6 clever money hacks to stay on budget this Christmas

6 clever money hacks to stay on budget this Christmas

It can be very easy to take a ‘set and forget’ approach to your Christmas spending and rely on your credit card to take care of all the expenses, only to be left with a dreadful financial hangover in the New Year.

That’s why taking a financially savvy approach is your best way to keep your personal finances in check this upcoming holiday season.

Here are some useful tips to ensure you stay on track with your spending this Christmas and have a season to be jolly, not a season to be sorry.

1. Create your spending plan and stick to it

Decide a limit on how much you’re willing to spend without blowing up your bank accounts. Then most importantly – stick to that plan.

It helps to write down every expense on your phone or a piece of paper as you buy it to keep a running tally and ensure you don’t go over budget.

2. Make a list and check it often

While at your nearest shopping centre, it’s very easy to be distracted by the window displays and in-store promotions tempting you to buy the latest trends. That is when you’re most at risk of impulse buying.

Writing down a list will keep you honest and help you to resist that urge. List down who you really need to buy Christmas gifts for and work out how much you want to spend overall. Then average that out per person or distribute as needed.

Whatever you decide, stick to your overall limit.

3. Choose experiences over stuff

In a society that can be obsessed with buying the latest stuff, especially at Christmas time, think more about what truly matters – your friends and family.

If you’re tight on money and looking for alternatives, consider some experiences you could offer instead of the usual gift-giving ceremony, including:

  • Your time to babysit nieces, nephews and cousins
  • Helping your relatives or neighbours on a home project
  • Having a barbecue in the backyard or a festive picnic at your local park
  • Volunteering at a homeless shelter or animal refuge.

4. Use reward points if you have them

If you’ve got reward points stashed away, now is the perfect time to use them.

All that time gaining points on frequent flyer schemes, credit cards and supermarket loyalty cards can pay off at this moment of need. Spend your hard-earned points now.

5. Make your own gifts

Do you enjoy a hobby such as cooking, crafts or photography? If you do, perhaps give your friends and family your best treats that you’ve made from scratch, a plant you’ve grown and nurtured, or an artwork that you’ve recently laboured over.

Giving someone a gift that you created yourself can be more memorable and meaningful. You’ll also save plenty of money in the process.

RELATED: 5 ways to avoid the Christmas debt trap

6. Research what you want to buy

If there is a particular product you’re set on getting for someone, look around for the best deals. With several sales on at this time of year, many stores are offering discounts on items they know will be popular and in high demand.

However, be cautious if you’re shopping online. Not only are scam ads and emails becoming more frequent, but they are also more sophisticated as well, especially at Christmas time. The Australian Cyber Security Centre has a guide on how to recognise and report scams, and how to check if a business is legitimate.

Think more about giving and helping others

Rather than thinking “What do I need to buy for my friends and family this Christmas?”, reframe it as “How can I give and help those who are most important to me?” Besides, that has always been the true meaning of Christmas.

We can all spread joy and hope at a time when so many people need it. Send Christmas cards to people to let them know you’re thinking about them. Prepare something for neighbours or friends who live alone or might be feeling left out. Support local businesses by buying Australian-made gifts. Donate to charities you’re passionate about – you’ll even get a tax deduction on donations over $2.

However you decide to spend your money this Christmas, the most important thing is to be realistic about what you can and can’t afford. Then constantly check yourself so you’re immune to that impulse we all have and unnecessarily going over budget.

Helen Baker, financial adviser

This article was written by Helen Baker, a licensed Australian financial adviser and author of On Your Own Two Feet: The Essential Guide to Financial Independence for all Women.

Helen is among the 1 per cent of financial planners who hold a master’s degree in the field. Proceeds from book sales are donated to charities supporting disadvantaged women and children.

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