Feel the joy: 12 Helpful ideas to save money this Christmas

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Posted November 2018 by NZCU Baywide

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We're giving the gift of financial freedom this holiday season with these festive money saving tips...

Are you looking forward to Christmas?

Or are you dreading it a little as well?

The pressure to spend money on gifts, food and holidays can be a financial strain if you’re on a tight budget, trying to save or repay debt.

But Christmas doesn’t have to be a stressful or expensive time. With some forward planning and a little creativity, Christmas can be easy on your pocket and still deliver a whole lot of joy.

We’ve put together some helpful tips to help you round off the year on a financial and yuletide high including:

  • Consult your budget.
  • Get innovative with low or no-cost Christmas gifts.
  • How to holiday for free.
  • Ways to feast and save.

Let’s get started with the most important step of all...

Check your budget

The first step in planning for Christmas is to review your budget. What can you realistically afford? Have you been putting aside a little extra for Christmas expenses? Can you cut back now on other extras to save more?

Ideally, Christmas spending should be made from a budget pool, rather than raiding your December paycheck. Otherwise, you’ll be taking out loans or creeping into debt that could haunt you throughout January and potentially into the rest of the year.

If there’s no room in your budget, we have ideas for enjoying Christmas that won’t cost a cent!

Create new gift-giving traditions

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For many Kiwis, Christmas is about shopping up large for gifts.

In fact, TradeMe says Kiwi shoppers spend between $25 and $50 on each Christmas gift.

Think about the significance of Christmas for you personally; is it a time for holidays and relaxation; a spiritual time; a time for giving and appreciation, or an opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends?

It’s important to understand your motivation for giving presents.

  • If the feeling is motivated by obligation or marketing hype, perhaps it’s time to shift the focus on Christmas from gifts to celebrating the things more important to you and your family.
  • If spending lots of money on presents is just not financially viable when you could be spending that hard-earned money on something more worthwhile, like paying down debt, saving for a home deposit or retirement – then it’s time to be more creative!

There are alternatives to giving without being a bah humbug (and they’re good for the planet and community too). Here are just a few.

1. Introduce an environmentally (and financially) friendly gift theme

Encourage everyone to give a gift that’s not shop-bought. For example:

  • Give something from the garden - A bunch of flowers, a bag of fresh vegetables, a tray of seedlings or micro-greens. Children love sunflower or swan plants.
  • Handcraft a gift – Knit a skin exfoliator, make homemade soaps or cleaners. Bake festive cakes or biscuits.
  • Present a voucher offering your time – Whether it’s washing the car, dog or baby-sitting or giving a massage.

2. Ban presents altogether

Spread the word you’d enjoy the ‘presence’ of friends and family rather than ‘presents’. This takes both the financial and the shopping pressure off everyone. Many families are struggling to pay bills, let alone buy presents, and they’ll appreciate the upfront gesture.

3. Give to others

If Christmas is truly about giving, then why not give to those who really need help? Instead of exchanging gifts, consider donating that money to a local charity, rest-home or homeless shelter.

4. Focus on meaningful gifts, not quantity of gifts

Instead of buying gifts for everyone, buy a single useful present for one person.

Firstly, set a spending limit.

Then ask everyone to think about a gift they’d appreciate that’s within the spending limit.

Along with their name, participants include their ideal gift on a piece of paper. Everyone’s name goes into a hat and like Secret Santa, each person chooses a name from the hat and is responsible for buying that person’s gift.

Holiday for free

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The Kiwi Christmas family holiday is a staple tradition, but they can be expensive. Yet, there are ways to spend fun family time together without spending lots of money on travel, fuel and accommodation.

5. A ‘Staycation’

Instead of a vacation overseas or to other parts of New Zealand, stay at home!

Make it a fun experience by being creative. Pitch a tent in the backyard and cook your meals on the BBQ as if you were staying in a campground. Explore your local town like a tourist and find out what free activities are available. You may be surprised with what’s right on your doorstep that you haven’t had the opportunity to appreciate before.

6. House-sit or House-swap

Join one of the New Zealand house-sitting websites and you’ll discover lots of Kiwis looking for someone to look after their house, pets and garden while they’re on holiday over Christmas.

Housesitting is free in return for caring for pets and you’ll have the opportunity to have your own holiday and explore a different part of the country without paying expensive accommodation.

Similarly, there are house-swapping sites where you can swap your home nationally or internationally, sometimes with the use of a car as well. Check references and be sure to check your insurance policies cover people entering your home with consent – just to be on the safe side.

7. Catch up with family, virtually

Even if you can’t be there in person over the Christmas holidays there are loads of free video-calling options that enable you to catch up in real-time as if you were right there. These technologies include Facebook, Skype, Google Hangouts and WhatsApp.

Feast like royalty, on a pauper’s budget

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Hosting Christmas meals can be nerve-wracking, time-intensive and costly. But before you hurl the turkey out the window, there are ways to reduce the financial and emotional strain.

8. Organise potluck dinners

Share the load, and the expense, by making Christmas dinner a potluck affair. Take the ‘luck’ out of the equation by assigning guests with designated food options to bring along (e.g. dessert or vegetables or snacks) and make it BYO.

9. Reuse leftovers

If there are leftovers from Christmas dinner, search online for recipes to utilise them in other meals or freeze food you can use later to save on your January grocery bill.

10. Consider cheaper alternatives

Replace the roast ham with roast chicken, asparagus with peas and so on.

11. Maximise supermarket loyalty cards

Save up your loyalty points or dollars over the year and put those rewards earned toward the ‘extras’ you buy over Christmas. That way you can enjoy some luxuries without dipping into your food budget. Both Countdown and New World offer loyalty schemes.

12. Plan, plan, plan

If you’re providing meals for extra guests, plan your meal menus ahead of time and shop accordingly. Planning and shopping in advance saves you from wasting money on surplus food, or from running low on food forcing you to panic buy.

You’ll also be able to take advantage of any specials.

Wrapping up

With a little creativity and planning, Christmas can be a time of huge joy, while leaving you with money to spend in January and into the future on worthwhile things that really matter.

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