Having a debt free Christmas doesn’t mean being a grinch, it means looking after yourself and your family

Christmas is nearly upon us – and for some it’s a stressful and challenging time.

Amidst the stress, we can hope that everyone has the opportunity to spend time with their nearest and dearest to enjoy the season.

But we also know that it’s getting trickier to find ways to celebrate that don’t leave you with a spending hangover. As we head into the Christmas season, we wanted to share our top tips for maximising joy while minimising financial stress and post-Christmas regret.

Give fewer gifts and focus on time spent together

Gifts are a big part of Christmas for many of us. We want to show how much we care about people by buying them presents.

Before buying presents, however, consider prioritising spending time with family and friends instead because this can be a more valuable experience than gifts.

If you end up planning a meal with a group, whether friends or family, suggest that everyone contributes a dish or ‘potluck’, which can reduce costs immensely.

Resist showing how much you care by spending money

While it’s human nature to want to be generous, most of our nearest and dearest would never want a loved one to compromise their financial wellbeing by purchasing gifts. Remember, money doesn’t measure love, appreciation or friendship.

Buying fewer, higher quality presents can provide the opportunity to exchange more meaningful and longer lasting gifts that have a better chance of being used.

An idea to minimise gift buying is a ‘Secret Santa’ where each person is allocated responsibility for purchasing one gift to one person, but the giver is anonymous. Set a limit on how many everyone spends and make it a fun experience.

Even a small amount of planning can reduce stress

Are you hosting Christmas lunch and catering for 50 people? Panic buying food at the last minute is possibly the most expensive way to shop. Many supermarkets now have click and collect online ordering, which means your groceries will be ready for you when you want, and you can select exactly what you need and spend within a budget at your discretion. Figuring out what you might need in advance can save a lot of time and money.

If you’re looking for ways to reduce your food costs, buying in-season produce rather than crops that are in short supply can help to save money. Sometimes this can mean changing those dishes you’re used to having at a Christmas event or swapping out ingredients, but it will save you money.

Buying a smaller cut of meat can save money – especially if you’re always stuck with plenty of leftovers after Christmas Day, and not sure what to do with them!

Being clear minded about your spending and not giving in to those impulse and panic purchases can keep people in charge of their own finances. Minimise buyer regret by flipping to a positive mindset and feel empowered by buying only what you need and banking the rest.

Get creative about inexpensive ways to celebrate

Traditions are important to many people, but they don’t have to be expensive. If your Christmas traditions are starting to break the bank, why not begin some new ones? You could visit the local park or beach for a family cricket game, go for a walk to enjoy local Christmas lights, or even play a board game together. Christmas movies, craft and baking can also be inexpensive activities. Ultimately, what makes traditions special is the people, not the money.

Make a budget… and stick to it

We consistently see that among our clients, one of the keys to maintaining financial wellbeing is setting a workable budget and sticking to it. Even the most disciplined budgeters can still fall into the trap of feeling as though they just need to get another couple of presents for the kids, some extra cheese and nuts for the grazing board, or another case of craft beer. What you’ve already planned and purchased is more than likely enough.

Post-Christmas budgeting tips

After recovering from the Christmas celebrations, a good way to kick start the year is by setting up an annual budget.

For example, if you get paid monthly, you might budget for the month ahead but forget to consider the big bills that come through less frequently. This is when you might be hit with an ‘unexpected expense’ as you didn’t save up for the expense before it was due.

We have a free online budgeting tool on our website that can get you started.

Plan ahead for next year

Although Christmas 2023 is almost upon us, it’s never too late to start planning for the future. Putting a small amount away each week into a celebration fund will take some of the pressure off next year’s festivities, and help you avoid that post-festive dread.

Reach out if you need help

If you are experiencing financial hardship, Way Forward is here to help. Although lame jokes in Christmas crackers and eating too many mince pies may be inevitable, lying awake at night worrying about not being able to pay your debts doesn’t have to be. Make today the day you reach out for help and start your journey towards financial freedom.

By Rachel Ryan

Rachel is a policy and communications specialist with over a decade of experience working in government, education and not-for-profit organisations. She is grateful for the opportunity to work alongside Way Forward’s clients to assist them in sharing their story on their terms, in a way that is empowering and uplifting.

Get help to overcome your debt today.