Are you up for the no-cost Christmas challenge?

Are you up for the no-cost Christmas challenge?

By Melissa Brown 31 October 2018, The Age

Last week, I had a laugh out loud moment on social media when I read this quote: "Save a fortune in Xmas presents by falling out with friends and family. Lay the groundwork now so it doesn’t look like it’s about presents."

With only nine shopping weekends until Christmas, this might be one strategy you’re tempted to employ. But it did get me thinking. Why not decide to have a no-cost Christmas without needing to fall out with everyone you love (or are related to)?

Now, you might be thinking I meant to write a cost-saving Christmas and sure that’s one tactic you might use. But why not take it one step further and take the challenge of having a no-cost Christmas? One where you don’t employ the bah-humbug strategy of staying in and avoiding everyone until the silly season is over.

If you love the idea of Christmas not costing you a cent, here are my tips for how this can work.

THE FIRST STEP involves you opening a separate bank account that we’ll call our No-cost Christmas account. Yes, Christmas accounts used to be in vogue many moons ago, however this is one you’re not going to contribute any of your regularly earned money to. This is also going to be the only account you’re going to spend any money on Christmas this year so whether you collect $1 or $1000 is up to you.

STEP TWO is figuring out how much you’d like to spend over the silly season. This includes Christmas parties, lunch on the big day if you’re hosting and gifts. Figure out a minimum amount to work to if you were to scrimp, or ask everyone to bring a plate and the maximum amount you’d spend if you were to really go nuts. Include how much you’d like to donate or give away as well so that, especially if you’re including kids in this exercise, you teach them about giving back.

THE THIRD STEP is  figuring out where you’re going to find cash that is outside your normal wages or income streams so your Christmas is truly no-cost. Write a list of everything you could do to find more cash and use this as your to-do list once it’s complete. Suggestions might include selling clothes, shoes, bags, toys, gadgets or anything else that’s lying around cluttering your house or your wardrobe that you haven’t used for a while. You might become an Uber driver, a delivery rider, rent a room on Airbnb, complete online surveys, dog walk, dog wash, mow lawns, tutor, babysit or take a part-time job. Or perhaps you could sell your skills on one of the many marketplace sites such as Fiverr, Airtasker or Upwork. How you make some extra cash is only limited by your energy and imagination so make a list of everything you can do or sell.

All the planning in the world doesn’t help if you don’t do something – so this is the action part. For every item sold on eBay, Gumtree, Hock Your Frocks or whatever site you use, pop the funds into your No-cost Christmas account. If you take on extra work, make sure this income is paid into this account too. Sometimes, it’s helpful to create something visual so you can track how you’re going, so on your phone or on the fridge create a chart and plot where you’re up to, how many weeks are left and your minimum and maximum amounts you want to reach.

When you spend over Christmas, only use your No-cost Christmas account. If you don’t have enough money in it even for the minimum amount you want to spend, then get creative (or regift!). Or perhaps if you’re really stuck, give the gift of time being spent with you or services you’ll carry out for your friends or family.

If you have money left over you might donate it to charity, splurge on yourself, start an investment or divvy it up and do all three. It’s a nice problem to have to deal with extra funds than to cope with a bloated credit card bill in January.

The only thing left to do is gloat to anyone who’ll listen, how the silly season has cost you absolutely nothing. This Christmas, rather than grumbling over the cost of the silly season, why not take up the no-cost Christmas challenge and give yourself the gift of a (financially at least) stress-free Christmas.

Melissa Browne is CEO of A&TA and financial planning firm The Money Barre. Her latest book is instore now.

Photo by canva.com

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