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How to stay financially sane this silly season

20 November 2017

Surprising benefits of Xmas on a budget

Money & Life team

Money & Life contributors draw on their diverse range of experience to present you with insights and guidance that will help you manage your financial wellbeing, achieve your lifestyle goals and plan for your financial future.

Australians plan to spend $955 each on average over the holiday season, according to ASIC’s Money Smart. When it comes to Christmas presents, comparing it by state, WA tops the list with West Australians planning to spend $646 each on gifts. NSW is only a tad behind with residents planning to spend $634. Next comes Queensland at $609, Victoria at $562 per person and South Australians are planning to spend $505 each.

In terms of how people pay for presents, the most popular – and sensible – is to use savings. Seventy-five per cent of Australians will use their savings to buy Christmas gifts. Next comes credit card gift buyers, at 36 per cent of the population. Following that is 4 per cent who will use loans to pay for presents and then 3 per cent of people will use their Christmas bonus.

Of the credit card gift buyers, 70 per cent will take between six months and two years to pay off the debt. Twenty-six per cent will pay it off in one to six months and the remaining 4 per cent will take more than two years to pay it off. The “average” Christmas credit card debt is $1,666.

Living beyond your means

Darleen Barton is an accredited corporate therapist, coach and mediator. She says that people feel pressured to buy presents, celebrate, go on holidays, eat and drink out over the Christmas period.

“They concentrate on the now and the feeling of happiness and really give little thought to the consequences of their actions until the bills come,” she says.

“People are placing themselves in a position where they are at high risk of stress, anxiety and high blood pressure, all potentially affecting their health if left unmanaged. Relationships are also being affected.”

Barton says that knowing what money you have and budgeting for Christmas gives you peace of mind. “Peace of mind with minimal financial worry over Christmas frees your mind up to enjoy the festivities with friends and family.”

Her tips for having a happier and mentally healthier festive season include:

  • Take some time to breathe, in through the nose out through the mouth – deep controlled breathing
  • Don’t put your fitness regime on hold, it benefits both your body and your mind
  • Take some time to get in tune with nature
  • Keep your phone and your internet habits to a minimum
  • Take some time to meet new people
  • Get curious about life and laugh more.

“Everything you buy starts to decay the moment you purchase it. However your relationship with your family and friends continues to grow with time. Loved ones are there for you in all seasons, you laugh together you cry together. There is no money in the world that can replace the feeling of being loved,” says Barton.

Save the environment and fight climate change at Xmas

Climate change fighting movement 1 Million Women “Fighting climate change through our everyday lives” has these tips on avoiding expense and waste over the festive season.

Give mindfully. Is there something that the person you are giving a present to really wants or needs? For those about to embark on an overseas trip, some local currency from their intended destination (easily obtained from an exchange office) can be a thoughtful and enormously practical gift. Have a family member who is a history buff? Tickets to a museum exhibition lets them know that you want them to go out and enjoy themselves!

Make time, not rubbish. Instead of rushing around buying up boxes of chocolates and generic gifts for colleagues, neighbours and others in your social circle, consider giving the present of your presence. Making time to catch up with someone over coffee or a glass of bubbly is guaranteed to be a moment that they remember and appreciate long after the wrapping paper has been cleared away.

ASIC’s Money Smart site has these tips on spending less money for more Christmas enjoyment.

And here are some of the best Christmas money saving tips you may not know about from Spending Hacker founder Michael Ginsburg.

  • Compare prices
    Use services such as Get Price, ShopBot, or Google Shopping. For computers and other tech gadgets, check Static Ice.
  • Use price beat guarantees
    Many retailers in Australia such as OfficeWorks, Appliances Online and  99 Bikes offer price beat guarantees.
  • Use coupon codes
    Websites to look for those are Oz Voucher (Aussie retailers) and Retail Me Not (global).
  • Buy at Auction
    If you’ve done your price comparisons, have good discipline, you can save even more by buying your items through auction. The biggest auction site in Australia is Grays Online and then there is of course eBay.
  • Use cashback sites
    Instead of going to the merchant’s site directly, you go to it through the website of a cashback service. Some examples are Cash Rewards ­ and Qwibble.

Gifts with ‘conscience’

If you’re looking for a good news gift that won’t blow the budget Secret Book Stuff’s website is worth a look. For every book (often second hand) you order to send as a gift, Secret Book Stuff donates two books to local schools, hospitals, local businesses, cafes, non-profit events, homeless shelters and women’s refuges.

Called a “kindness project to spread the love of literature in the world”, by founder Amy Lovat, who handpicks the books for you, Secret Books are personalised picks to suit the recipient, based on the information you enter on the online ordering form. You can also request a specific book and Secret Book Stuff will do their best to find it. It costs just $22 to purchase and send a Secret Book to a friend anywhere in Australia.