A Savvy Guide to Surviving Christmas

Christmas Budget 1140X511

With a little planning, and a whole heap of savvy, here's our guide to surviving Christmas with your budget - and sanity - intact!

Christmas has a habit of sneaking up on you. It seems so far away and then before you know it, it’s only 10 weeks until the big day – which means it’s only 5 paychecks away, or just 2 – if you’re paid monthly. Gulp.

Christmas is a stressful time of year for everyone. There’s an extraordinary amount of pressure to create the perfect day. We’re bombarded with Xmas-related advertising, creating unrealistic expectations which can be difficult to manage, especially if finances are already stretched or your budget is tight.

So, how do you survive the festive season with your finances – and sanity! – intact?

I asked the Booster team to share some of their tips and tricks to help survive the financial pressures of the festive season.

Get prepared

It seems the key to surviving Christmas financially is to get prepared. From stashing money away during the year, taking advantage of mid-year sales to setting a price limit on gifts, the more preparation you can do throughout the year will help ease some of the financial pressure in days leading up to Christmas.

Bill shared this excellent suggestion:

“Something we’ve introduced at home is the use of the ‘Save the change’ feature on our bank accounts where it rounds up our purchases to the nearest $1, so $5.76 saves that extra 24 cents for example, and puts the pennies into another account. By the time we need to buy presents we’ve some money already saved up. And it’s quite surprising how fast it builds up.”

And Jade had these useful tips:

“Write a list of everyone you intend to buy a present for and a budget earlier in the year, then keep an eye out for gifts/gift ideas a few months ahead to take advantage of sales and laybuy options. A Chrisco hamper or one of the supermarket Xmas saving schemes is another great idea - super helpful if you are the one hosting the Xmas breakfast/lunch etc.”

Have I left it too late?

It's not too late to start. Make a list, set a budget and stick to it!

Ok – so they are very good suggestions for getting ahead of the game and a great way to start planning for Christmas earlier in the year. But, if you’re like me, and leave everything to the last minute, what can you do now to ease the Xmas pressure on your wallet?

Setting a budget and sticking to it is the best plan of attack, advises Rachel:

“Plan out the people you need to buy presents for and decide on what you’ll get BEFORE hitting the shops. If you know what you are going to be buying you are less likely to overspend. Also, check out online options, sometimes it’s cheaper to grab a gift online than to go in store.”

And Luke made this suggestion:

“Put off the discretionary spending you were thinking of doing now - like shoes, cutlery, or tools from the likes of Rebel Sport, Briscoes, Mitre 10 Mega etc. - and do it online on Boxing Day; no crowds, good discounts, and you may find you don’t even want or need them anymore.”

Keeping Santa real

Made In Santas Workshop 500X333Managing expectations for gifts is probably the biggest cause of stress for Christmas. Children get excited by thoughts of what Santa will bring, with expectations growing wildly as the great day approaches. How do you manage your child’s expectations of what Santa will bring? Is it possible to keep the budget under control while using the opportunity to help your children learn about the value of money?

Di shared this great alternative:

“A few years ago, my friend’s family made a deal. All the kid’s presents had to be second-hand. They discovered op-shops had plenty of good quality toys, the kids got into the spirit and offered up their old toys, the recipients loved their pre-loved pressies and the givers saved a packet. It really was a win-win all round.”

Or, you could adopt Jude’s approach:

“In our family, the letters to Santa include the wish list, and Santa gets to choose which gift he brings. It helps if the children put a star next to their most wanted item."

A good way to help children understand the value of money is to let them help with gift purchasing, suggests Luke:

“Giving children some money to go shopping instead of buying them what they list; depending on their age, teaches them how to shop, prioritise, a little math and you can be sure they’re getting what they want, plus they seem to like shopping!”

Gifts for extended family members?

Having a Secret Santa idea for adults is one way to keep costs down

Gift giving can suddenly grow arms and legs, with extended families and relatives. How do you decide who to buy for, and how much should you spend?

Having a Secret Santa idea for adults is one way to limit the expenditure on gifts, explains Alistair:

“Remove the pressure of buying for multiple people by suggesting a Secret Santa option for the adults. Set a limit on the gift – eg $50 – and you only have the one present to buy. Takes all the stress out of buying for lots of people.”

Get crafty

Another idea is to focus on homemade gifts. Whether it’s baking, or a memory keepsake, a handmade gift can be more personal and homemade treats are always appreciated.

Make a donation to a charity on behalf of your family instead of buying lots of little presents

Alysha puts her baking skills to use:

“I make homemade gifts for everyone! Baking is a good cheap gift idea that you can make in bulk . Cookies, hot chocolate mugs and fudge are my go-to.” 

And Gordon uses his creative streak to come up with a unique idea:

“Homemade and personal gifts go a long way. I created a series of keepsakes from places my partner and I had visited, using inexpensive glass bottles from Briscoes. It made a nice little memory display for our home”.

Alternatively, if the commercialisation of Christmas is not something you want to support, make your spending power count by using it to support a charity that’s close to your heart:

“My mother-in-law does this every year; instead of buying gifts she buys a charity donation on behalf of the entire family.” – Rachel

The holiday break

Sand Castles With Plastic Buckets 500X333It’s not just the expense of gifts for Christmas, it’s also the big family meal, the get-togethers with friends and families, not to mention the holiday break and trips away. How do you keep costs to a minimum while still creating a relaxing, fun-filled break?

On the day

“Have everyone contribute something to the main meal. That way, you end up with a no-stress meal, and it doesn’t fall to just one person to provide and cook all the food.” - Alysha

“Focus on sharing experiences with children and focus less on presents and ‘things’, like doing a jigsaw puzzle together, playing board or card games, or reading a book together.”  – Luke

After the big day

“Go camping! A bit drastic but going camping over Xmas (including Xmas day) certainly cuts down food costs, at least.” – Jude

“If you’re staying at home during the holidays, check out the local parks and bush walks for a day out, bring snacks or a picnic from home.”  Luke

“If lots of driving is going to be happening, aim to fill up your cars earlier rather than later! Petrol prices always seem to go up over the Xmas holiday period – this is also a good time to use all those discount fuel vouchers.” – Jade

It's not too late to start planning for a stress-free, financially savvy Xmas

It’s not too late to start!

Surviving the festive season financially does require some planning. But don’t panic – it’s not too late to start! With a little imagination, a bit of planning and some clever alternative ideas, you can create a fun, memory-filled holiday period without breaking the bank.

Thanks to the Booster contributors for their great ideas!

Bill Collins- IT Contractor; Jade Skilton - Team Leader – Investment Administration; Rachel Nowicki - Senior Manager Growth; Luke Anderson - Market Analyst; Di Papadopoulos - Marketing Strategist; Jude Davies - Customer Experience Manager; Alistair Shaw - Campaign Specialist; Alysha Richards - Growth Coordinator; Gordon Couling - Investment Administrator; Ailsa Chisholm - Relationship Management Support; Brenda Fitzgerald - Investment Administrator; Jermaine Basio - Customer Experience Consultant