Christmas on a budget: 10 tips to survive the silly season

By Greg Major*, BA (AsSt) BE (Hons) MBA, GAICD FFIN FAIM, Director, Blueprint Wealth

With the festive season in full swing it can be extremely tempting to blow caution to the wind and splurge – fun at the time, but it can mean putting ourselves on the back foot in the New Year.

With a little bit of planning, however, you can begin the new year one step ahead. Here are some silly season survival strategies to ensure you can still enjoy the festivities, but not at the expense of your financial well-being.

1. Dream and plan

Take some time out to think about your financial goals for the new year and beyond. Write down what steps you need to take to achieve these goals, or visit a financial planner for some professional advice and a plan tailored for you.  If you have an inspiring vision of your future and exciting financial goals, it will be much easier to deal with the impulse to spend recklessly during the silly season.

2. Make lists and create a budget

To avoid falling into the silly season spending frenzy, make a list of the gifts you need to buy and the things you would like to do this holiday.  Then prioritise the items on your list and allocate a budget for each one. Just knowing exactly how much you intend to spend to cover Christmas expenses may be an effective way to curb unnecessary spending. Of course, the most important part here is to be absolutely disciplined in sticking to your budget and priorities.

3. Avoid impulse spending and credit cards

Vow to avoid impulse spending and buying on credit. If you can bear it, consider leaving the credit card at home and shopping with cash.  Don’t just buy the first thing you see. Do some window shopping first and compare costs – it’s often possible to find a better price if you spend the time looking around.

4. Shop online

Many online stores allow you to make purchases just days before Christmas and still have them shipped in time for the big day. Online shopping is often great value – not to mention more convenient as you avoid the crazy crowds at the shops. Quite often too you will get much better prices online for exactly the same items you’ll find at the shops.

4. Homemade gifts

There is nothing more thoughtful, and often appreciated, than a home-made gift.  Aside from the satisfaction it offers, you can also reduce costs by preparing these presents in bulk.

5. Suggest a Secret Santa

A Secret Santa or Kris Kringle is a great way to keep costs down at Christmas.  Everyone pulls a name from a hat and only buys a gift for the person whose name they’ve retrieved.  Some families also set a price limit on the gifts too.

7. Make an agreement with others about gifts

People around you may also be giving serious consideration to Christmas finances.  Approach them with the idea of either agreeing not to exchange gifts this year, or to keep gift spending within a certain amount. You may find that they are as relieved as you to not have high expectations hanging over their heads about what to give and how much to spend.

8. Buy only for the kids or donate

Another way of curbing costs is to make it clear that this year you’re only buying presents for the kids.  Or you could agree with family and friends to make charity donations instead of exchanging gifts.

9. Plan to use any bonuses wisely

If you’re lucky enough to get a Christmas bonus, decide long before it arrives in your account exactly how you are going to spend it. Allocate some money for the joy of spoiling yourself and your family, but consider using at least three-quarters of your bonus to make a real, lasting difference to your long-term financial well-being.  For example, pay off debt, put extra into your superannuation or use it to save towards your long-term financial goals.

10. Plan for next Christmas

Keep a track of what you spend over this Christmas.  After Christmas divide that figure by 52, then from January aim to set aside that amount each week.  Consult your local bank for a Christmas club or look for a simple savings account that allows you to make a deposit weekly.  Look for an account that also pays interest.

Here’s to enjoying a guilt-free festive season, knowing you will start the New Year with a clear financial conscience and none of the usual ‘silly season’ debt.

At Blueprint Wealth, we offer financial advice that is right for you, no matter what stage of life you are at. Contact us today to set up a plan that is right for you.

*Greg Major is an Authorised Representative of AMP Financial Planning Pty Ltd, ABN 89 051 208 327, AFS Licence No. 232706.

Any advice given is general only and has not taken into account your objectives, financial situation or needs.  Because of this, before acting on any advice, you should consult a financial planner to consider how appropriate the advice is to your objectives, financial situation and needs.