Haven't done your Christmas shopping, realise it's December and starting to freak out about how much money you're going to have to spend? Follow these tips to make the experience less painful for your wallet.
Picture: Getty Images/Brendon Thorne
1. Don't wait until December
OK, I get it — that's not going to help you this time around. But planning for Christmas in advance really is the best way to save money. Having picked out gifts, you're in a position to grab them when they're on sale. Plus, by spreading out the purchasing across the whole year, you're not putting an excessive burden on your December budget.
2. Set a per-person budget and stick to it
It's great to be generous at Christmas, but it's not great to saddle yourself with heaps of debt as a result. Work out how much you can actually afford to spend, divide that amongst the people you need to buy, and you have a basic budget. It's fine to spend a little more on those closest to you — but that means you'll also have to cut the sum you'll spend on others.
3. Cancel presents for adults
Several families I know follow this trick: everyone agrees to buy presents for the kids, but not for the adults. If you have big family gatherings with cousins galore, this can save you a fortune. Just make sure everyone is given plenty of advance notice.
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4. Don't use your credit card
Buying on your credit card means paying credit card interest. At some retailers, it can also involve paying an extra surcharge. So put the credit card away and use EFTPOS (or cash) instead.
There are two exceptions to this:
- if you have an interest-free period and will pay off everything before that
- if you are planning to earn frequent flyer points and will pay everything off as soon as you buy it
Otherwise: avoid the card.
5. Make a list before you go shopping
Wandering around a crowded shopping centre with no idea of what you plan to buy is a recipe for stress — and overspending. It's OK to change your mind if you spot something better (within budget), but don't go out at this late stage just "seeking inspiration".
6. Set a time limit for online shopping
The same principle applies online, where it's easy to get distracted. Set yourself a specific time limit for your Christmas shopping, so you stay focused.
7. Offer yourself instead of a present
If you're really short of cash, offer to do something helpful. Many parents will be pathetically grateful if you offer free babysitting. For other relatives, you could offer a month of lawn-mowing or free tech support.
What are your money-saving techniques for Christmas shopping? Tell us in the comments.