It may not feel like it as you battle chilly weather and pray for winter to finally end, but the holidays are almost upon us. And that means starting to budget for gifts, flights, feasts and all the other Yuletide trappings.
According to a survey conducted by Finder, the average Australian planned to spend $1178 on Christmas expenses last year, with $492 pegged to gifts for family and friends. If you need to travel for Christmas (not to mention New Year’s Eve), it’s going to cost you even more.
That’s a lot of money to come up with in a short amount of time. So, start planning now.
Make (And Keep) Your Budget
Even if you set yourself a budget, it's very easy to exceed it during the rush of Christmas holidays. Tracking your spending is especially important during a time filled with temptations.
“If your overspending means you have to skip a few nice dinners out post-holidays or make a few more cheap meals at home, then exceeding your budget hasn’t caused a major problem,” notes USA Today. “If your overspending forces you to not pay utility bills or only make minimum payments on your credit card, you have a bigger problem.”
Decide how much you can realistically afford, and make a plan for saving that amount between now and when you do your shopping.
You can set up a separate savings account with your bank to separate some of your funds for the holiday season. You can also make a separate travel fund (more on travelling below).
And of course, this will allow you to start looking for deals now, and spread some of the spending out over a longer time period. While you’re shopping, use apps such as Digit or Tip Yourself to save some money for yourself.
Don’t forget about small gifts for your mail delivery person, garbage collectors, apartment super, kids’ teachers and so on.
Be Smart About Travel
Start your search for flights early (using the Incognito browser) or try an app such as Hopper to track prices on flights, and consider being flexible with your plans, if you can, to score the best deals.
If you’re travelling by car, use an app such as GasBuddy to find the cheapest petrol in your area. Some credit cards also offer cash back on petrol purchases.
Max Out Your Rewards
If you’re going to be travelling a lot or buying expensive gifts, make sure you’re maxing your points accumulation and cash back. In fact, it could be worth looking into a new card.
Of course, you’ll want to be careful charging everything to your card (that’s why you made your budget), but used strategically, you could reap the holiday season rewards.