The festive season can be an extremely stressful time for many people. With multiple social engagements and Christmas shopping on the long list of tasks, it is not surprising that families struggle to embrace the joy of Christmas and stick to a realistic budget. This is especially true when spare time is limited and convenient (but costly!) solutions seem to be the only way to fast track our task list. Despite how quickly Christmas creeps up on us every year, here are a number of smart ways to save money this festive season;
1) Buy Bulk – it may sound obvious, however people overlook the value of buying bulk at Christmas time and covering multiple gifts in one purchase. Look out for savings on multiple items or negotiate with retailers to group purchases together for a discounted ‘bundle’ price. It is also a smart idea to save some extra funds to purchase bulk Christmas consumables (wrapping paper, napkins, bon bons) that are heavily reduced after Christmas. Store them with your Christmas tree to avoid paying full retail price the following Christmas.
2) Try a money wallet or envelope system – take the time to organise your Christmas budget into a money wallet which can be divided into separate sections for food, alcohol, decorations, socialising and gifts. To avoid overspending and duplicated effort, use a gift budgeting template to track gift ideas and money spent for each person. This also serves as a simple way to organise receipts for any gifts that may need to be exchanged or returned.
3) Give vouchers for services and time – Not sure what to buy someone or you have a limited budget? You could give vouchers for your services and time, provided that you genuinely intend on honouring the vouchers! For example; a babysitting voucher, dog walking, window cleaning, cooking a favourite meal, organising a morning tea, games night or foot massage (if the idea doesn’t put you off!). This can be a thoughtful way to lend a helping hand without stretching your finances.
4) Get creative – who doesn’t love a thoughtful handmade gift? The internet is a treasure trove of handmade gift ideas which can be a cost effective way to give a personalised gift. You could try making chutney, jam, biscuits, personalised gingerbread people, Christmas decorations or a photo book. A batch of creative gifts could be a great way to satisfy multiple recipients, including colleagues, school teachers, acquaintances or even the postman! Get your kids involved in sharing the joys of Christmas by decorating their own creative gifts for their school friends at a fraction of the price of purchasing small gifts.
5) Keep it simple – despite how tempting it is to splurge at Christmas, overspending is not necessary. Try not to overcomplicate the meaning and joy of Christmas with extra bells and whistles that have very little impact. You are allowed to say no to invitations that will stretch you financially or socially and you don’t need to spoil your loved ones to have a wonderful Christmas. The best memories in life are often based on simple experiences!
6) Plan ahead – one of the easiest ways to save money across your entire budget is to plan ahead and be organised. Multiple trips to the shops for that one “forgotten item” will cost you more money in takeaway coffee, parking and impulse purchases; it is often unrealistic to leave the shops with the only item you went in to purchase! Take the time to plan your Christmas at the start of December and group multiple tasks together with a limited number of outings. Take the time to plan your Christmas budget at the start of each year and work towards your savings goals by the start of December. For outings, shopping trips, social events and celebrations, stay organised with a daily or weekly planner, including when to organise ‘cooking days’ to prepare festive treats (for example; plum pudding or a batch of gingerbread cookies that can be prepared in time for end of year parties). To avoid last minute convenient party food options or temptations that could stretch your budget, plan to make a large batch of snacks that will stay fresh for multiple gatherings. To avoid expensive taxi fares, organise a designated driver for Christmas gatherings. Planning ahead is a terrific way to save money and to enjoy a relatively stress free festive season!
7) Avoid impulses – even if your budget allows for impulses and temptations throughout the festive season, you may have leftover funds if you try to avoid making extra gift purchases, avoid buying the extra drink at the pub, avoid buying multiple Christmas outfits or ‘treating yourself’.
8) Free entertainment – December is the busiest time of the year for community events and activities, which are generally free. Keep an eye out for free entertainment to embrace the magix and joy of Christmas with family and friends. Find a Christmas parade, Carols by Candlelight or Christmas activity that could provide a fun backdrop for a social gathering or picnic with friends and family.
9) Shop around and research your options – you can save a considerable amount of money by having a clear idea of what you are looking for (keeping a list of ideas), defining a budget, researching the marketplace and understanding which purchases will provide the best value. Look for competitive sales and offers, however be cautious of sales gimmicks and offers that seem “too good to be true”. With the convenience of online catalogues and shopping, it is easy to browse for best value on most purchases from the comfort of your own home. When buying online, consider delivery costs that may stretch your budget and plan in advance to ensure delivery well before you need the item. Christmas is also a good time of year to do your grocery shopping online to avoid extra temptations and overspending. When writing your list of groceries, always check recipes and “shop” in your pantry first to avoid spending money on items you already have. For the super organised, plan for Christmas throughout the year and start purchasing gifts as you see them on sale throughout the year. Don’t forget to store gifts together in a separate box to avoid duplication or forgotten purchases.
10) Share the joy – don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring a plate of food to gatherings, even if you are the host. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the festive season without overindulging or feeling overwhelmed by a full calendar. It is often the most simple ideas that bring people together and help to spread the magic of Christmas, which does not have to be extravagant and could be as simple as a social picnic and Christmas themed games for all ages!