The modern spirit of Christmas is about giving and sharing with family and friends. It's not a competition to see how much debt you can go in to. You can be money smart over the holiday season and still make the people you care about smile and feel appreciated.
The secret to a money-smart Christmas is being organised and getting creative
- Start early. Create a list of people you want to give to, with an allocation of how much you want/can spend and then get creative with your gifts ideas. A spreadsheet can be really useful to record and track your ideas for each person both as a shopping list and as a budget checker. You'll be able to see at a glance what you have left in the budget and what you still need to buy.
- And you can reuse the information for next year, so rather than creating the list from scratch you can simply update it by adding in or removing people from the list, and you can also see what you gave them last time. That may help you to do something different next time or to plan something similar if it was a hit.
- Remember to include postage costs in your budget estimates, and delivery times in your shopping deadlines - both for items to arrive at your place for gifting, and for postage on to loved ones living elsewhere.
Plan your spending
- Try to avoid putting expenses on your credit card unless you can pay them off straight away, or have a plan to pay down your credit card quickly.
- Layby - Look into layby options for larger or more expensive items, not just so that the cost is spread out but also to prevent spoiling any surprises if you have to store gifts ahead of the big day.
- Buy online
- Buy local
- Buy from small businesses
- Shop to the list
Paula Banwell from Adept Property Management offers this advice for getting organised and keeping a handle on your spending:
"Buy early. I'd buy through the year. You hear what people like and you go out and buy it straight away. You don't wait till Christmas. If you spread the gifts out over the whole year, you'll get what people like and then you don't have one big bill in December and January."
We all have those people in our lives that are hard to buy for, or for whom you'd like to give something meaningful and special.
Consider a gift certificate of a more personal nature.
- Perhaps you know someone who would appreciate a babysitting voucher to give them a chance to go out with their partner? A personalised gift certificate for the value of a night's childminding, and maybe a couple movie tickets, would be gratefully received by most people with young families.
- Or you could offer other services such as gardening, cleaning and house maintenance, pet sitting, dog walking, car detailing - anything you'd like to offer that the other person might appreciate a break from or help with makes for a wonderful personalised gift certificate item. And it'll save you the hassle of hitting the shops in the mad months and spending money needlessly.
Make someone's Christmas last well beyond December and buy them a magazine subscription for a subject that helps them achieve other goals - for example, a food magazine that helps them plan healthy, cost-effective meals for their household, and this is a gift that will delight them each time a new edition arrives in their mailbox.
You don't need to spend a lot to show the ones you love that you care at Christmas.
Generally, people who would give you a gift will want to give you something that will be useful or appreciated, so it's a good idea to know what things you'd like to receive so you can make it known.
Ask for gift items that help you meet your other goals - if you're saving for a home deposit then consider asking for gift cards/vouchers towards your groceries so you can put more money aside towards your savings goal, or ask for cash to drop straight into your home loan savings account.
Don't be shy about asking for vouchers from people you know want to spend some money on you.
- If you're looking to upgrade your home, consider hardware store vouchers, so you can do more of the projects that make your current home more appealing to buyers.
- Or perhaps you would appreciate a babysitting voucher from friends to give you a chance to go out with your partner?
Regifting and secondhand items
Be gracious in receiving gifts, even if they aren't exactly what you would have wanted. If you are respectful and careful about it, these could be perfect regifting items to someone who you know will like them. There is definitely an etiquette to this sort of thing, so be mindful to avoid hurt feelings.
Does your gift really need to be new?? If you are looking for something specific you could search on gumtree or eBay for items that are in great condition, but not nearly as expensive as brand new from the store.
Catering at Christmas
Consider sharing the cost of eating well at Christmas by arranging for your guests to bring a dish to the family gathering. You could assign a family member to bring the ham leg, or the turkey, or fruit for the platter and then spend time together preparing and enjoying the meal, rather than trying to do everything yourself. Or you could go picnic-style and BYO your food and drinks to share. Who says you have to host and bear the entire cost for the event?
How can you go out and get social this Christmas without the financial hangover? Consider installing the clipp app on your phone. Pubs, bars and restaurants are registered to offer you deals on cheaper food and drink, or dining deals with a percentage of the bill for a minimum spend. Some deals are no-brainers with 40% off your bill in some cases for spends as low as $65, check the app regularly for your local haunt, or shout a mate a drink with their promo codes.
Fuel your savings: Do you need to do a lot of driving either to shop or visit loved ones this silly season? Fuel prices can vary wildly from day to day.
With a little planning, you can easily save money on filling up your car at the cheapest petrol station locations.
- Search for the best deals using the fuelwatch website.
You can use your smartphone while you're out and about, or before you leave the house to check where to find the cheapest fuel.
Hot tip: It helps to know the postcodes of the areas you travel frequently to search fast. and plan your journey to find the cheapest fuel when you'll need it.
From the Fuelwatch website: "The rewards for using FuelWatch can be significant! WA motorists could save up to 20 cents per litre on any given day. In fact, according to a recent independent survey, people who subscribed to the email service said they have saved between $2 and $20 per week, saving as much as $1050 a year."
- Or consider trying out the 7-Eleven fuel app
It tracks the fuel prices on offer through 7-Eleven outlets and allows you to lock in a fuel price from their locations for 7 days, to be redeemed when you purchase your fuel. You'll need to register your Visa or Mastercard with the app. Keep in mind that the money on the account is non-refundable, but you can spend it at any Australian 7-Eleven store.
All of these tips and suggestions can help you to save some money and avoid a financial hangover this Christmas and many of the ideas here can help you throughout the year too. With a bit of self-discipline and prior planning, you can regain or maintain your control over your finances and can sock away some money for your other financial goals, like saving towards buying your first home or getting a bigger and better one.
Here's hoping you and yours have a very merry Christmas and I look forward to hearing your expert tips and suggestions for making your money go further.
Drop me line anytime,
If you'd like help with assessing your personal and financial situation, as well as comparing the loans in the market to see if you're truly getting the right deal for you, then call Bob Malpass now on 0431 862 136, email [email protected] or send us a message via our website for a quick response.
Thanks for reading,