Christmases past, present and future
How to keep cheer alive and not break the bank
20/12/2017 Stacey Wraight, Paraplanner
They say Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year; but it can also be one of the most expensive. Without careful preparation and planning, the festive season can quickly turn into a burden of mounding expenses, debt and stress.
With only five days until the main event now, many of us are at the peak of our Christmas pressures. With this in mind, you may be thinking it’s too late to be planning to ease the anxieties caused by the time of year.
Well you’re wrong.
While it’s probably true it’s too late to plan for this year’s Christmas, there’s something to be said for learning from past and present mistakes to plan for the future; Christmas is an annual event after all!
So, how can we prepare things ahead of time for next Christmas and reduce this financial anxiety? To answer this, let’s first look at how much we’re actually spending during the silly season.
How much are Australians spending on Christmas?
Research conducted by MoneySmart has found that on average we spend the following amounts per state on Christmas gifts for our loved ones;
(Infographic via MoneySmart. (1) Commonwealth Bank, Xmas Spending Survey – November 2016. Note: due to low sample sizes in ACT, NT and TAS, figures for spending in these areas are not included. (2) Finder.com.au, Festive season in full swing: How the nation will cope with financial pressures – December 2016)
But it’s not just Christmas that has us spending; with New Year celebrations, more often than not we are still catching up on the additional expenses rolling into the first few months of the new year.
If this all sounds familiar (and hits a little close to home), remember it’s never too early to start thinking about next year’s Christmas. By thinking ahead and putting a strategy in place for the future, you can try to avoid the stress you may be feeling now.
How can we learn from our Christmas past?
We’re right in the thick of the Christmas season at the moment. Shopping centre car-parks are like hell on earth and debts may be piling up like presents under the tree. As our stress levels peak, now is the time to take stock of what’s going wrong in the mad rush.
Just like Santa, it’s time to make a list (or two, or three…)
- Write down everyone you need to buy gifts for
- Place a dollar figure next to everyone on that list – at this point, it should be how much you’ve spent on that person
- Write down how much you are spending on festivities (decorations, incidental gifts, food, drink)
Now you’ve got your lists, check them twice, three times even four times. Identify where changes can be made. For example, do you really need to buy gifts for all those people – or can the dollar figure next to their name come down for next year?
Having multiple lists can help you organise all the essentials for any occasion as well as prepare you for the outlay in which it will all cost.
How can we stay sane in Christmas present?
Take a breath. There are 168 hours in a week, so think about how you can use that time wisely.
In these days leading up to Christmas, try and find ways that you can make things easier for yourself. It may be as simple as freezing your leftovers from your Christmas feast, so you have ready-made meals into the new year, saving you time and money.
If you have regular bills that come in at this time of year, consider putting the money for these aside now so you’re prepared.
You could even organise to have your groceries home delivered, helping you avoid the supermarket during this hectic period and saving you time at the checkout – time you could spend doing other things to keep you sane!
How can we prepare for our Christmas future?
As the festive season winds down, we can start thinking about the year ahead, rebuild our savings and pay off debts from the year before. Once your Christmas present moves into the past, it’s time to start putting together a strategy so your Christmas future is a breeze.
Start off by creating a budget, consulting the lists compiled as you reflected on your Christmases past, to identify spending patterns and how much you need to save.
But before you set yourself a savings target, you will need to identify how much you earn and what expenses are set, so you can work out how much you can allocate to your Christmas savings goals. Be realistic with your targets, and remember there’s more to life than Christmas – you likely want to allocate savings to other things as well.
Think about separating your savings into different accounts – one can be dedicated to Christmas. Start putting money in this straight away.
When it gets closer to Christmas, look at your savings and try to spend only what you’ve put aside, and not just for the sake of it. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a scrooge with your money; with early preparation and simple cash flow management strategies, there are still ways to have finances available for most of life’s little luxuries within the means of your budget.
To help you budget, consider taking advantage of cash flow management software, like Xero, which allows you to clearly see all your accounts, where your expenses are going and how much you are saving. This can be a very useful tool if you are juggling a few different budgets, saving for a range of different items/events or if you wish to have more control over your finances in general.
It can also map your progress with a series of graphs and visual prompts – a great resource to help you stay on track.
The beauty of Xero is that it allows you to quickly reconcile your transactions in an efficient manner, holding you accountable for where your money is going. For more information on Xero and how it can help you budget, please speak with one of our advisers.
Any other tips?
When it comes to gift giving, think of ways you can minimise your expenditure. Getting ideas from the table below is a great place to start.
Gift Savings Strategies
Hopefully, by employing some of the tips in this guide, you can start your new year with a Christmas cracker bang and set yourself up not to break the bank next festive season.
If you would like more information on how you can budget for the festive season, or how to overcome debt, please do not hesitate to contact our office on 1300 726 082 and speak with one of our financial advisers today.
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