A sackful of debt is not something anyone wants to be left with after the festive season. The truth is, however, that Christmas is the biggest spending time of the year and the pressure to spend more than you can afford kicks in to add to financial stress for many people. It doesn’t have to be this way though if you use part ingenuity, part determination.
New Zealanders spend hundreds of millions of dollars on Christmas – but if you would prefer to spend a little less this year, the first of all you need to address your own insecurities. Realise that there will always be people who spend far more than you do and that is it foolish to even think you can put yourself out there at the same financial level. There are still plenty of ways to have a lovely Christmas break without overdoing it.
Here are some concepts to think about.
Christmas is the season of splurge
We buy, eat and drink a lot more than we need or should over the Christmas season. Cut down on all these expenses if you don’t want to blow the budget. For example, use the decorations from last year or make your own instead of buying new ones, and think twice about the food and drinks you really need, rather than want.
Educate children from the start that Christmas is not only about presents. Make them understand that most kids in the world do not have the things that they already have. Combine practical gifts with the more expensive ones they are desperately wanting, and reduce the latter to just one.
Be creative and make your own handmade gifts. There’s no doubt these will involve more love and in the end they will be very personal gifts. If you think you are talented enough, the internet is full of inspiring tutorials and it is never too late to learn.
Understand that sometimes the best Christmas gift you can give is quality time and not necessarily money. Elderly or infirm relatives immediately spring to mind, as do the Christmas work undertaken by the various charities. Doing something for others is the best, and a good lesson when you get the kids involved as well.
Furthermore, doing a Secret Santa with family and friends will considerably reduce the number of gifts you need to buy. Buying a nice present and receiving another in return means you don’t have to waste money on nonsense individual gifts for so many people.
Set a budget and don’t exceed it. Without a plan it is easy to fall into the compulsive buying trap during this tempting season. Include gifts, decorations, parties and clothes in this budget. Once you have set your budget you can also buy on a budget. Search around for bargains, sales and discount offers – they are out there.
Always pay in cash and avoid using your credit card. It’s too easy to rack up a debt for later if you buy on your credit card. And steer clear of ‘buy now, pay later’ retail offers unless you know for sure that you can manage the payments before the interest rate kicks in.
Last but not least, you can have a great deal of fun over the Christmas break without spending a penny. Saving money doesn’t mean you have to stay at home. Every city and region has lots of free things families can enjoy – from swimming to picnicking to walks. Look out for activities in your area. You’ll be surprised what’s on offer.