The silly season traditionally brings with it financial stress but, with a little planning, you can make sure your Christmas cheer hangs around long enough to indulge in the Boxing Day sales!
Melting your credit card on bulk gift purchases is as traditionally Christmas as melting in the kitchen on Christmas Day while cooking a mega roast meal for lunch with all the trimmings. But both these things can be avoided via planning and, well, a cold seafood buffet instead!
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in December 2015 alone, Australians spent $24.8 billion on retail purchases. And recent research shows that less than half of Australians manage to set and stick to a Christmas budget, emphasising how important it is to know how to spend and save wisely.
Sort My Money founder David Rankin says he has five key tips to help haven readers spend AND save this Christmas:
1. Allocate money in advance
“Even though Christmas is an annual event, many people don’t prepare themselves financially in the lead up to December,” David says. “It is actually the perfect time to create a personal budget. Allocating money in advance is a great way to prevent finances from going into the red during one of the most expensive times of year.”
David says that you should start with a cash flow forecast as this will help determine the budget which should also include food, drinks and socialising. For parents, sticking to one main present per child is a good way to prevent overspending. Another way to save money is allowing relatives to take care of the stocking fillers.
2. Take advantage of online shopping
Get in early and make online bargains part of your Christmas shopping mix.
“Researching gifts and comparing prices to find the best deals is the golden rule of any savvy shopper,” David reminds us. “The convenience of online shopping makes that rule easy to stick to. Ideally, place orders weeks in advance.”
3. Don’t underestimate Kris Kringle
“If your family still spends up big at Christmas, it’s time to introduce them to the delights of Kris Kringle,” David says. “Kris Kringle involves buying one significant gift of meaning for one person, rather than lots of little ‘obligatory’ presents that people either don’t need or don’t want. Not only does it have an element of surprise, but it also helps to considerably reduce the cost of gifts for everyone.”
4. Set up a savings plan
Thanks to the online era, putting a savings plan in place is easier than ever.
“Twenty dollars per week might not seem like a lot via a set-and-forget periodic payment but it will give you $1000 to spend on Christmas this time next year,” David says. This proves the old adage that a little often really does fill the piggy bank.
5. Find out what others want
“When present buying feels onerous, we tend to over-purchase in order to relieve ourselves of the obligation,” David explains. “Bringing the focus back to the other person by finding out (directly or otherwise) what they actually want helps avoid costly speculative spending.”
Alternatively, gift vouchers can also be great presents to give as Christmas is always followed by the sales period, with most retailers starting their sales on Boxing Day. Ensure the recipient is aware of the expiry date so it can be redeemed within the set timeframe.