Christmas is such a magical time of year, although the magic can quickly disappear and be forgotten if your spending gets out of control; especially if you get a nasty credit card bill in the New Year to remind you of your over-spending.
As a qualified financial planner, mortgage broker and a mum, I’m always on the lookout for ways to save some money and plan my spending ahead of time. Christmas is no exception!
So, I’ve put together some tried and tested Christmas money saving hints and tips to save YOU some money for the festive season:
1. Don’t use credit cards for spending
If you haven’t got enough money to buy presents without owing money on the credit card when the bill arrives then people can go without! You can explain to family /friends in advance that you have had a tight year financially and you are not keen to put Christmas on credit this year so you are going to keep things very lean. Some people leave the credit card at home and put all the money into one account then take that savings account card only when they go shopping as this can be a good way of forcing yourself to keep the spending within your budget.
2. Consider a Christmas Savings Account
People’s Choice Credit Union helps you take the stress out of the Christmas celebrations by allowing you to plan ahead with a Christmas Savings Account.
How it works is you put money into the account throughout the year then you can only access the funds from 1November through to the end of January, which is when you need it most.
They also have an online savings calculator which can help you work out how much you can save and how long it will take.
3. Pay extra into your mortgage
By paying extra into your mortgage throughout the year, you can redraw that back out at Christmas time (check that your home loan has a redraw facility first though). You will save on interest on the home loan at the same time as saving for Christmas.
People’s Choice also has plenty of other savings accounts and advice on their website so if you want to get financially savvy in other areas of your life maybe consider registering for some of their free information sessions. More information can be found on the People’s Choice website.
4. Homemade presents are always special (and can save quite a bit of money)
Get the kids to make Christmas cards for family/friends and save their art throughout the year as it makes very special wrapping paper. Or why not have a piece of their art framed for a family member? You can buy reasonably priced frames from a variety of places.
Homemade chocolates or sweets are another great gift idea and are much cheaper than the bought variety (more personal and often nicer too).
5. Just like Santa – make a list and check it twice
Have a think about who has been naughty and nice. Work out who you need to buy gifts for and how much you want to spend along with a few suggestions on the list. It’s a good idea to do some online research so you know how much each present should cost. Take that list with you when you go shopping. It’s very easy to overspend if you don’t have the list with you.
Be vigilant and honest with yourself. Don’t overspend on people who haven’t been a major part of your year JUST because you will be seeing them on Christmas Day. A simple present is appreciated just as much as an expensive one (in most cases anyway). Planning ahead and putting limits on the amount you will spend before you go shopping gives you a better chance of staying within your budget.
6. Gift Cards
If you can’t find something within your budget for someone, get them a gift card. It’s a little less personal but at least you are not breaking the budget. They can then put it towards something they want.
7. Consider Pre-Loved Gifts
Near new is another good option. Second hand stores can be a great place to pick up a bargain especially for children. Sometimes they also have unwanted NEW merchandise you can get for a fraction of the normal price.
8. Don’t buy for your uncle’s best mate’s sister’s child’s new boyfriend!!
Keep present buying for immediate family only.
Chances are that friend of a friend of a friend won’t like what you buy them anyway!
9. Buy early
Try and buy before it gets too close to the date. Get gifts on special and pocket the savings (as opposed to spending the limit you had allocated). The extra bonus is that you will avoid the crazy last minute Christmas traffic.
Remember to keep your receipts and ask the store about their returns policy (Often retailers and outlets will allow things to be returned outside of their normal policy if it’s a Christmas present but check in advance just in case). Layby is another popular option especially for children’s toys as you can buy them throughout the year when they are on special and pay them off as the year goes on without paying interest on a credit card.
Another suggestion is to buy when the end of financial year sales are on then wrap them by the end of November just in case you forgot anyone!
10. Be practical
More families are being mindful of excess, and are either limiting gifts to children or working out a “Secret Santa” where each person gets a single gift on the day. If you are doing “Secret Santa” it’s a good idea to agree on an amount between those participating so that everyone is clear on the amount being spent on each person.
11. Be charitable
Why not scrap presents altogether and make a donation to a charity or donate a gift to your local Welfare organization/Community Centre?
A lot of larger chain stores also have wishing trees where you can donate a gift that will go to a local person in need.
That way you can enjoy Christmas knowing that your gift has put a smile on a person’s face who would more than likely be very grateful for your generosity.
Another suggestion is to donate one gift you were going to give your child to charity- bets are your child doesn’t need it but someone else does, so check out some great Australian charities. You can share the story of the charity (and what your donation will go towards) over your Christmas meal. It’s always great to have a feel good story to share. Keep your receipt as in most cases your donation will be tax-deductible.
12. Plan your menu ahead of time
Work out your menu ahead of time including all the extras and then decide on who’s bringing what. These days most people don’t expect you to supply everything especially if you’re already providing the venue. So, sharing the food, beverages and decorations around can spread the load.
If you’re going to be someone’s guest, jump in early and make a suggestion of what you would like to supply. They’ll be relieved and grateful for sure!
13. Healthy options
With so many of us becoming more health conscious, remember it’s not necessary to eat so much that we all feel sick after the Christmas Day meal. Think about reducing the amount of food you are buying and reduce portions so that you can enjoy the meal without over-indulging. This will save money on excess food as well.
14. Shop smart
A lot of the food, including meat and seafood can be bought ahead and frozen until the day before they are needed. Sealed well, they will last well into the New Year. Same goes for a lot of the packaged “extras” which really add up so buy early when they are on special. This not only saves money but also means you will be organized well in advance.
15. Time it right
Don’t go shopping for the Christmas groceries if you are hungry, as you are likely to spend more.
16. Extend the festive season
Consider November and January for catch-ups with those extended groups of family, friends and work colleagues that we all try and squash into December.
Spreading out the celebrations can help even out your expenditure.
17. Don’t get caught up in the sales hype
Post-Christmas sales can be fun and exciting, but also can really hurt in February when the credit card statements arrive and it’s possibly already bulging from the excesses of Christmas (if you haven’t followed our tips). Plan ahead and make a list of what you really want and how much you would like to pay, and limit yourself to that. You’ll thank yourself later when you avoid the credit card blues.
18. Plan Ahead
As soon as you’re finished with the current Christmas, start preparing for the next season, especially while paper and cards are on special. A friend of mine keeps a Christmas box in his house and buys suitable gifts for people throughout the year when they are on special, or if something catches his eye. Great idea!
And finally, enjoy! If you have stuck to all these suggestions, you should be able to enjoy your Festive Season without worrying about extra financial burdens. So, slow down, don’t rush, and enjoy who you’re with when you’re with them and, if you are on the road, travel safely.
Do you have any money saving tips and tricks to add to the list?