Take a look at these five tips to avoid over-spending, and keeping your budget on track over the summer holidays.
As the weather warms up and the year starts to draw to a close, it’s not long until you’ll be relaxing and enjoying your summer holiday. However, that doesn’t mean your budget has to relax too. Here are five tips for getting the most out of the summer break, without breaking your budget.
1. Have a plan for gifts… and stick to it
While buying gifts for your family and friends can be one of the most fun and rewarding parts of the holiday season, it’s also one of the most expensive. According to the Australian Government’s MoneySmart website, Australians spend big on gifts at Christmas time, with people in New South Wales topping the average spend at $548 each. Plus, only 60% of Aussies use savings to pay for their Christmas shopping. The rest use a combination of credit cards, borrowed money from family and friends, work bonuses, tax refunds or lay-by.
To help ease the gift-giving splurge, a plan is vital. Work out how much you have to spend, where the money will come from, and exactly what you want to buy for each friend or family member.
Once it’s set, sticking to your budget is important too. CommBank research shows more than half of Aussies set themselves a budget for the festive season, but one in five people don’t stick to it. On average, they also overspend by $284, which nationwide means Aussies are overspending by a staggering $507 million.
Things to consider when buying a gift:
• Think carefully about what you’re going to buy, and exactly how much you’re going to spend, before you hit the shops
• Sign up for discount websites which offer frequent specials on potential gift items
• Always shop around and use comparison websites to find the lowest possible price
• Share spending on a big gift amongst friends or family members
• If you get an unexpected discount on an item, don’t feel you need to make up the value by buying another gift to accompany it. Stick to your plan!
• Don’t forget to budget for end of year ‘thank you’ gifts for teachers, cleaners, neighbours, nannies, customers or work colleagues
• Go sentimental rather than expensive. A perfectly chosen and well thought-out present can sometimes be the best option
The MoneySmart website also suggests paying for gifts using rewards points wherever possible. “In the lead up to Christmas, keep an eye out for items you need that earn more points so you can build up your balance. Also look for discounts that might be offered through your existing insurer or credit card provider for particular retailers,” it says.
2. Be a Secret Santa
It’s easy to get carried away with buying gifts for everyone you know during the holiday season, especially once you have a growing family. However, everyone realises the holiday season can be expensive, and there’s no harm in being open about your holiday budget with family and friends.
Writing for Forbes, property firm Trulia suggests that Secret Santa can be a great way to keep your budget on track. “You could suggest Secret Santa gift exchanges (with a maximum spending limit) among your social groups, instead of buying presents for every family member, friend, and co-worker you know,” it says.
3. Budget for more than just gifts
While Christmas gifts top the list in terms of holiday spending, it’s important to budget and plan for other items too – like your Christmas getaway, entertaining friends and family, extra food and drinks for home, eating out, holiday activities for children, and potentially the additional costs associated with daycare or child-minding during school holidays.
Research suggests that people in New South Wales top the festive spending in all categories, spending an average of $359 per person on holidays, $118 on entertaining friends and family at home and $54 on extra food and drink at home.
Tips for budgeting for the overall holiday period:
• Book holidays as early as possible and pay for the cost incrementally over the year. If you book early, you’re also more likely to secure an option that’s within your budget
• Buy as much food as you can in advance when on sale and freeze whatever you can
• Take advantage of bulk purchases (e.g. share the cost of a case of wine or champagne with a group of friends or colleagues)
• Rather than taking expensive, pre-prepared items to a function, make as much as you can yourself
• Share the load: take people up on their offers to contribute to a function – e.g. to buy bread, bring a salad or make a dessert.
MoneySmart also suggests getting thrifty by selling unwanted items around your home, such as clothes, furniture or jewellery that can generate some extra cash for the Christmas period.
Or, if you do already own a property and you’re planning on going on holidays, you may even want to consider letting it as a holiday rental while you’re away.
4. Set and track your spending
To keep your spending in order, you need to know how you’re tracking. You don’t want to be pulling together a bundle of receipts in the new year and staring dismally at your credit card statement wondering where all of your money went.
The Australian Government’s TrackMySPEND app is a great way to keep track of your festive spending. You can nominate a spending limit for different types of Christmas expenses, and track your progress while you shop.
5. Re-think the trimmings
While the holiday period is all about indulgence, it can also pay to think carefully about all of the small amounts of money you spend, which can quickly add up.
Ways to cut extra costs:
• Sending online Christmas cards rather than buying printed cards and posting them. The cost of sending a seasonal greeting card this Christmas will be between 65c and 70c each, which can very quickly add up
• Making hand-made gift cards and, if you have young children, getting them to decorate plain paper instead of investing in expensive wrapping
• Taking food and drinks with you if you’re planning a day out, rather than buying lunch and potentially paying school holiday prices
• Organising social functions at parks or beaches rather than at venues; the cost of which can quickly escalate