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Financial counsellors are warning that spending more than you can afford at Christmas is a sure-fire way to create financial stress. Here are some handy budget tips for all households at Christmas:

Set a gift-spending budget

Setting a budget for buying gifts avoids you getting carried away, particularly if shopping is left until the last minute. Adopt the attitude that if you can’t pay cash, you can’t afford it. Putting money away each week throughout the year is a good way to know what you should spend, and you are more likely to stick to spending that amount.

If you have a large family and or group of friends, one way to save on gifts is to do a ‘Kris Kringle’ or Secret Santa and buy a gift for one or two rather than many.

Debit over credit

If you don’t have the cash up front to pay for your Christmas goodies, it can be tempting to put it all on your credit card, use one of the many ‘buy now pay later’ services, or pay day lenders – and worry about it later. These convenient, readily available credit products can cost you dearly when you receive your credit card or bill statement/s in the New Year.

Shop early and plan

Do your Christmas shopping early to avoid last minute purchases that may blow your budget spend. Some people like to do their Christmas shopping gradually over the course of the year, starting with the post-Christmas sales.

The gift of giving

You don’t have to spend money to give someone a gift, you can give of your time, make something and/or provide your skills as well.

For example, give someone a babysitting voucher where you offer to babysit for an evening, offer to help with a task that needs doing around the house or in the garden, bake / cook something yummy, tutor someone for an hour, proofread an important letter or job application, walk their dog – whatever suits your skill set and the time you have available. You could even pass on a book you enjoyed – it may not be new from the shop, but it comes with love and your recommendation, and it shows you have thought about the person you have given it to.

Don’t feel guilty

Kids may be disappointed about not receiving plenty of gifts and or an expensive one but being honest with them about your financial situation and working out a budget together will be a far better long-term experience for them than living beyond your means.

Plan a simpler meal

Australians spend over $10 billion dollars on food alone at Christmas. Consider a simpler version of Christmas lunch such as a buffet where everyone brings a plate and delegate as many tasks as you can.

To find out more about our financial support services or talk to one of our financial counsellors, visit our Financial Services page.