The holiday season is fast approaching and if last year is anything to go by, Australians will collectively fork out around $48 billion1 in the lead-up to Christmas. For many of us, big spending can also mean big debt. But it is possible to share the festive cheer without blowing your budget.
Early 2017 saw around three million Australians nursing a festive season financial hangover, with an estimated $28 billion being spent on credit cards in December 2016 alone2. That can mean facing a far-from-prosperous New Year.
Rather than getting caught up in a “spend now, worry later” approach, now is the time to plan for Christmas spending. It may be the silly season but sensible strategies never go astray.
Here are five money saving hacks to enjoy the holiday period with your finances intact.
1) Plan ahead
Take a leaf out of Santa's book and make some lists. Jot down who you plan to buy gifts for, setting a price limit for each; note what you need for Christmas day catering and how much it's likely to cost; and itemise other Christmas expense like holiday outings.
It's like setting a festive budget, and it's a great way to see if spending could get out of hand and identify areas where you could cut back.
2) Look for discounts
There's a wide range of ways to cut the cost of presents without being a Scrooge. Gift cards for instance are available at discounted prices on sites like eBay and Gumtree as well as dedicated sites like Gift Cards on Sale. For big ticket purchases, websites like Grays Online offer access to liquidator sales where you can pick up money-saving bargains.
Remember, not every gift has to be store bought. A homemade fruit cake for example, shows real personal thought and costs a fraction of retail price.
3) Join forces with family members
The festive season is all about family, so it makes sense to team up with relatives to pay for big ticket gifts that the recipient actually needs and will use. Or make a family pledge to set a dollar limit on gifts to save money all round.
4) Pay with cash where possible
An estimated 40% of festive purchases will be paid for with credit3 and that can mean adding to the cost through interest charges. Paying with cash is a sensible step. Don't forget lay-by. It may be old-fashioned but it allows you to pay off purchases at your own pace.
5) Share the love – and the load
Don't feel you have to do all the catering for Christmas Day. Invite family and friends to contribute to the table with a bottle of bubbles, their own favourite dish or just a few nibblies. It helps cut the cost while also creating a sense of inclusion – and that's what the festive season is all about.
Importantly, keep some cash in the kitty for the New Year. January can be an expensive month with back-to-school costs and a range of other bills likely to arrive.
6) Keep your festive finances in the black
The bottom line is that red may be the colour of the festive season, but if you can aim to keep your finances in the black you'll be in good shape to enjoy wealth and prosperity in the New Year.
For more expert advice on managing your money throughout the silly season, contact your local Mortgage Choice financial adviser today.
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