Nothing ruins Christmas like blowing the budget. We spoke to not one, but two finance experts to find out their tips for getting through the festive season with your finances intact.
Leah Oliver is a wealth coach and founder of Minnik Chartered Accountants. Her top piece of advice is to plan, plan, plan!
“Treat your personal family life like a business,” says Leah. “Start by tracking your everyday household cash in, and cash out. This will allow you to see a clear picture of what surplus you have to work with.”
Then, Leah suggests dividing your Christmas expenses into separate categories and adding these to your household budget.
“For example, holidays, gifts, kids activities and entertainment,” says Leah. “After these expenses have been accounted for in your budget, you should always be in a ‘profit’ or ‘surplus’ position to ensure sufficient funding is still being directed to your investments. If this figure is negative, it is clear that you are reaching for credit cards and debt to fund your lifestyle.”
If your household finances are still a little tight, Leah says your situation can be improved by:
- Bringing in alternative income streams;
- Enhancing existing income streams;
- Replacing high energy, weaker income streams;
- Pulling back on expenses that are unnecessary or excessive.
“It is remarkable the change we see in families who embrace this concept and take control of their financial position,” says Leah. “Until you can accurately identify your actual personal income and expenses, you will always be spending on things without knowing if they are affordable at that point in time. In other words, ‘flying blind’ with your money.”
Gerry Incollingo is MD of LCI Partners, and he warns against not spending money you don’t have. He specifically suggests avoiding using credit or Afterpay, as they make it easier to rack up debt.
“The smaller repayments make items seem more affordable, but if you’re doing all your Christmas shopping in one hit, it can be easy to get yourself into financial trouble,” says Gerry.
He, like Leah, recommends setting up and sticking to a budget. Make a family rule that no one is allowed to spend more than a certain amount on a gift to help relieve pressure on those in your family who do not have the funds to finance a Christmas shopping spree and inspires people to get creative.
“After all, it’s the thought that counts, not the size or value of the gift,” says Gerry. “In an ideal world, you would have been sticking to a budget all year round and already have money allocated to Christmas spending in your bank account.”
Ideally, you should apply the 50/30/20 rule, where 50 percent of your income after tax pays for your necessities, 30 percent covers your entertainment and wants (this is where your Christmas shopping fund comes from) and 20 percent goes into a savings account. You don’t touch that account unless it’s A) an emergency, or B) you have enough to cover your needs for three months and you’ve attained your savings goals.
Gerry also recommends introducing new creative traditions to limit your spending.
“Gift exchanges like $5 Secret Santa’s or regifting where everyone brings something preloved that’s barely been used can be a unique way to cut Christmas costs,” says Gerry.
He also recommends giving yourself plenty of time to hunt out those bargain prices.
“Retailers will be competing for Christmas dollars to boost their businesses, so you could even hold out for the big traditional sale days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” says Gerry. “But also, don’t forget that struggling Australian businesses are looking to Christmas as the light at the end of the tunnel.
“It could mean the difference between keeping local traders afloat or shutting their doors forever. Buying locally means you can avoid lengthy delays with the risk that your gifts may not arrive in time for Christmas due to ongoing strikes by couriers, as well as save on delivery fees.”
Remember too that you don’t have to do all your Christmas shopping in one swoop, so you can spread out your purchases in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day.
“For example, if you get paid weekly, one week use your allocated Christmas shopping fund to get Mum’s present, the following week shop for the kids,” says Gerry.
“Don’t let another year go by dealing with the financial stress of Christmas on your family,” says Leah. “Plan well in advance. Embrace the new year with a positive position. Enjoy the Festive Season!”