Friday, 5 December 2014

5 ways to save money this Christmas

Christmas is an expensive time of year for a huge number of reasons: you have to buy presents for family and friends, you need to book new years events and there are dinners to attend (or to host yourself) as well as work functions and whole heap of other things to do.

I love Christmas and everything that comes at this time of the year but it does get expensive.  Here are 5 simple ways that you can save money this Christmas (I'm doing all of these this year).

1. Set a budget for gift giving (per person) and then stick to that budget

Christmas gifts can get incredibly expensive especially if you have a lot of close family and friends.  It is easy to see an item and think "oh my mum would love that" and then pick it up only to realise far too late how much you've actually spent cumulatively.

I recommend setting a budget for each person you are giving a gift to and then stick to that budget.  I normally have a budget of $150 for each of my close family members however this year I'm dropping it to $75 because I have some incredibly large expenses coming up (and they got some pretty cool gifts from me when I got back from South America)

If you have to give presents to a large number of extended family consider reducing the amount you spend per person because even $30 - $50 per person can add up very quickly.

2. If you have a large extended family consider instituting a Kris Kringle or Secret Santa

Large and close extended families are awesome however they can be a real problem around Christmas time because gifts cost so much.  It can get especially painful if there are lots of kids involved because there is no way you can get away with a $10 box of chocolates or skimp out.

What you can do is to have a chat about this with your family and institute a Kris Kringle or Secret Santa program.  These programs work for multiple reasons - it saves you time and money and people actually get better and more thoughtful gifts and they can be pretty fun around a Christmas tree if you have a large family gathering.

It is generally pretty easy to institute one of these systems:
  • Meet up a month in advance - everyone's name gets put into a hat and you draw out a name for yourself and for each of your kids (if you have more kids you have to fund more presents)
  • Set a maximum amount that you are allowed to spend per gift - this is crucial. 
    • In my family this is generally around the $50 mark - it's not too expensive and as a receiver you are getting a pretty decent gift
    • You can have different caps for children and adults if you like (so that kids get nicer gifts)

3. Do your shopping early OR after Christmas

You can save a great deal of money by timing your shopping.  You either need to:
  • Shop early and buy online.  If you leave it too late presents aren't going to get delivered by Christmas and you are going to be stuck paying store prices.  Also...don't forget that prices go up in the run up to Christmas (on everything including groceries)
  • Shop after Christmas.  We don't necessarily meet all of our family / friends on Christmas day and gifts are often exchanged in the days following Christmas.  Prices typically fall right after Christmas and if you are willing to shop on Boxing Day you can save yourself a great deal this way

4. Have a rotating designated driver system

The amount of dinners I seem to go to around Christmas is staggering.  There are work functions and friends that suddenly have a lot of time to catch up.  The dinners themselves are not cheap but on top of that you have alcohol and taxi rides home which eat up and incredible amount of cash.

Best way of dealing with a lot of the expense? A designated driver system with a few people that are going to be at several of the events you're going to be at.  Why does it work?
  • Taxi rides are no longer an issue.  Have you ever noticed that people rarely share taxi's efficiently?  Either you can never find enough people to fill a cab or the route that you end up driving home is so convoluted that the bill turns out to be incredibly expensive anyway
  • You are sober for at least one event.  It may not be as much fun but you do save a ton of money that night if you're not drinking

5. Ditch the turkey

This one is a personal bug bear of mine (and will save you a bit of money at the same time).  I don't know why people carve up a turkey at Christmas.  Turkey's are like the larger, drier, not as tasty version of a chicken...and they are SO much more expensive than chickens.  

Yet every Christmas without fail giant turkeys seem to appear on tables around the country (along with a whole host of other things that we don't bother with the rest of the year).  If you can ditch the turkey (either by convincing your family or by just ditching it if you are the one hosting the event) then you can save some money and have a tastier Christmas dinner to boot.

Do you have tips to save money this Christmas?  What do you do to keep things under control?

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