopping in cash – don’t use expensive credit cards (you’ll be thankful in January).
- Shop early – avoid the cost and poor selection of last-minute spending.
- Use your early start to shopping to price-compare, research products and find bargains online.
- Buy small, meaningful gifts rather than simply expensive ones. You’ll save money and be remembered for the gift.
- Shop solo – Christmas shopping is business, not a social outing with friends.
- Don’t buy on store finance or special terms; they always cost you more.
- Organise your overseas gifts early and send them via regular mail. Those last-minute ‘express’ post fees cost more than the gifts.
- Check your frequent flyer and loyalty points: this is the time of year to use them instead of cash.
- As you move around the shops, keep an eye out for small gifts such as chocolates, wine, food platters etc. There’s always someone you left off your list and you’ll need a quick stand-by gift.
- Remember that Christmas is actually about giving, so put aside something for a charity, a woman’s shelter or just some extra in the bowl at church.
- Pets – if you have to leave them in the kennels when you go away, you’ll have a bill when you get back. Plan for this expense.
The sheer financial pressure of the Christmas-New Year period shouldn’t take away from your enjoyment of it. When you plan in advance and work within a budget, you take one extra concern out of the equation and you can concentrate on friends and family. If budgeting and planning isn’t working seek out a financial adviser and ask for help. Make your Christmas fun – not financially stressful.