Family, food and festivities. It’s what Christmas is all about. At least it should be. Unfortunately for many of us Christmas can also be a stressful time as we juggle social commitments and work our way through the Christmas wish list. When you’re battling crowds at congested malls, it’s easy to get caught up in the mayhem and start over-spending, especially if you leave your shopping until the last minute.
Once all of the celebration has subsided, the reality of our overindulgence sets in – such as a growing waistline and a shrinking bank account. Often the shock of the post-yuletide credit card statement prompts us to add ‘save more and spend less’ to the top of the New Year’s resolution list (closely followed by ‘exercise more and eat better’).
To help you avoid the Christmas credit hangover, here are some ideas to curb your silly season spending without compromising on quality.
- Be prepared. Before you hit the shops, do your homework and find out if there are any sales on. Better still, avoid the shops all together if you can and shop online. This way your shopping will be more targeted and you will be less likely to pick up that ‘little something extra’ that has caught your eye at the counter. Compare prices for the same products online and look for free shipping deals over the Christmas period.
- Adopt a “drink-it, eat-it or plant-it” philosophy to your gift buying. Often we end up buying gifts that simply add to the clutter of our everyday lives and we run the risk that the gift we buy isn’t of use to (or appreciated by) the recipient. Instead buy or make something that you know will be put to good use – think homemade baking or preserves with a festive twist, a bottle or two of their favourite wine, potted herbs or a fruit tree. The best part is, all of these gifts are thoughtful and affordable!
- Set up a Christmas savings account and put money away throughout the year to use over the Christmas period. Sorted.org.nz has some excellent tools and calculators to help you budget for a big event.
- ‘Secret Santa’ is pretty common practice when it comes to large family or office gatherings. Setting a budget and only buying for one person is a great idea to save on Christmas splurging. Why not mix things up a bit this year? If you are hosting Christmas at your place, ask everyone to bring one gourmet food item and make up a Christmas hamper (or a few depending on the number of people) and have a raffle. Or, ask people to bring a cheap present that could be suitable for anyone (joke presents are always fun) and throughout the day play some games where people compete for a random prize drawn from Santa’s sack. This makes the day big on fun without being big on spend.
- Get organised. Write your Christmas shopping list early in the year and buy gifts when you see them on sale. By keeping a Christmas stockpile, you can save money and take the hassle out of present buying as the year flies by. But buyer beware: Only buy gifts that you will end up giving! Don’t be tempted to buy something else or change your mind when it finally comes time to put the pressie under the tree.
Remember, the goal is to have fun and share great times with loved ones (and drive carefully - remember the maximum speed for December and January 2013 - 2014 is 104km.)
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By Carey Church