How to plan for an affordable Kiwi Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner – in fact, it is just over four weeks away – and for many New Zealanders, it’s a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness. However, it’s also a time of year that can put a huge strain on your finances. According to the comparison website Finder (Dec, 2022), the average person in New Zealand will spend $1467.00 over the festive season, contributing to a total national outlay of $5.4 billion. Of that $1467.00, Kiwis are expected to splurge around $410.00 on presents.

To make matters more challenging, a recent survey by Banked revealed that 60.4% of Kiwis are feeling stressed about the cost of Christmas. However, it is still possible to enjoy a wonderful Christmas without breaking the bank. Here’s how.

Don’t feel obliged to spend beyond your means

Christmas can be a time of intense commercialisation, and it’s easy to feel pressured to spend more than you can afford. This only causes unnecessary stress and financial strain. So, don’t feel obliged to buy gifts that you’ll struggle to afford or take part in every costly social event. Expensive decorations, lavish gifts and fancy food are not actually the point of Christmas.

Your friends and family know that spending more money doesn’t equate to caring more. Given the rising cost of living, many people in Aotearoa are tightening their belts, so you won’t be alone in setting a reasonable budget for Christmas.

Planning ahead and creating a Christmas budget is a smart move

A plan for your money will help you avoid overspending during this crazy time of year. There are often many expenses, such as gifts, social events, travel, accommodation and other holiday-related costs. So, you need to keep track of your spending to ensure you don’t go over your budget in any area.

Enjoy the gift-giving season without guilt-ridden overspending

Set up your Christmas budget, save up a Christmas fund and then stick to your plans. How ever much you decide to spend, don’t go beyond that limit. After all, no one needs Christmas payments sticking around past Matariki!

First, you need to list your monthly income, including any extra income you may earn during the holidays. Then, list your expenses, including essentials like food, utilities, shelter, transportation, insurance, and debt. Once you have your regular expenses accounted for, list your Christmas-specific expenses such as gifts, decorations, and summer holiday-related expenses.

It’s really important to track your expenses properly. Every purchase, whether it’s a gift, a decoration, or a holiday treat, should be recorded. If your expenses exceed your income, or you’re over your budget in one area, you may have to cut back on your spending in other areas to compensate. Conversely, if you find a great deal on a gift and spend less than you budgeted, then reallocate that money to another area of your Christmas budget.

Free yourself from feeling pressured to spend too much

Remember, it’s not about the amount you spend; it’s about the joy and love you share. One way to cut back on your Christmas expenses is to embrace the concept of Secret Santa or group gifting. Secret Santa is a fantastic way to save money on gifts. Instead of shopping for multiple presents, everyone in a group only buys one gift for another person. This helps the wallet and makes the gift-giving process more enjoyable and thoughtful because you’re not running around trying to buy gifts for everybody or just buying something for the sake of having to.

Group gifting is another strategy to save money. By pooling resources with others, you can afford more significant and often more meaningful gifts that would be unaffordable individually. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

To reduce the cost of gifts, shop for sales, use coupons, and consider making DIY homemade gifts. According to Finder, 64.4% of people said they were more likely to buy a gift if it is sustainable -i.e., a gift “that involved zero waste or was made from recyclable materials”. You can also give baked goods, preserves, sauces, jam, relishes, pickles or fermented food as gifts. Homemade gifts often carry a personal touch that shop-bought items may lack, and they can be budget-friendly.

Be smart about credit

Credit cards and buy now, pay later platforms may seem like convenient options for covering your Christmas expenses, but they can lead to financial trouble if not used carefully. Accumulated interest charges and late payment fees can quickly add up and result in you spending far more than you intended during the holiday season.

Cut down on unnecessary Christmas trappings

Consider skipping expensive Christmas trimmings that strain your budget. Fancy Christmas card photo sessions or extravagant decorations or light displays are not necessities. Why not decorate a living pot plant instead of an expensive and decidedly environmentally- unfriendly tinsel Christmas tree? Focus on the traditions that truly matter to you and your loved ones and find creative, sustainable ways to celebrate without overspending.

Stock up for next Christmas

After December 25th, many Christmas-related items, such as wrapping paper, cards, decorations, and even gifts, often go on sale. By planning ahead and stocking up on these items when they’re discounted, you can save a significant amount of money for Christmas 2024.

Save money throughout the year with a Christmas fund

Consider setting up a fund specifically for Christmas expenses and save up throughout the year. This fund can help you avoid last-minute financial stress often associated with Xmas.

If you’re reading this blog in November or December, it may be too late to create a fund for this year, but you can start saving for next Christmas. But you can reflect on how much you’re spending this year to determine how much you’ll need and then start saving a little each month for 2024. By the time December rolls around again, your Christmas fund will be ready to use.

Joy isn‘t measured by how much you spend

With a well-thought-out budget and a bit of planning, you can enjoy a holly jolly, well-budgeted, debt-free Christmas and have a happy new year. Christmas is a time to celebrate family, friends and togetherness. So, take control of your holiday finances, stick to your budget, and revel in the true joys of the season. Make this Christmas a memorable one for you and your loved ones in Aotearoa for all the right reasons.