Control Christmas spending

Donna Willan Money cents

Christmas budgetChristmas is just four months away, and the question everyone is asking is how can we avoid spending too much? How can we make it a season of fun rather than a season of spending?

I think there are two secrets here: the first, just don’t buy so much! And the second is to start buying now. Yes, they may appear to contradict each other, but they don’t really. I am saying spend less on Christmas, and even though you plan to spend less, spread that burden of spending over the next four months.

So first of all let’s spend less: we don’t need so much food – there is always too much, so cook and buy less. We don’t need to decorate for Christmas – no-one is coming to Christmas lunch ONLY because you have a lovely garden/ new kitchen/ fab lounge suit (and if they are don’t invite them – who needs friends like that). People don’t need expensive presents, children don’t need lots of presents (seriously, my kids still prefer the empty boxes!) A few really thoughtful, fun presents are lovely – but start planning them now. I think that often the last minute buys end up being expensive and often not as lovely because your options, and time, are limited. The carefully chosen and thoughtful gifts need time not money.

So that brings me to my second point, spread the burden of spending over the next four months. I have a new job, which means no more Christmas bonus – OUCH! So I really need to spread the spending. Firstly we have booked a lovely five-day local Christmas holiday – we have paid for the accommodation over the last two months – so the big holiday rental is taken care of. In terms of presents for the teachers, the children are already planning what lovely things they can make, and we will start in October, to avoid being mildly hysterical the night before break-up day, and rushing out to buy expensive boxes of chocolates because the home made thingy never worked. I am also already buying the stocking fillers – you often see small lovely things, so buy them now to spread the spending and avoid ending up with not very nice last minute purchases.

A lot of the Christmas expenses are being gently absorbed over the next four months. And my other trick is to shop for the following year’s Christmas wrapping paper, cards, decorations, tree lights etc. a week or two after Christmas when they are all half price! OK that won’t work for this year, but remember it in January – especially Woolworths, I love their 50% off sale after Christmas!

In other news, I recently signed up to buy ETFSA – yes it was the right thing to do, but it was not an easy process – so I will share my experience in my next column!!

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