It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but are you able to enjoy the festive season without blowing a hole in your budget?
As it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the season, we can sometimes go a little overboard with gifts for our family, friends and ourselves.
While there’s nothing wrong with spreading the Christmas cheer, it is wise to plan ahead soyou don’t find yourself starting a new year with a major debt to pay off.
The following tips could help you enjoy a happier Christmas and a debt-free New Year.
Prepare a budget
Make a list of everyone you want to buy presents for and how much you want to spend.Don’t forget to include any small gifts you want to buy for teachers, neighbours and party hosts. If the total is more than you can afford, review your limits. If you make this list and stick to it, you won’t end up with any nasty surprises later on.
Organise a Secret Santa
Suggest this to your family so nobody feels under pressure to spend up big. This works through each person drawing one name out of a hat and buying that person a gift. You can set a price limit to make it easier for everyone. This system takes a lot of stress out of Christmas shopping because you only have to come up with one gift idea.
Shop at the sales
Keep an eye out for items on your list that are on sale, and check store catalogues for discounts and special offers. With many retailers still doing it tough, you might also be able to ask for a discount for cash.
Head online to shop
You can often find what you’re looking for online at a lower price, especially with the strength of the Aussie dollar. Price comparison websites will even do some of the hard work for you.Some online stores also offer free delivery at certain times, so it pays to do your homework.A bit of online research could save you plenty.
Layby your purchases
Many retailers offer this service, sometimes with no deposit, right up until Christmas. It’s a good way of spreading the cost of purchases over the next month or so. And for people with young children, this can also help ensure gifts are not kept in the house where curious little ones might find them.
Make your own gifts
If you have a talent for craft or baking, you can put together inexpensive gifts such as home-made cakes, sweets and jams. If you can sew, knit or have some other skill, a personalised gift will be even more special.
Spread the cost
By putting a few extra items in your trolley at the supermarket each week, you can stock up on many of the things you’ll need for Christmas lunch. You’ll also save money if you pick up items when they’re on special. For example, most retailers will have gift items such as boxed chocolates on sale at some point between now and Christmas.
Watch your credit card
Cards are convenient, but it can be easy to get carried away in the lead-up to Christmas.Unless you have money set aside to pay off the bill, avoid using credit cards to buy Christmas gifts or you’ll be paying for Christmas well into the New Year.
Budget for post-Christmas expenses
Apart from the credit card, there are other big expenses to prepare for in January and February. Expenses such as utility bills and back-to-school costs such as fees and uniformsneed to be factored into your overall budget.
Start planning now for next Christmas
You can set aside money each week to cover the cost of next Christmas. Many financial institutions offer special savings accounts for this purpose. Work out how much you think you’ll need and set the weekly total. You probably won’t notice such a small amount each week, but it will make a huge difference come December.
We all look forward to Christmas and spending time with loved ones, and if you do your financial homework now you’ll be free to relax and enjoy the festive season without worrying about how you’re going to pay for it.