5 tips to manage Christmas spending

5 tips to manage Christmas spending

Christmas is a joyous time but the lead-up to the festive season can be stressful and can really stretch your finances if you’re not careful – how many of us have had holiday budget hangovers?

Want to avoid post-Christmas money stress? Here are some easy ways to spread Christmas cheer without blowing your budget.

1. Plan for affordability first

Before you start planning, consider this: many people make a list of every lusted-for item, gifts for all, and a cracking Christmas meal, then only afterwards consider: “How will I pay for it?” That’s a recipe to be broke!

They key is to draw up a budget for your Christmas spending – not just presents, but the additional spending on food, drink and socialising. Embed this Christmas element of your budget within the rest of the household budget, so that you can manage the overall effect Christmas spending has on your finances, potentially over a number of months. It’s important to try not to allow yourself to be pressured into spending – by advertising, by your children or close family – into spending more than you can really afford.

2. Make a list and check it twice

In the lead-up to Christmas, make lists of the things you need to buy and the food you need to prepare for the festive season. Having lists will help you plan your spending and keep you on track. Some things to track include:

  • Presents – List who you’re buying for, what you want to buy, and how much money you’ve allocated for each person. For larger gifts, consider using lay-by in the months before Christmas so you can pay them off over time.
  • Supplies for Christmas/Boxing Day – List what you want to buy, and where from. Buy in advance where possible to take advantage of specials, especially if the items can be frozen or have a long shelf life.
  • If you are travelling – list costs like flights, car service/tyre check, petrol and travel insurance and shop around for deals early. If you’re driving somewhere, think about what day is best to fill up on petrol and do it the week before Christmas.


3. Shop smart

  • The effects of a shopping list are well-known, especially when it comes to avoiding impulse purchases! Have a shopping list, as it’s easy to spend too much if you don’t have clear goals.
  • When you find something you like, be smart, compare prices right there on your smartphone and be prepared to bargain or at least ask if the shop will match cheaper prices elsewhere.
  • Pick up bargains in the sales during the year and put them aside. Reasonable alternatives for cheaper shopping are outlet stores if you can get to them.
  • Avoid last-minute shopping as it can result in rushed and expensive decisions.
  • Above all, make sure your head rules your heart and you stick to buying what you can afford. 


4. Christmas gift hacks

Rather than spending up big to fill the Christmas stockings, get creative with your gifts! Here are some ideas:

  • Give a gift of food – If you’re creative in the kitchen, why not make something to give and create a personal, tasty gift.
  • Create a coupon – If you have a knack for massage, babysitting, or even hugs, give your family member or friend a coupon they can redeem at a later date.
  • Give an experience – Take someone on a picnic, a driving tour, or plan a dinner date at home.
  • DIY it – Get crafty and make a personalised gift using stuff you already have – there are heaps of ideas online. This is great as the kids can get involved with this one too!
  • Save on wrapping – Buy brown paper and string to wraps your gifts instead of shelling out for pricey Christmas wrapping, then you can use any excess throughout the year. If you have kids, get them involved and use their paintings or drawings as wrapping paper.
  • Set a present limit – Suggest to your family or friends that you all set a limit on how much you will spend on gifts for each other to keep your gift budget at a sensible level.
  • Re-think your Christmas card – Rather than spending money on buying and posting Christmas cards, record a family Christmas video greeting with your phone and email it to your friends and loved ones. It will be much more fun and add a personal touch.


5. Shop like you’re Santa

Santa is always well-prepared and does his shopping on time so let’s take a leaf out of his book! If you are going to shop in-store, consider these rules-of-thumb to reduce Christmas shopping stress and limit the temptation to over spend:

  • Set a time limit on your shopping – Get in, get it done and get out so you aren’t tempted to spend more than you wanted to.
  • Shop at odd hours – Take advantage of extended trading hours and go when it’s less crowded so you can choose carefully without having to jostle for space.
  • Buy less expensive stuff first – If you buy larger and more costly items first you can lose perspective on what is a good price, so set your budget, buy small first, and then tackle the big stuff so you keep to your gift budget.
  • Pre-pay – If you buy online, check if there’s an option to pick up in-store. You’ll save on freight, skip any lines, and there will be less temptation to buy more.
  • Limit your shopping locations – Only go to shops that you need to so you don’t get distracted and impulse buy.


Sacha Loutkovsky
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