The anticipation of Christmas is a wonderful part of this season. Baking Christmas cookies, making gingerbread houses, reading through Advent bible plans, singing carols, visiting neighbourhood streets with homes covered in fantastical lights, it’s all a part of the wonder and the magic of Christmas.
However it’s been an exhausting year for most. Many families are facing a challenging season of financial hardship, a reality that can become even more emphasised at Christmas time. While the short-term solution of relying on credit cards or other consumer debt can smooth over a bumpy time(particularly when there is pressure to buy gifts and put on extravagant meals) there is wisdom in knowing what it means to budget and give generously at this time.
74% of Australians felt stressed about their financial situation
If you find yourself needing to spend less this Christmas, you are not alone! Data from the Finder’s 2020 Consumer Sentiment Tracker found that 74% of Australians felt stressed about their financial situation. 51% said they could rely on their current savings for just 2 months or less if they lost their job, while 1 in 3 (30%) are concerned about their ability to afford day-to-day expenses once government assistance ends.
Here are some smart ways to plan better and spend less this Christmas season
1. Address your mindset about holiday spending
Spending money on others feels good and almost mandatory when it comes to family and kids. Excessive spending and living outside of your means is a recipe for stress, strained relationships and compromised mental health. Ask yourself, is the hype of one day truly worth this cost?
2. Prioritise your spending
Now is the time to get very clear about your day-to-day living expenses and bills. Are there things that you are paying for that you can cut back on over the next few weeks and months to create some financial margin? E.g. do you need to keep multiple media streaming accounts like Netflix, Stan, Foxtel, can you pull back to just one?
3. Have some honest conversations
If gifts are a big deal in your family, be honest about your situation and make adjustments. You may need to let family know that you don’t feel it would be wise to spend money you don’t have right now. You could suggest a Secret Santa for extended family, or a lucky dip gift bag that everyone contributes one gift to for the kids.
When it comes to your own children, you will need to help them understand that things may look different this Christmas. If there’s something they really want that you can’t afford right now, why not use this as an opportunity for them to save up for it in the sales after Christmas? You may activate the little entrepreneur in them, or at the very least teach them a valuable lesson in delayed gratification and saving.
4. Consider what generosity means to you
This season of unbridled consumerism is the perfect time to evaluate what being generous looks like. Can you be more generous with your words, with the quality time you spend with family, with the time you give to serving or volunteering? How you can teach and model this to your kids this Christmas?
5. Explore the Christmas story with your children
Use the season for what it was intended, to remind us of the birth of Jesus, all that He is and all that He has done for us. There are great Advent bible reading plans online that you can read on your own, with friends or with your children. Ask questions and explore who Jesus is and what values His life and ministry can teach us.
6. Remember the those in need
In developing nations food security and the basic necessities of life have been compromised as a result of the COVID pandemic. Whatever your own circumstances are, Christmas is a good time to remember those less fortunate than yourself. Many churches run great giving programs during this time of year, which you can engage with at any level. You may even want to look at the work of organisations like the Salvation Army, The Smith Family, World Vision, Caritas, Vinnies or others to find out how you can support them.
7. Avoid shopping centres and online shopping
Out of sight, out of mind! Don’t browse. Don’t “research” ideas for gifts. Don’t look at the catalogues to see what’s new or on sale. Unsubscribe from all marketing emails. These things are designed to get you to buy. If you need to keep your spending in check, cutting out this noise will really help.
8. Make a budget and stick to it
Take the time to write a budget and don’t stray from it. It may feel tough at times, but there’s something deeply satisfying about showing restraint and sticking to a promise you make to yourself. Leave credit cards out of sight and stay away from Afterpay, Zip, Klarna and the like!
9. Get creative
There are lots of little things you can do to save a little money here and there. Try getting crafty and exchange homemade gifts with close family or your spouse. Baked goods, handsewn treasures, entertaining amateur portraits, funny poems, and potted plant cuttings all make for memorable gifts for those you love. Reuse gift bags; almost every mum has a gift bag full of gift bags somewhere in the house!
10. Declutter and sell
Facebook Marketplace, Ebay and Gumtree make it easier than ever to make some quick cash by selling some of the stuff just collecting dust in your home. And whatever you don’t sell, you can donate to a local Op Shop to create some space for the new year!
11. Make time for fun!
Finally, and most importantly – prioritise fun these holidays! Saving does not have to be a chore. Use your Christmas break to create some memories with loved ones. Have a games night with your family. Take your kids camping in the back yard, or in the lounge. Visit some beautiful sights in your city. Explore some of the natural beauty in your area. It costs nothing and refreshes the soul.
* Finder’s 2020 Consumer Sentiment Tracker