If shopping centres aren’t even putting up their Christmas decorations yet, then the holiday period may seem to be a concern of the distant future. However, the season has a tendency to creep up on people and can often come with financial burdens. Planning your holiday expenses early can cut out one of the biggest stresses of the season and allow you to focus on enjoying the festivities and spending time with your loved ones.
Less than 20% of Australians start saving for the Christmas period two to three months in advance. Those who don’t set aside enough time to save often turn to using a credit card. Over a quarter of Australians rely on credit cards to cover the costs of the holiday season, which can result in post-Christmas debt. If you need to use a credit card, consider setting a spending cap to help you stick to your budget and reduce the risk of debt.
On average, Australians are spending $1325 each during the festive season. This includes gifts, decorations, travel, parties, food and drinks. In 2018, the average Australian spent $573 on Christmas gifts alone, with 15% of millennials splurging over $1000 on gifts. Despite this, 56% of Aussies start their shopping without a budget, and 39% do not keep track of their expenses.
If you’re worried you’re going to be tempted to dip into your savings, it can be a good idea to set up a Christmas saver account. This is typically done at the start of the year and is offered by some banks. You can make deposits throughout the year, but can only withdraw from the account when the festive season arrives, usually around 1 December. While interest is offered on these account savings, it should be noted that you can generally find better interest rates with other savings accounts such as a bonus saver or online savings account.
Alternatively, you can manually set aside an amount weekly or fortnightly in the months leading up to the holiday period. Setting up an excel sheet can help keep track of this, and can also be used to categorise different budgets for various needs (gifts, travel, food etc.). This can help you plan ahead and estimate how much you will need to cover the cost of the holidays, saving you from the bite of unexpected expenses and keeping you in control of your finances.
If you’ve left things a little late, it can help to cut out a few luxuries to save some extra money. Whether it’s having a cheap night in, or skipping a coffee run every now and then, a little can go a long way.