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A magic Xmas – without the financial hangover

Christmas can put on a huge strain on our family finances. But with a bit of forethought, you can dodge the financial hangover in the new year, while still having a magic Christmas. By Sonia Speedy.

Set a budget

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Knowing something and actually doing it can be two different things sometimes. But the reality is we all need to make a budget for Christmas and stick to it. Work from a list and check it twice…just like Santa, recommends Sorted.org.nz personal finance lead Tom Hartmann. Sorted’s budget planner can help make this process easier.

If you find it too easy to spend on cards, use cash for your Christmas shopping, Hartmann says.

“Cash and our brains work differently,” he says.

Plan ahead for the kids’ Christmas get-up

Kids needing Christmas-themed gear for the last week of school/end-of-year celebrations/Christmas day etc? If you’ve got more than one child, buying for this can soon add up.

Start checking the op-shops early and see what you can find there. Most Christmas-themed gear has barely been worn and has plenty of miles in it yet. Or work some creative magic on that red t-shirt you’ve already got. And while you’re in the op-shop, look out for fun Christmas decorations too.

Go easy on Afterpay

Sorted’s Tom Hartmann advises only using Afterpay if you need to and only for one big item at a time.

“Too many makes it really hard to juggle,” he says.  This is especially so if something unexpected happens that you need to pay for and you’re left trying to manage all the payments.

If you are using Afterpay, set reminders on your phone for payments to make sure you avoid the late payment fees by paying as soon as you’re paid, Hartmann says.

“What you’re after is to get through this time period with as little debt as possible,” he says.

Use up reward points

If you’ve got some lying around, now could be the time to put those reward points to work and help keep your own cash in your pocket.

You do you

Hartmann says there can be lots of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) at this time of year and it’s important for people to just do Christmas their way – and not feel obliged to spend money on things that aren’t necessarily important to them.

Speaking of you – try to avoid buying things for yourself while you’re Christmas shopping, Hartmann says.

“Put that off and do it on Boxing Day,” he suggests

Cull the gift list

Do you need to buy for everyone on your list? You could just be giving them an obligation to buy you something back. Could homemade biscuits, or a donation of your time for babysitting or dog walking work just as well instead?

Go budget on the Christmas dinner

Will people really be able to tell whether those are budget olives or the expensive ones? And will they care? Stick to the money you’ve allocated for the Christmas dinner. Have one or two hero dishes and go simple with the others. This approach will save you time, stress, and dollars.

Don’t let Santa get carried away

The fear of a disappointed little face on Christmas morning can be a powerful motivator and lead Santa to get a bit carried away. But keep it in check. The old Want, Wear, Need, Read idea can work well. Santa brings something that fits into each category. And the gifts don’t have to be big and expensive. The op-shop might even be able to help here too.

Use Secret Santa for the extended family

Rather than buying a gift for everyone who’s turning up for Christmas, why not run a Secret Santa? This way everyone buys just one present priced up to an agreed limit and designated to be from everyone. They then give it to the person they’re allocated. Websites like drawnames.co.nz can make this super easy.

Make (free) Christmas memories

Making Christmas special doesn’t have to come with a price tag. Could you make a family walk along the beach on Christmas morning a family tradition that everyone enjoys? Or something similar that works for you.

Who else needs help?

Teach the kids that Christmas is more than just about them, by looking around to see who you can help at this time of year. You could bake a treat for the elderly neighbour; help out at a local charity; or deliver extra food to the local Food Bank. Perhaps the kids could use some of their pocket money to chip in too. It all helps to shift the emphasis of Christmas away from spend, spend, spend.

Read our 12 painless tips to sort out your family finances >>

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