This Christmas give your friends and family the gift of spending less

Way Forward has put together practical tips to help you get through Christmas and save some money in the process.  

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

Be strategic about gift buying 

Gifts are a big part of Christmas for many of us. We want to show people how much we care by buying them presents. If this is important to you, there are ways to minimise costs. 

Try a ‘Secret Santa’ where each person is allocated responsibility for purchasing one gift to one person, but the giver can be anonymous. Set a limit on how much gifts can cost. 

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

Valuing time spent with friends and family 

Valuing time we spend with the people who are important to us at Christmas time can take the pressure off spending money to show how much we care. 

Checking out free events like Christmas carols or workshops that many local councils put on around this time of year can be valuable and save money. It also changes the emphasis from buying and spending to something that is an experience.  

Set a budget and stick to it. And review it. And review it again.  

Many clients who come to Way Forward have landed in financial trouble for this simple reason: they’ve spent more money than they earn, sometimes without realising. We suggest creating a budget. 

It’s important to be honest with yourself about how much you’re truly spending. Setting a budget that accounts for what you’re spending, rather than what you hope you spend, will help you immensely. 

One way you can guarantee you’ll stay within your budget is writing a simple list that details how much you want to spend overall, then list items you intend to buy and how much you want to allocate to each item within your total. This could be for gifts, food, transport and any other of your own expenses.  

As you’re shopping, check that list you’ve got with you and make sure you leave anything behind that you didn’t intend to buy.  Keep a list handy like on your device.  

It can be empowering spending only what you planned and minimises buyer regret. 

Planning is key  

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 in a less stressful setting. 

If you’re looking for fresh food, order your meat in advance and buying seasonal produce at the markets can save you a penny. Choosing fruit and vegetables that have had a bumper year rather than those that are in short supply can also help to save. Sometimes this can mean changing the ingredients in dishes you’re used to having at Christmas, like swapping out beans for peas.  

Another idea is to shop your pantry or fridge – check what’s already in there, maybe you’ve got many of the ingredients you already need.

Use savings rather than relying on BNPL or Credit cards 

There’s nothing worse than a Christmas debt hangover. Spending according to the funds you have available in your savings instead of borrowing to buy presents or essentials, is a great way to create positive money habits.  

Avoid using Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) to make purchases. Using BNPL is still ‘borrowing’ money that eventually needs to be paid off. And if you’re then using income to repay instalments on credit cards or BNPL to pay off gifts from Christmas, this means less money for holiday expenses. Even worse, if you then need to take on more credit to pay off credit, you could end up in financial hardship.  

Aside from BNPL most of the short-term credit options have surprisingly big interest rates, which means you could end up spending the next few years paying off interest and repayments for a one-off event, being Christmas. 

Spending according to your budget (and what you have saved up) means that you’ll feel better about the whole experience and start the new year with a clear head and fewer debts.  

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. Budgeting for the year has several benefits – it means you can factor in those big bills that come through less frequently like car registration or local government fees.  

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

What about school holidays?  

If you’re supporting a family and your kids are still younger, there is a chance you’ll be feeling financial pressure to spend more money during the holiday season. Whether you’re going away on a holiday or finding holiday care arrangements for your kids, the costs can start to add up.  

If you’re taking time off work to look after children during the school holidays, start with the free activities, events and public venues like galleries and museums. Many local councils have free events that they list on their website.   

Getting out and about is also a great way to save money while doing something with your kids – bike riding, skateboarding, heading to the beach or park can cost little, and even cheaper if you bring your own lunch.   

Starting back at school is another expense for families. Some ideas to get you started could be to recycle and reuse school supplies. See what is leftover from last year and work out what you’ve already got and then what you need.