By Kate McFarlane
It’s now just about 8 weeks until Christmas (I know – it’s come around WAY too fast!) and it’s that time when everyone is thinking, “Let’s get our friends together for a bbq/dinner/lunch before the silly season sets in”. Funny, it seems to me that festive craziness creeps up earlier and earlier every year. Not only do we have Christmas stock on the supermarket shelves almost straight after Easter, but now many functions seem to be in early November in the hope of ‘beating the Christmas rush’. The result is that the frenzy is spread over a longer period of time.
In between organising social functions, preparing for end of year work/school/kinder concerts and buying end of year gifts for teachers, we need to plan ahead for what can be a VERY expensive time. There are Christmas presents for every niece, nephew, great grandmother and aunt you ever had, plus presents for your own children to not only agonise over, but budget for. Furthermore, if you’re the one hosting Christmas for the family you need to plan for what is often the most expensive meal of the year. There are ways to do it sensibly however, without burning a giant hole in your pocket.
A great way to start preparations is to put aside a little extra money each week during the year so that you can afford all the extra spending. With 8 weeks to go you still have time to prepare and make the whole experience less stressful on your budget.
Top 5 tips for saving money in the lead up to Christmas:
- Suspend or cancel your gym membership for the next 8 weeks, make the most of spring time and use the outdoors to exercise instead. Over a two-month period you will save between $200 and $320 on an average gym membership.
- Buy less take away food and eat out less. Plan ahead to cook and eat meals at home. Get together with your MamaBake buddies and cook up a storm for each other!
- For the next two weeks keep a record of your expenditure to see where your money is going (better still, have it done for you online with www.myprosperity.com.au . You will be surprised at how easily you can fritter away money if you’re not being mindful. At the end of the two week period identify the small things you could do without each week until Christmas. I’ll take a guess and say that you will be able to find at least $30 a week you can save without giving up all the little things you love.
- Avoid using your credit card. Set an amount you think you need to spend for the week, get the amount out in cash and stick to your budget. If you have to use your credit card to pay for larger expenses, then make sure you pay it on time to avoid nasty interest penalties.
- Avoid just automatically renewing your home, contents and car insurance. Compare prices and see how much you can save each month. If any of these are due for renewal before Christmas, make it your priority to consider changing to a different insurer. You will be delighted to find that you can save hundreds of dollars and still have the same level of cover you had before. Check out the Ways To Save feature on myprosperity – it can help you save money on a whole range of necessities, such as electricity, home loan and life insurance. It’s a great tool you can use on your notepad or online and it’s easy.
5 tips for reducing the spending frenzy on Christmas food and gifts:
- Compare prices online. Before you hit the department stores, make sure you check out online sites like www.lasoo.com.au to compare prices on everything from sports equipment, to toys and clothing at all the major retailers. You can search individual products to find out who has it at the cheapest price, plus you can see all the latest catalogues and sales.
- Shop online. If you know the exact product type, brand and style, save yourself time and money and buy it online. Often delivery is free and you can easily search for the cheapest price. Apart from obvious ones such as ebay and gumtree, sites such as www.crazysales.com.au and www.ozsale.com.au have a wide range and plenty of discounts. For cheap books try www.booktopia.com.au
- Check out sales at your local supermarket and snap up anything on sale now that you can keep until Christmas, such as mineral water, flour, baking paper etc. Also, as a general rule when supermarket shopping, always check how much you are paying per litre or gram and choose the cheapest. For example, when buying rice you can pay from 20-30 cents per 100 grams up to a whopping $1.32 per 100 grams. Make sure you read the fine print under every price on the shelf for these details.
- Go to a department store such as Costco or Aldi that sells things cheaply and in bulk. Currently at Costco, Dynamo stain lift laundry liquid is selling for $4.50 per litre (in 6 litre pack), whilst at Coles the same laundry liquid is $8.25 per litre (in 2 litre pack). If you have the room to store it, you will save money by buying things in larger quantities. If shopping at Costco remember to factor in the $60 annual fee. In my experience, if you shop there a couple of times a year you will save more than the $60 fee.
- Buy wine online. The cheapest and most convenient way to buy wine is online and there are plenty of sites to choose from, many with free delivery. Compare prices and save money. Try www.crackawines.com.au as a starting point.
Be prepared and enjoy the festive season!
By Kate McFarlane of www.myprosperity.com.au
Arrrghhh….Christmas is too close for my liking! Thanks for this timely article, Mamabake. Really helpful ideas which i will definitely start doing as of NOW. Does anyone else out there find Christmas really stressful??! Esp the shopping centre chaos, the rush to get everything done, then the difficult family dynamics and bickering that goes on!