On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me, a massive pile of unnecessary debt and a headache that starts in January.
That’s the way Christmas goes for many of us year after year, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With a bit of planning and discipline, Christmas can go back to being about joy, pudding and trying to avoid religious and political conversations with that a particular family member…you know the one.
Here are our 12 days of Christmas budgeting to help you come out of the festive season in better shape than when you went in.
Day 1: Hold a Christmas spring (summer) clean and sale
Fact: your house is full of stuff you don’t need or want. Take some time before the holidays, get into full swing to clear out your cupboards and sell what you no longer need. Not only will you feel better, you can also make a tidy bit of cash that will help you get through the shopping season.
Day 2: Challenge your Christmas “norms”
Just because things have always been done a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to keep doing them. Why not suggest a secret santa for your family this year, rather than buying presents for everyone? Or what about buying presents just for the children? Do you need to have several tables heaving with various expensive Christmas treats or would a simpler lunch do the trick? Talk to those you share Christmas with and see if you can agree on paring things back a bit, and everyone will benefit.
Day 3: Have an honest look at your finances
You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. Sit down and have a good look at your finances. How much do you owe? What exactly are your repayments? Where could you cut back or possibly bring in more cash? Are you in a bit of trouble financially speaking? Is bankruptcy, for example, an option worth exploring, and should you be seeking financial advice?
Day 4: Create a realistic payment plan for debts
Christmas may seem like the last time you’d choose to get on top of your finances, but if you can do it now, you’ll start the new year ahead and you’ll feel in charge of your money, rather than feeling like it controls you. Sort out a payment plan for your credit cards that you can stick to and automate your payments so you don’t even have to think about it.
Day 5: Get organised and set a budget
Make a list of everything you need to buy this Christmas – including gifts, food and activities – and create a budget. Add it all up and be honest with yourself, can you afford all of that, and if not, where can you trim some fat? The golden rule is: if it sends you into debt, it’s too much. Considering that we Aussies already have $51.5 billion owing in credit card debt, don’t be too quick to pull out the plastic this silly season.
Day 6: Set a weekly finance date night
Create a date night in your calendar where you (and your partner if you have one) sit down during the Christmas season to compare your spending with your budget. Check how you’re tracking and whether anything needs adjusting before it all blows out and you throw the budget out the window.
Day 7: Look for ways to save on your shopping
Check the socials of your favourite retailers to see if they have any sales or offers. If you shop online, download the Honey app, which automatically searches the internet for the best vouchers to ensure you’re paying the lowest possible price. And buy discounted vouchers for your local supermarket or direct from retailers on eBay.
Day 8: Shop vintage
Vintage is all the rage, but we all know it’s actually code for “second hand”. Scour your local charity shops for fun vintage items that will mean something to someone you love, without breaking the bank. Bonus: nobody else will have anything like it.
Day 9: Share the catering costs
There’s nothing wrong with asking everyone to bring a plate and sharing the catering load at Christmas time. Feeding a bunch of hungry family members isn’t cheap, and people love to feel like they’ve contributed.
Day 10: Look for free events
It can be expensive socialising with everyone wanting to catch up around Christmas time, but it doesn’t have to be. Local councils often put on fun events, including lighting of Christmas trees, Santa visits and Christmas carols. Get into the spirit and save a few bucks at the same time.
Day 11: Get personal with cards and wrapping
Sometimes wrapping paper and cards can cost almost as much as the actual gift. Save big bucks by creating your own. If you have children, give them a big roll of brown paper and get them to paint it in festive colours and use that to wrap your presents. You can also buy some blank cards and let them use their imaginations to decorate each one. If you don’t have kids, let your creative juices flow and create something yourself. Let’s be real, finger painting was a blast when we were kids, so why not take a trip down memory lane while you save some money?
Day 12: Plan ahead
Everything Christmassy is on sale as soon as 26 December hits (sometimes sooner) – often half price or even lower. Buy anything you might need for next year that isn’t perishable and save yourself a lot of money.
Follow these 12 days of Christmas and we guarantee you’ll be better off this Christmas. The holiday season doesn’t have to be a financial disaster, it just takes some planning to be able to relax and have fun.