We may roll our eyes at the Christmas decorations already being rolled out across shopping centres, but it’s never too early to start financially preparing for Christmas. Although it should be a time filled with joy and relaxation, many people struggle with the financial burden of Christmas. From presents, end-of-year parties, food, alcohol and travel over the Christmas period, the costs just keep adding up. So that is why it is important to start budgeting for this expensive time of the year as early as possible. Although Christmas is only just over a month away, it’s not too late to start now!
Make a budget
Create a budget on your phone, a scrap of paper or a colour coded excel document, it doesn’t matter how you do it, just make a start. List all the expenses that you think will pop up over the Christmas period. These could include gifts, decorations, food, alcohol, travel even school holiday activities and childcare.
Then figure out what disposable income you can put towards these costs and include any savings you have accumulated throughout the year in preparation. Now allocate that money among the list of expenses. Now you know what you can afford to spend, stick to the budget!
Presents can be the biggest cost of Christmas. It’s like everyone having their birthdays all on the same day and you feel obligated to get everyone from your best friend, partner, child’s teacher or work colleague a present! It’s overwhelming!
To tackle gift anxiety, create a list of all the people you would like to give a gift to. Now is a great time to start planning what you want to get everyone. With Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales just around the corner, you could grab exactly what you need for a fraction of the cost. If you buy what you were planning for 50% off, don’t feel like you need to spend the rest of the 50% on something extra, just be happy you saved some money!
If you are super prepared, you may have even bought gifts on sale throughout the year during EOFY or Click Frenzy sales. If you are short on cash, consider using points from reward schemes that you have built up over time such as MYER or Flybuys.
Another way to save money on gifts is to make your own. If you have a passion for baking, why not create little hampers of Christmas treats? Or if you are a talented craftsperson or artist, consider gifting some of your work. And never underestimate the power of written word. A heartfelt card can mean much more than a physical gift.
One way to reduce the number of presents is suggesting that your friendship group and/or family partake in a Secret Santa gift exchange. There are a few websites such as drawnames.com.au that assign everyone a person, and you can create an anonymous wish list, so everyone gets something they want and there is much less waste.
Food & drinks
Christmas is a time for food and feasting, so the cost of food and drinks can add up to just as much as presents if not more, especially if you are the host! Just as you should with presents, keep an eye out for sales leading up to the festive period, not everything can be bought ahead of time, but when things like nibbles and drinks go on sale it’s a good time to stock up.
If you are hosting, ask your guests to bring a plate of food, this helps spread out the cost more evenly and takes the full burden off you. If you have the time, cook things like starters and snacks from scratch!
The festive period might be a good time to check out a different grocery store that offers cheaper alternatives to the big name brands. Aldi is known to have award winning yet very cheap wine, and their cheese is a lot cheaper too.
In the end, the key to lessening the financial burden of Christmas is to start planning ahead way before December. Put a little bit of money aside from each pay cheque to go towards Christmas spending and always keep your budget front of mind.
Important: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. Consider the appropriateness of the information in regard to your circumstances.