Don’t fall into the Christmas money pit

Don’t fall into the Christmas money pit

Ah, November is upon us again and party season is nigh. Sunny days, horse races, barbecues, and the looming money pit that is Christmas. The festive season is a favourite time of year but all that good cheer can throw a blanket over the damage it can inflict on your budget.

If maxing out your credit card year after year has left you dreading the arrival of the big guy in the red suit, make this Christmas the one you’ll still think of fondly in January when the bills start to roll in.

There’s no need to come over all Scrooge about it. A few small steps can make all the difference to having spare cash at Christmas, or trashing the plastic and derailing your savings plan. Again.

Firstly, set a firm budget for gift buying, and stick to it. Start shopping well in advance so you don’t find yourself overspending in desperation on December 24. Choose small, thoughtful gifts, rather than grand, flashy things that probably have some wow factor but don’t necessarily mean more than a present that has been chosen carefully with the receiver in mind. Get down to a fine level of detail with your budget and correlate it with the gifts you will buy.

For example, Aunty Jen likes gardening but doesn’t have a lot of space since she moved into her townhouse, so she might like a planter box and some seeds to pot up for her courtyard. That will set you back about $15. Your niece, Maisy, is quite the artist. A block of potter’s clay and an apron will nurture that nicely. That will cost about $12 for a 10kg bag and an apology for the mess. Dad’s mad for fishing but gets too much sun, so a surf brand sun hat will fit the bill, for about $20. Getting the picture?

A good trick to avoiding the temptation to put impulse purchases on your credit card is to leave the card at home when you go shopping. If you find the most perfect, must-have gift, which also happens to be frightfully expensive, lay-by it. You can pay it off over the coming weeks and that might also give you some distance to decide whether it really is so must-have after all. If you put it on your credit card, you could still be paying it off next Christmas, well after the shine has worn off.

Next, plan how you will fund the extra groceries that inevitably come with entertaining. The ideal way is to shave a little bit off the cost of your shop every week until Christmas. Buy less meat, fewer luxuries like frozen fruit, desserts, or packaged meals, and give up the takeaway food. That should give you enough money to buy all the prawns, ham, mince pies, fruit cake, pudding, cheeses, nuts, and wine you want. And ask Dad to catch extra when he’s fishing.

Remember, it’s fair enough to ask your Christmas lunch guests to bring part of the feast with them, so work out in advance who’s doing the roast, the veges, the seafood, and dessert, if that’s your thing. Maybe you could split some other costs, too. Do you need a whole ham, or could you go halves with your sister and her family? You will both have saved some money and won’t be so sick of ham that you can’t face it again until next Christmas.

Christmas is lovely but when it’s excessive it’s just exhausting. Your savings agree. 

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