When we’re constantly being bombarded by Christmas gift guides, it can seem like the only way to approach the festive season is by spending lots of money.
But if that just creates financial stress it doesn’t really add up to a very merry Christmas.
Research shows that lots of Australians spend money at Christmas that they don’t really have. According to Moneysmart.gov.au, Australians spend $1,079 on average over the holiday season including between $400 and $550 on presents.
But one in five people were using a credit card to pay for Christmas presents and 80 per cent of them were taking three months to pay off their Christmas credit card debt. For seven per cent of people it took longer than six months to pay off their Christmas debt.
To make Christmas (and the weeks afterwards) as stress-free as possible start by working what you can afford and then decide on the best way you can spend your money. Perhaps having a Christmas tree is more important to you and your family than Christmas crackers; or exchanging gifts feels more special than an elaborate Christmas meal.
Look for alternative ways to get things. Can you make decorations? Or buy a second-hand Christmas tree?
Here are five more ways to have a more affordable holiday season.
Set a spending limit
Before you go anywhere near the shops set some limits. Work out what you can afford to spend and aim for a cash-only Christmas as much as possible. Moneysmart.gov.au shows 57 per cent of people set a Christmas budget and four out of five stuck to it.
Decide before you shop
Do you know you tend to spend less when you use a shopping list at the supermarket? The same applies to Christmas spending. If possible work out what you want to buy before you go to the shops and do some comparison shopping online to track down the best deal. Planning and shopping early means you won’t be panic buying on Christmas Eve.
If you want to be sure that you’ve paid for your presents before Christmas morning look for a retailer which offers lay-by.
Focus on giving rather than buying
Giving doesn’t have to equal buying. Could you get crafty and make something? Or cook some biscuits; turn a plant cutting or some flowers into a present? Or can you give the gift of time or an experience? Perhaps offer to babysit or wash a car for someone; or create a special at-home movie night or a beach picnic in the New Year. That way you can spread the cost of Christmas a little too.
Another alternative is to agree to have a secret Santa so that each person receives one gift. Research by Finder.com.au shows more than one in four people are planning to do that this year. Likewise, if you’re hosting a Christmas celebration share the cost by asking everyone to make a contribution to the food or drinks.
Can you shop for food and drink with a friend to take advantage of two for the price of one deals and reduce the cost of Christmas for both of you?