Why you need to start budgeting now for Christmas

Why you need to start budgeting now for Christmas

By Serina Bird September 2018, Money Magazine

Christmas is a time of joy. It’s also a time of big credit card debt.

One way to avoid this is to hold a no-spend Christmas instead.

The average credit card debt in Australia was $3223.70 in July.

Last year, Finder.com assessed the average credit card debt after the festive season was $1666 and that 82% of Australians would take six months to pay off their Christmas credit card debt.

With interest rates rising, energy costs up and wages stagnating, it doesn’t make sense to overspend and get further in debt just to impress relatives you might not see again for months.

After all, while it is a special occasion, it’s just one day of the year.

Start having conversations now about how to reframe the event into a no-spend Christmas.

This does not mean being a Christmas scrooge and muttering “Bah! Humbug!” at the prospect of any fun, but rather focusing instead on core values of family and togetherness.

Every year, millions of Australians receive unwanted Christmas presents.

All that stress choosing, buying and wrapping presents that people then struggle to resell or dispose of afterwards. Instead, could you decide as a family to champion a charity of choice instead of presents?  Could you bring one (regifted) present each and then play a Secret Santa game of swap the present?  Could you make, bake, grow or sew presents instead? Or could you encourage people to only buy presents under a certain amount?

Christmas doesn’t have to feature expensive foods such as a turkey with all the trimmings, ham or giant plum pudding.

One of my best Christmas memories is of takeaway pizza under a full moon after a sunset swim at Sorrento beach in Victoria.

That was amazing pizza, and the best bit was watching my kids play with their cousins, using their towels like Superman capes as they ran along the beach.

What about a BBQ or picnic in the park?  An Italian style lingering lunch with cold meats and antipasto with good wine?  Or a potluck meal at home?  Wow people by turning up with a (cheap to make) homemade pavlova topped with seasonal fruit. Or make a difference by volunteering to serve at a community Christmas lunch.

Then there are the non-monetary things you can do that build the Christmas spirit. My dad used to take my sister and me to Carols by Candelight, and we still watch it together on the television – even if we are in different places we still compare.

I have a Christmas Eve tradition of singing Silent Night with my boys and reading The Night Before Christmas together. I love our early morning Christmas Day walks, greeting everyone we pass with “Merry Christmas”.

And then there is Christmas Day carols karaoke, and swimming if we are lucky enough to be near water or a pool.

Even with best intentions, I find I still spend more at Christmas. It is such a social time, and there are parties and presents and work events that all happen at once. With less than 100 days to go before Christmas, now is a good time to begin putting money aside.

If you only put $10 a day away, you would have $1000 by Christmas.

Or if you shaved $50 a week off your grocery budget between now and Christmas, you could save over $700 dollars. Think how good it would feel knowing you were going into the Christmas crazy season with reserve cash to get you through.

Another way to save is by DIY hampers.

Some Christmas or treat items are on sale in the weeks leading up to Christmas. For instance, some supermarkets run specials on dried fruit several months ahead of Christmas to encourage people to get into festive baking.

As you see things, pick up a few small items for yourself (or your favourite charity) and start building up supplies. The trick is to focus on things you and your family will consume and appreciate rather than going overboard.

The Christmas spirit is to me more about love, peace, joy, family and community than cheap presents, especially when some are made under doubtful labour conditions. I try to focus on what is important and shut out the consumer pressure to conform.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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