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Tips for not overspending at Christmas

The Elf on the Shelf has been brought out of hiding, the decorations have been dusted off and Michael Bublé is being played on repeat.

Combined, these are a sure sign that Christmas is almost upon us.

But while it can be difficult to curtail the excitement of unwrapping gifts during the festive season, there is also a more sobering thought that needs to be addressed: how not to overspend.
Considered by many to be the most expensive time of the year, research shows that during the silly season last year Australians cumulatively spent more than $11 billion on gifts for their friends and family.

This meant that the average Australian spent $573 on gifts for their family, friends, and workmates, creating a national gift expenditure of $10.7 billion. When factoring in other holiday expenses (such as food and travel), that number more than doubled to blow out to an average spend of around the $1,325.

So how then do you still manage to enjoy the festive season without breaking the bank?

Australian Securities & Investments Commission’s consumer financial arm Money Smart, suggests the hard work often begins before you have even stepped foot near a retail store or logged on to your computer.

One man’s trash…

Money Smart suggests the best way to prepare financially for the expense endured during December is by having a pre-Christmas clean up.

Spend a few hours ridding your house of clothes, books, jewellery and sporting equipment that you no longer need. By selling these items online or holding a garage sale, you could pocket a few extra dollars while making someone else’s Christmas extra special.

Make a list, check it twice

Lists are everything when it comes to budgeting, Money Smart says.

By detailing on a piece of paper who you’re buying for, what you want to get them and how much money you’re prepared to spend on each person, you can help track your spending. By making a list of what food and drinks will be required, you’ll be able to purchase in advance, taking advantage of specials and spreading your cost.

Keep credit to a minimum

Money Smart also suggests one of the best things you can do to help keep your Christmas spending on track is to make smart decisions when it comes to Christmas credit.

If you don’t have the cash to pay for your goodies up front, be wary of putting too much on credit either by using your card or signing up for buy now pay later service. While they provide short term convenience, they can also result in long term pain when you’re saddled with the debt well into the new year.

Another tip Money Smart suggests is to save money by personalising your cards and wrapping paper, rather than wasting funds on expensive wrapping paper or shop-bought cards. If you have children, put them to work by giving them some paper and asking them to draw or paint unique pictures that you can use to create special cards. You may also like to rethink your wrapping by using brown or plain coloured paper to wrap your presents as this can also be used for other gift giving throughout the year.

Do your online homework

If you’re planning on doing much of your Christmas shopping online, it pays to be smart about it. Before starting, do a web search for discount or coupon codes relating to your intended gift that you may be able use at the checkout. Also try looking in the sales sections of retailers’ websites to see what’s on offer.

If you know what items you are looking for, search for them at multiple stores to compare prices as it may be cheaper at a competitor.

Be disciplined instore

Leaving your shopping until the very last minute is a recipe for disaster. Money Wise suggests setting a time limit on your shopping so you aren’t tempted to spend more than you intend. It may also be worthwhile take advantage of extended trading hours so you can go when it’s less crowded and you aren’t tempted to buy the first thing you lay your hands on because you’re tired of jostling for space.

If possible, try to pick up items you may have ordered online, instore. This way you’ll save on freight, skip queues, only purchase what you ordered and not be tempted to impulse buy.

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