Christmas is a magical time for children, but it’s not always so magical for the hardworking adults who are paying for it behind the scenes (while “Santa” and his “elves” get all the credit, of course).
It’s no secret that December is a challenging time when it comes to finances, but - taking our cues from Old Saint Nick himself - you can plan ahead and make next Christmas the most stress-free, relaxed and enjoyable time of year.
The “most wonderful time of the year” is also the most costly
A lot of us have come to dread the end of December with the same amount of intensity that our children look forward to it. There are presents to buy for kids, friends, family, teachers, parents and partners. And, if you are entertaining over Christmas, the cost of food and drinks can blow a hole in even the most carefully planned budget.
But it’s not just gift-giving and entertainment - around the corner we have back to school costs, school fees and possibly credit card bill shock in January (if we’re not careful). Talk to any parent, and they will groan at the expense of keeping the kids entertained during the summer holidays, even if you skip the annual vacation and just stay home.
And - in another cruel stroke of adult luck - all of those other regular bills continue to roll on in while this festive financial tsunami is building up steam. Power bills, water, rates, rego, insurance and Netflix (a school holiday must-have), just for starters. It’s enough to have any of us hyperventilating into a brown paper gift bag.
Be like Santa Claus, and plan for next Christmas *right now*
Santa has a highly stressful job, but he’s always so jolly and carefree. What’s his secret? He sets targets, plans everything 12 months in advance and spends the whole year working towards his goals - then he coasts to the finish line. Even before the last shred of gift wrap goes into the recycling bin, he’s already thinking about next Christmas.
It might seem over the top, but the secret to having a relaxed and enjoyable Christmas next year is to start thinking about it this year (you’ll thank us in 12 months time, I promise). If you plan ahead and save throughout the year, you’ll reduce your stress and have the financial cushioning to really enjoy the festive season.
Six tips and strategies to save you from the silly season
1. Open a Christmas savings account… right now
Shop around to find a high interest savings account, and start putting aside a set amount every pay day. You won’t miss that extra $20 a week, but at the end of the year you’ll have saved over $1000. Think of how many gifts that can buy.
2. Set your spending goals now
Set a budget and stick to it. Have a good look at where your money went this silly season and work out how to do better next year. Being clear about your spending goals makes it easier to shop the sales throughout the year, without overdoing it.
3. Collect acorns, all year round
Recognised as the original “round up” app, “Acorns” and similar apps work by rounding up each debit or credit card purchase you make to the nearest dollar. This helps you save “loose change” that you wouldn’t otherwise miss - like a digital coin jar.
4. Dig for discount codes before you shop
Online shopping lets your fingers do the walking. It makes it easy for you to comparison shop, hunt for sales and keep an eye out for freight free promotions. But before you hit the checkout, make sure you search the web for discount codes first.
5. Scour your wallet for hidden loot
I don’t mean those hidden coins tucked away in the lining of your purse. Think plastic. Loyalty cards and rewards programs points often quietly accumulate throughout the year, without us even noticing. Check your accounts to redeem cash or gift cards.
6. Don’t spend money unless it “sparks joy”
No, really. There’s a financial coaching and savings app called “Joy”, that asks you to rate your purchases as “happy” (high value) or “sad” (low value). By asking you to think carefully about your spending, “Joy” might just bring joy to your world at Christmas.
The great thing about all of these tips is that they rely on a series of small changes in order to return big windfalls. If you set your intention - and set up a savings account - at the start of January, you’ll be well on track to a carefree holiday season next year.
Good tidings to you and your kin, for a debt-free Christmas!