Topic 9: Have a merry, not very expensive, Christmas with 6 smart savings tricks

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Christmas can be a wonderful time to enjoy with family and friends, but the silly season can get stressful, and expensive, if you don’t go into it with a financial plan of attack.

While Baby Boomers are known for their thrifty habits, just one in four Australian households overall put year-long savings plans in place to ease the financial stress of the festive season, research by St. George Bank found.

The bank’s research also found that the average Aussie family spent almost $550 on gifts alone, and more than 30 per cent would spend a whopping $2,000 over the holiday period.

“More than a third of families are leaving it to the last minute to start saving, which is perhaps why they are feeling the pinch,” Ross Miller, general manager of St. George’s retail bank, said.

While a trusty savings plan and traditional lay-by services are two of the best ways to manage your Christmas spending, we’ve compiled a list of other tips and tricks that you may not have considered to keep your budget from blowing out.

  1. One in, one out

Have a pre-Christmas clean-up and sell belongings you no longer need.

Online sites such as Gumtree, and the free Marketplace within Facebook, are good options for decluttering and generating some quick cash. St. George’s research found that about 20 per cent of households sold belongings to help fund their Christmas spending.

  1. Stalk the retailers

Follow your favourite brands on social media and sign up to their email newsletters.

Retailers invariably offer special discounts to newsletter subscribers. Keep an eye out for special coupon codes or sales that retailers may not advertise in the mainstream media, so you can snap up gifts at a cut price whenever you spot a deal on them.

  1. Shop smarter online

Be aware of online retailers’ delivery charges.

These can vary significantly, with some retailers offering free delivery for purchases over a certain amount, while others charge by weight or whether you require standard or express postage.

Choosing to do much of your shopping at one e-tailer so you can bundle the goods can help cut down on postage costs, as can using postage bundling providers if you’re shopping on overseas sites. These services hold your packages from multiple retailers until all have arrived, then send them in one bulk lot, potentially cutting postage costs.

If you’re buying from local retailers, check their sites to see if there’s an option to collect the goods you’ve ordered from a nearby store rather than having them posted.

  1. Buy more creatively

Put your cooking skills to work, and create a personalised gift such as a favourite food, or use your crafting skills to make a memory of a lovely experience you and a loved one shared. It could be a photobook or calendar, or a photo frame with a picture and a loving inscription.

Then, next year, get organised and start picking up items you know family and friends would like at the end-of-financial-year sales in July so by Christmas your gift shopping is done!

  1. Stagger your shopping

Take a break between gift purchases when you’re at the mall to avoid “the shopping momentum effect”.

A Stamford University study found that when shoppers purchase one thing, it triggers the impulse to buy a second, unrelated product. The takeaway here is to pace yourself, whether you’re shopping in store or online, to avoid buying items you don’t need.

  1. Try ‘online layby’

Online ‘buy now, pay later’ services such as AfterPay, OpenPay and zipMoney extend a line of credit to shoppers at participating retailers, that can be repaid over a defined period. It’s like an old-school lay-by service, but you can take the goods with you when you ‘purchase’ them.

But don’t forget that such services are a form of credit and, as with a credit card, you’ll be hit with penalties if you don’t pay off the item within the agreed period.

  1. Track your spending

Online banking facilities and apps make it easier than ever to track your spending over the Christmas period. Keep a close eye on your finances, particularly those impulse buys, by reviewing your account regularly.

When it comes to grocery shopping and catering, ASIC’s Moneysmart site recommends sharing the catering duties, shopping around for grocery deals at different supermarkets and using loyalty points from your credit card or Frequent Flyer provider to make purchases.

The money advice site also suggests buying only what food you need. It’s easy to overestimate how much food you’ll need at Christmas, only to end up eating leftovers for days or throwing some away.

This nifty calculator on the New South Wales government’s Love Food Hate Waste website can help you plan your Christmas meals so you don’t over-purchase.

How do you manage your Christmas budget? Do you save throughout the year, or simply keep your purse-strings tight while shopping for the festive season?

St.George Bank is known for exceptional service, innovative, award-winning products and specialist financial advice for retail and business customers.

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and for information purposes only. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It is not financial product advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any financial decision you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from an independent licensed financial services professional.