Christmas is a joyous time but the lead-up to the festive season can be stressful and can really stretch your finances.
Here are some easy ways to spread Christmas cheer without blowing your budget.
1. Make a list and check it twice
In the lead-up to Christmas, 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.
List who you’re buying for, what you want to buy, and how much money you’ve allocated for each person. For larger gifts, consider using lay-by in the months before Christmas so you can pay them off over time.
- Supplies for Christmas/Boxing Day
List what you want to buy, and where from. Buy in advance where possible to take advantage of specials, especially if the items can be frozen or have a long shelf life.
- If you are travelling
List costs like flights, car service/tyre check, petrol and travel insurance and shop around for deals early. If you’re driving somewhere, think about what day is best to fill up on petrol and do it the week before Christmas.
2. Find Christmas bargains
Don’t wait for a sale, seek out your Christmas bargains on gifts and food by scouring advertising catalogues and checking for any online offers.
Some stores match or beat competitors’ deals so compare their offers and keep all the details with you when you are in the store. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount as you might just get a Christmas miracle!
Discount outlet shopping centres, factory seconds stores or second-hand retailers are other places where you might be able to bag a Christmas bargain. But check the terms and conditions of purchase in case you can’t return the item if you need to. See the ACCC’s rules on refunds and returns.
Also, make sure you don’t have to spend more than you are comfortable with, in order to qualify for any discounts advertised.
3. Be a scrooge online
If you’re Christmas shopping online, try to save every cent. Before you start, do a web search for discount or coupon codes that you can use at the checkout. Look at the sales sections of retailers’ websites to see what’s on offer, and look for items or shopping days where they offer free shipping.
If you know what you’re looking for, search for the item online instead of going directly to one retailer’s website. You might find it much cheaper somewhere else.
Search online auction websites where you can ‘bid’ for items, including supplies you need for Christmas day.
Make sure you include any shipping costs when you are comparing prices. The cost of some items can blow out once you add shipping costs and you might be sorry you didn’t go to a store to get the item.
If you are travelling at Christmas, shop around online to get the best deal on flights and travel insurance. Try to book early to avoid paying a premium for last minute bookings or peak season increases.
Things are often much cheaper online than in a store, but you do need to take extra precautions when shopping online.
4. Pay for gifts with reward points
If you have a rewards card that you have been using through the year to collect points, Christmas is a great time to cash these in. Check your balance and see what you can get.
In the lead up to Christmas, keep an eye out for items you need that earn more points so you can build up your balance. Also look for discounts that might be offered through your existing insurer or credit card provider for particular retailers.
Just be aware that reward schemes can sometimes cost you more than the reward is worth.
5. Go social with Christmas shopping
If you follow your favourite brands and retailers on social media, you may be able to get exclusive discounts through these social channels. Their newsletters may also alert you to sales and deals.
There are also lots of discount or deal apps that you can use to find bargains on things on your Christmas list.
Before you buy any deal or discount always check the terms and conditions to make sure you know what you are getting and make sure the website is legit. See the ACCC’s SCAMwatch website for tips on how to pick an online shopping scam.
6. Christmas gift hacks
Rather than spending up big to fill the Christmas stockings, get creative with your gifts! Here are some ideas:
- Give a gift of food
If you’re creative in the kitchen, why not make something to give and create a personal, tasty gift.
- Create a coupon
If you have a knack for massage, babysitting, or even hugs, give your family member or friend a coupon they can redeem at a later date.
- Give an experience
Take someone on a picnic, a driving tour, or plan a dinner date at home.
Get crafty and make a personalised gift using stuff you already have – there are heaps of ideas online.
- Save on wrapping
Buy brown paper and string to wraps your gifts instead of shelling out for pricey Christmas wrapping, then you can use any excess throughout the year. If you have kids, get them involved and use their paintings or drawings as wrapping paper.
- Set a present limit
Suggest to your family or friends that you all set a limit on how much you will spend on gifts for each other to keep your gift budget at a sensible level.
- Re-think your Christmas card
Rather than spending money on buying and posting Christmas cards, record a family Christmas video greeting with your phone and email it to your friends and loved ones. It will be much more fun and add a personal touch.
7. 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 wanted 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 more costly 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 keep to your gift budget.
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 so you don’t get distracted and impulse buy.
8. Track your spending
Keeping track of your festive spending is the best way to avoid going over your budget this Christmas.
Use MoneySmart’s TrackMySPEND app at www.moneysmart.gov.au to nominate a spending limit for different types of Christmas expenses and track your progress while you shop.
9. Give to those less fortunate
Spread the Christmas cheer by giving to those who are doing it tough. Consider donating to a charity this Christmas. As well as money, they may also accept household items, clothes and groceries, or you could volunteer your time to help them out.
Another option is to consider giving blood. The holiday season is when blood banks need your help the most.
10. Get some cash and make their day
If you have something around the house you’ve been meaning to get rid of and sell, Christmas is the time to do it. Look around your home and see what you could on-sell. It might be furniture, clothes, or jewellery.
As well as second-hand sale websites, there may also be a local buy-swap-sell in your area. Your unwanted item could make someone else’s Christmas extra special, and bag you some extra cash.
11. Lighten the Christmas Day load
If you are hosting Christmas this year, plan your menu with in-season produce as it’s usually cheaper and fresher. If you can, buy in bulk and freeze or store in the lead up to Christmas.
Share the load by asking others to bring or make something, so that you aren’t stuck with all the work and a big food bill. And don’t go overboard on food for Christmas – it’s just one day, after all.
12. Plan for next Christmas
Once this Christmas is done and dusted you should plan ahead for next year. Here are some ideas to help 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. Use MoneySmart’s savings goals calculator to see how much you’ll need to save each pay to reach your Christmas savings goal.
- Shop the sales
Shop for presents throughout the year, especially during sales. This will spread your costs and make them more manageable.
Pre-plan larger gifts and layby 3-6 months ahead so you can pay them off over time.
Source: Reproduced with the permission of ASIC’s MoneySmart Team. This article was originally published at www.moneysmart.gov.au
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