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This Christmas, families are strapped for cash but still eager to celebrate – especially since there has been so little to get excited about this year. But celebrating the giving season doesn’t mean you have to blow your budget.

Research commissioned by Money.com.au has found that 78% of Aussie households will be cutting back this Christmas, with 39% of us spending less on Christmas gifts than in previous years. The findings also revealed that 32% of families plan to pay for their December and January expenses using some form of credit, while slightly fewer (31%) will dip into their savings to pay for their Christmas expenses.

“With many households experiencing financial hardship this year – and with an uncertain economic recovery – it may be wise to cut back spending on Christmas and holiday expenses,” says licensed financial adviser and Money.com.au spokesperson Helen Baker. “I encourage households to review their financial situation now to determine how much they can spend this summer. I also encourage people to be conservative in their spending, particularly if they are dipping into their savings.”

Considering this time of year is usually marked by social events, excessive shopping and holidays, would cutting mean Christmas looks and feels a lot different this year? Not necessarily!

We’re sharing the ways you can pinch your pennies this Christmas, without sacrificing your fun or festive spirit.

Get creative with your gifting
You don’t need to buy new – or even buy at all – to give a great gift. For presents on the cheaper side, we love visiting ‘op shops’ (think Vinnies, the Salvation Army…) and antique markets to hunt for incredible finds. You’ll be amazed at the treasures you come across, whether they’re clothes, accessories, homewares, books or children’s toys. Alternatively, why not make something? It could be anything – baked goods, jewellery, artwork, clothes… get creative! If you’re not overly crafty, polishing up a family heirloom or gifting a beloved item is a great way to show how much you care. And, if you’re really stuck, consider giving the gift of your time. Perhaps you have an enviable skill that a friend or family member would love to learn, or you have two good hands and a spare hour or two that could make a huge difference to someone you love?

Earn money for your purchases
If you’re going to spend up a storm, you may as well get a return on your investment. There are so many apps, browser extensions and programs that can save you money – and even earn it back – when you shop online. Shopback and Honey, for example, both scan the web for active discount codes and try them automatically in your cart, applying the one that saves you the most money. They will even give you reward points and cold, hard cash for every order you place. Shoptagr is another great website extension worth trying, giving you a place to save and compare all of your upcoming purchases – they have a cashback function, too. Finally, make sure you’ve signed up to rewards programs at your most visited stores to score loyalty points and rewards for shopping.

Take a family holiday instead
According to Money.com.au’s recent survey, cash-strapped households aren’t the only ones who will struggle these holidays – the local travel industry will continue to be hit hard throughout the rest of the year as people choose presents over holidays. If you have to make the same choice this year, consider opting for the holiday! There are so many ways you can make it special for the kids – letting them each choose a destination or activity to do along the way, for example – and they’re sure to remember a family holiday longer than they’ll remember a new toy or item of clothing. For a budget-friendly, COVID-safe family holiday that will give back to struggling communities, you can’t go past a family road trip. Either book a van online (we’ve got a few suggestions right here) or check out a free car rental service like Transfercar.

DIY your festivities
Money.com.au’s survey found that 28% of households will be spending less on their Christmas lunches and dinners this year, with 10% not having a Christmas celebration at all – and we can’t say we’re all that surprised. Christmas blow outs are a lot of fun, but they’re also a great way to blow the budget. Rather than foregoing the celebrations all-together, DIY them! Instead of hosting your usual girls’ get-together or family function at a venue, why not host it at home or in a local park? There are plenty of ways you can make it special without breaking the bank. Our resident party expert Natty Faulks lists her top tips for festive party planning right here, while our catalogue of recipes has something for every occasion.

Have a credit strategy
Okay, so you’ve tried tips one through four and still need to lean on some form of credit to get through this silly season – don’t sweat it! As we mentioned before, almost one in three families will tap into credit cards, ‘buy now, pay later’ services, layby or their savings this Christmas. Thankfully, Helen has strategies to help.

“Consumers may want to consider not incurring credit card debt for these end-of-year expenses in case they are out of a job next year, but if you are in a good position and use your credit cards for points, you may want to develop a strategy for it,” says Helen. “Rather than pay your credit card when it is due, do a balance transfer to buy yourself, say, six months interest free. This will keep more of your money in your home loan offset account, for instance, guaranteeing a reduction in interest on your home loan whilst also saving interest on your credit card. Just make sure you pay it off when it’s due!”

Looking for more tips? Here’s how you can plan ahead this Christmas.

Want to join our gift guide this year? Get in touch.

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haven is all about family, life and style in Brisbane's inner city suburbs, the Gold Coast, south to Byron Bay. We have been keeping parents in the know for over eight years, with fun, fresh and helpful stories that they can take tips from or treasure in their own library.