“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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Shop around
Don’t limit yourself to department stores, malls and supermarkets to get great gifts. Have a look online (handy for comparison shopping!), hit the outlets, or even go second hand.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
8. 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.
9. Avoid credit
Take out cash or use your debit card where possible to reduce the January credit card hangover.
10. 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.
11. Plan ahead
Start planning ahead for next year while the experience (read: 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!
12. And finally – make merry!
After all the lead up, you deserve to relax and enjoy the day and the joys of the festive season.