“On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
Three declined cards,
Two cash advances,
And thirty days in-te-rest freeeeee!”
Ever wonder what Christmas carols would sound like if they were written today? There’d probably be a lot less about piper’s piping and partridges in pear trees, and a bit more about the madness of trying to put on the perfect Christmas without breaking the bank – or going a bit mad. Perhaps an urban legend of a parent who braved a Westfield on Christmas Eve and lived to tell the tale.
If this sounds familiar, here are a few steps you can take to help reduce the financial stress of the silly season.
- Make a list
Every time you hit the shops (because let’s be honest, it’ll take more than one go), make a list before you leave (but after you’ve eaten, to avoid hunger-based snack purchases). This goes for everything from gifts and Christmas Day food, to decorations and extra furniture/linens for holiday guests.
- Set your own budget
You don’t have to keep up with the Joneses this Christmas. In fact, we’ll let you in on a little secret. Those families in the ads and magazines – the ones with themed outfits and perfect table settings for their gourmet feasts – don’t actually exist. So take the pressure off, and set a Christmas budget that works for you.
- Shop around
Don’t limit yourself to the big city department stores, malls and supermarkets to get great gifts. Don’t forget to shop local as much as you can – often the prices are the same and it helps keep our local towns thriving. Have a look online (handy for comparison shopping!), hit the outlets, or even go second-hand.
- Get creative
When it comes to gifts, bigger (and designer branded) isn’t always better. Think handmade gifts, like food or personalised crafts. Alternatively, give an experience rather than a present – it gives the recipient something to look forward to after the holidays are over. It can be a good idea to organise a Kris Kringle or Secret Santa for your close family or friend group, so you only have to buy one present.
- Shop with purpose
Set a time limit as well as a budget before you leave the house. If possible, plan in advance exactly what stores you’ll be visiting, as it’s easy to get distracted amongst the crowds and glitzy store displays.
- Track your spending
Ever finish a day of holiday shopping and forget what you’ve bought? Set a reminder for yourself to check your banking app or spending tracker every few hours to keep an eye on where your money is going.
Donating money gives you a feel-good boost, and the difference your dollars can make can really put the rest of your ‘must-have’ expenses in perspective.
- Share the load
If you’re hosting on Christmas Day, ask others to bring food or drinks; don’t feel like you need to bear all the costs of hosting. If you’re not hosting, offer to help out the person who is. They’ll appreciate the gesture.
- Avoid credit
Take out cash or use your debit card where possible to reduce the January credit card hangover.
- Reduce, reuse, regift
Everyone’s got a drawer (or a whole cupboard…) of unwanted gifts that are still somehow too good to give away. A little thoughtful regifting is not only good for the environment, it’s a budget-friendly move.
- Plan ahead
Start planning ahead for next year while the experience (or stress) of organising this Christmas is still fresh in your mind. Who knows – you could pick up a few timeless gifts at bargain prices in those Boxing Day sales!
- And finally – make merry!
After all the lead up, you deserve to relax and enjoy the day and the joys of the festive season.