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Saving for Christmas
By Tammy Barton

Budget Christmas SantaThe winter chill has barely faded and it’s already time to turn our minds to Christmas. It’s never too early to start saving for Christmas presents. In fact, if on January 1 you had started stuffing $10 every week into an old Vegemite jar, you’d have a stash of $500 by year’s end. But even if your Vegemite jar is empty, there’s still time to save for a merry festive season.

Start by creating a Christmas budget which lists all the people you’d like to buy presents for. Try not to get too emotional or feel guilty about gift giving—only ever give what you can afford. Now create a list of all your other Christmas expenses. Include items like groceries, Christmas cards, postage and wrapping paper, as well as hidden costs like long distance phone calls, dining out, and extra petrol if you’ll be driving. It all adds up.

Allocate a budget to each of these items so that you know exactly how much Christmas is going to cost you and how much you’re going to need to save from every pay packet between now and then. If your Christmas budget is unaffordable, you’ll need to refigure it to a more realistic amount.

Remember that gifts don’t need to be expensive to be thoughtful. Colouring in books, butcher’s paper, textas, and craft supplies are great for smaller kids. Bigger kids might enjoy school supplies, a movie ticket, or an iTunes voucher to download their favourite song. Ask people what they’d like for Christmas so that you don’t end up panic buying. Look for specials throughout the year.

Lastly, don’t borrow to pay for Christmas. Use cash, rather than your credit card. It’s too easy to overspend with plastic. In fact, leave your credit card at home if you think you’ll be tempted to use it. And don’t shop for yourself until after Christmas. Wait to see what Santa brings you!

This article was featured in The Advertiser 'My Week' lift-out on 12 September, 2011. Catch more of Tammy's money-wise tips in The Advertiser every Monday and in other News Limited publications.

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