Cutting the cost of Christmas

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Where has this year gone?

Christmas is fast approaching and we are getting people coming to us concerned about how they are going to manage through the busy season.

If you haven’t planned to have some extra money set aside, then chances are you will be putting it on that dreaded credit card, going to the maximum of the overdraft or, worse, doing a high-cost loan.

Please try to avoid these as it will mean your new year will start off with debt that just adds more pressure to the weekly budget.

We want people to avoid the Christmas pressure to spend and look at planning instead.

Yes, it’s probably too late this year, but there is always next year.

Simple tips are doing a secret Santa so you only buy for one member of the adult family, rather than buying for all the extended family.

Instead of turkey or ham, do a cheaper protein such as chicken.

Instead of buying a gift, why not make one instead? It’s more meaningful and should be less expensive. A lovely painting created by your children for their grandparents, and put into a cheap frame, could be a lot more meaningful than the soap and hand cream you give them every year.

When grocery shopping, don’t be tempted by all the goodies sitting at the end of aisles – stick to your list and do not buy more than you need.

What about doing a pot luck dinner, where one family does the nibbles, one does the main and one does dessert – share the load and lessen the stress?

Pressure is always on to spend lots and eat lots, but can it be made simpler and possibly more meaningful? Do you really need to buy your children the latest toys or gadgets because you feel pressure to do so?

Of course we want the best for our children but, maybe, instead of that expensive toy that might be broken by Boxing Day, how about spending time? A family activity like a picnic down by the waterfront, a play in the park and an ice-cream with them on the way home benefits yourself and your family more than the stress of buying that item that could be discarded in the New Year. Can the children do time vouchers or promises for Christmas presents, like washing the car and cleaning the windows, or can the family do a bike ride on the Alps 2 Ocean?

We are fortunate in New Zealand that we get to spend our holidays in the summer; but for managing money it is more difficult as we have Christmas, school holidays and then, before you know it, children are heading back to school – and that makes for a very expensive time.

Pre-planning is going to help. But December is not the time to start budgeting for Christmas.

Christmas club cards are fantastic, and you can put as little as $5 on them a week amount saved is a good thing.

Please, though, before any savings are made, make sure the essentials like the rent, electricity and food are paid.

And if you are on your own at Christmas please call the office at Orwell St Church and join them for a free Christmas lunch on Christmas day at noon. You can phone (03) 434-6168 or pop down to Orwell St during the week from 1.30pm to 3.30pm to register. Make sure you register before December 20 so they know how many they are catering for.

From our team at Family Works and North Otago Budget Advice – Merry Christmas.

We will be closing from December 20 and reopening on January 8.

  • Katrina Kelly is a financial mentor for Family Works and the North Otago Budget Advisory Service co-ordinator.