27 September 2023

Silly season finances: Budgeting tips from a financial advisor

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Victoria Devine* offers four of her top Christmas budgeting tips to get people through the season without financial stress.

Christmas is now just nine weeks away. You read that correctly.

Unfortunately, for too many Australians, the holiday season can often end up being more about stress than joy.

To help you take a little of the financial worry out of this meant-to-be-jolly time of year, I’ve rounded up my top Christmas savings hacks so you can waltz into the silly season feeling cool, calm and frazzle-free when it comes to your finances.

Start saving now:

Usually, we say it’s best to plan for Christmas at the very start of the year so you can set goals and put away a little bit of cash each month to use in the silly season.

But if we’re being honest, pretty much no one follows that advice because it takes some serious organisation and dedication.

Maybe one day we can be those people.

However, if like most people, you haven’t been putting away pennies since January, that’s okay!

Start saving now and to accelerate things, I’d suggest culling as much non-essential spending as you can.

Have a gym membership that you use once a fortnight? Cancel it.

Still got a subscription to Amazon Prime because it’s how you accessed Fleabag two years ago? Unsubscribe.

An easy way of identifying where you’re draining your money is to print out your last three months of bank statements, grab a highlighter and comb through your spending.

Highlight every purchase that wasn’t essential: bills and rent = essential; oat lattes and ASOS = non-essential.

It can be a little confronting, but this will give you a really clear idea of where you can clean things up financially, so you can pocket some savings in time for Christmas.

Be real and budget:

It’s important to know upfront just how expensive your Christmas or holiday season is likely to be.

To do that, we need to think beyond just the gifts we plan on giving; we need to consider elements like the costs of the food and booze we’ll be buying for festive events.

We need to factor in the price of the fresh outfit you’ll be wanting to splurge on for New Year’s Eve.

Even the cost of transport and accommodation if you’re taking a trip is something to keep in mind.

The TLDR is that there is a lot to consider beyond just the gifts you’ll be buying, so take a moment to put pen to paper and jot down exactly what you have planned for your Christmas, and what each element will likely cost you.

From here, set up your Christmas budget, know how much money you need to allocate to each event and item and if you need to, say no to some things.

Don’t feel the pressure to go to every single end of year event you’re invited to, because the reality is, it all adds up and you and your wallet might not need that stress.

Start a Secret Santa this year:

Buying presents for all of your friends and all of your family members adds up, which is why suggesting Secret Santas or a Kris Kringle set-up is a great idea.

If you’re new to the concept, in essence, it means that everyone in the group draws a name from a hat and then buys a gift for that person, but no one else.

You can also set price limits, which helps keep your spending contained.

That way everyone ends up with one high-quality gift instead of five mediocre scented candles, which has to be a win.

Make the most of sales and be strategic:

I generally advise people to avoid sales as they tend to lure us into purchasing things we really don’t need all for the sake of a bargain.

But if you have a pre-prepared list of your intended Christmas purchases, then you can definitely use sales strategically and save yourself some serious coin.

The key here is thinking ahead and figuring out your gifts early.

No sales in sight? You can try tools like ShopBack which give you a percentage of your spending back in cash.

*Victoria Devine is an award-winning financial adviser, the founder and host of the She’s on the Money podcast. Her first book She’s on the Money: Take Charge of your financial future was recently released.

This article first appeared at lifehacker.com.au.

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