1. Create a Christmas spreadsheet
This might sound a little over-organised but there’s a reason the business world loves them. They account for everything. And with a Christmas one it can be a perpetual document that is reviewed and renewed every year.
But if you’re only just starting now, don’t fret – there’s never a bad time to start a Christmas spreadie.
“Preparation is key,” Belinda says. “Start a planner that ticks off what you need to buy, week by week. Whether it’s groceries or presents.
“You can work out, ‘what am I likely to spend’ and what you want to buy, then you can keep an eye out for when it comes on sale as well.”
The spreadsheet is really the ultimate in Christmas planning and can give you full visibility over everything you need to fund over the festive season.
2. Set up a regular funds transfer
And it’s NEVER too early to start – your Christmas fund could begin at the very first paycheck of the year.
“If you don’t see it, you don’t miss it,” Belinda says. “So pulling a little bit of money out of your wage before it hits your bank every week, or fortnight or month, will make a massive difference, especially over 52 weeks.
“Then when it’s coming up to Christmas, you have a pool of funds there already so that you don’t have to hit your existing pay week.”
3. Buy gift cards with your shopping
When you do a weekly shop, buy a gift card and put it away to spend on your present shopping. It’s like enforced savings – this is a good time to have a spreadsheet so you don’t forget that you bought the gift card.
“You’ll notice it all starts to add up,” Belinda says. “Either a $10 or a $20 is fine, you probably won’t even notice it, and then you could have $600 worth in a drawer for when you’re ready to start doing your Christmas shopping.
“It’s just like cash!”
4. Don't overbuy, write a list
“There’s a lot of impulse buying when it comes to Christmas shopping,” Belinda says. “It’s all about writing yourself a list and sticking to it.
“A lot of our spending is impulsive, and it’s always things that you don’t need to buy.”
If you do find yourself over-shopping, especially for your own children, don’t just give the extra gifts to your kids.
“Put the extras away and use them for birthday gifts for nieces or nephews throughout the year,” Belinda says. And if your kids are young, you know they’ll be invited to a birthday party every weekend so you’ll have presents on standby.
5. Have a pressie cupboard
A present drawer or cupboard is a must-have. You can store the presents you buy at the sales throughout the year (and these have been listed on your spreadsheet and cross-referenced with the person you bought them for) but these also provide a handy back-up when birthdays sneak up on you.
“Keep your extra presents in a ‘pressie’ cupboard all year round,” Belinda says. “Stock up during the Boxing day sales, or whenever you see discounts throughout the year and you can use them for birthdays and Christmas.”
6. Do your shopping online
This is a key budget tip because you don’t get distracted by the aisles, racks or shelves of other presents. “You just get in there, save a packet and just get it done,” says Belinda.
And the other perk for parents of young children (or those with shopping-hating partners) – “You don’t have to drag your children through the store.”
Shopping online works for both presents and groceries. If you go online knowing what you want to buy and spend, you’re less likely to throw away money on the things you don’t need.
7. If something is cheap, buy it now!
Throughout the year and especially after Christmas, if you see something on sale, buy it!
“I do this all year round,” Belinda says. “If I see something I know someone will like, I’ll buy it then and there and put it into the pressie cupboard.”
“Do this for shopping also,” she says. “When they have buy one get one free or half price, you can save an absolute packet.”
The hot tip with this? Don’t forget you’ve bought them. Put them on your Christmas spreadsheet!
8. Do it yourself
Homemade gifts are a great way to maximise your giving without increasing your budget. But don’t procrastinate until the day before you give them. For example, make your cookies ahead of time and actually try a batch of them. Nothing’s worse than realising you substituted all the sugar for salt at the last minute! That’s a recipe for a midnight grocery run — and a lot of money down the drain.
(Text: Anita Lyons, bauersyndication.com.au / Additional reporting: Natalya Molok)