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10 budgeting hacks for the holiday season

How to save money at Christmas-time. Source: Getty

There’s a reason why people say the festive season is ‘the most wonderful time of the year’; getting together with family and friends, great food, holidays, summer…the list goes on. A big part of our modern-day Christmas involves gift-giving, which is a chance to show your loved ones you care, but this can also be costly and stressful for those on a tight budget. 

Here are ten hacks to ensure you spend within your means this Christmas, and make sure you enjoy all the best bits the silly season has to offer: 

1. Plan ahead

The earlier you can figure out how much money you need to set aside for the holidays, the better. Listing every expense from food to wrapping paper will give you a reliable figure for how much you need to save. 

You can achieve this by setting aside some of your pay or cutting back expenses where you can. Avoid borrowing money for the holiday season - it will only make the spending seem more stressful. 

2. Make a list of everyone you have to buy a gift for - and set a strict price limit

Yes, it sounds ruthless to list your nearest and dearest with a dollar figure - but you’d be surprised how many gifts are bought on the go without a second thought about whether the expense is suited to who you’re buying for. 

Knowing - and planning - what you expect to spend in the holiday season can save a lot of stress. Saving for the more pricey presents will bring greater joy when it comes to giving them, as you’ll know you worked hard to gift something special. 

3. Don’t leave the shopping to the last minute

It seems obvious, but around silly seasons everyone gets busy. This means impulse buying goes up, and budgets go out the door. Being prepared means less money spent irrationally.

Towards the end of November, there are some great sales to look out for such as Black Friday - get your gift ideas in mind and hunt for bargains - it will save you paying more for the same item a few weeks later. 

4. Shop around

Given the infinite online retailers at our fingertips, be sure you’re getting the best price. A quick Google search is all it takes for peace of mind knowing you’re not spending more than you need to. Discount codes and cashback offers are key here. 

This applies to most holiday season expenses including gifting, postage, food, accommodation and travel. It doesn’t hurt to practice price comparison outside of the holiday season too. 

5. Spend with cash where you can

Using cash to make pre-planned purchases will mean you stick to your gameplan. Having an exact amount to spend will ensure you don’t get sucked into marketing ploys and end up purchasing more than you intended. 

6. Base your budget on what you can afford

The holiday season can sometimes be stressful when you feel like you have to spend money you don’t have. Remember that your loved ones won’t be disappointed if you can’t afford to buy them an expensive gift, so be kind to yourself and spend within your means. 

Homemade gifts like cards or baking are a cheap and cheerful way to show you’ve put some love and care into a gift. As the saying goes - it’s the thought that counts. 

7. Focus on personalised gifts with sentimental value 

Sometimes, the best gifts are those from the heart. Take some time to consider thoughtful presents for your loved ones, rather than expensive gifts. They are often more meaningful, and memorable. 

A source of inspiration for personalised gifts is thinking about experiences you’ve shared, holidays they’ve taken or your loved one’s goals for the future - it doesn’t have to be complicated, it just requires some extra thought. 

8. Track your spending

There’s no use having a plan if you don’t stick to it. A good way to keep yourself accountable is to open a bank account just for holiday season spending. That way, you can deposit the money set by your budget - and withdraw exact amounts - without overspending by mistake. 

9. Keep generic gifts handy

Have some generic gifts ready to go (think hand balm, candles, homewares) so when you get stuck for a last minute present, you avoid overspending for convenience. 

When you find something that’s a hit - buy three or four of the same to take the hassle out of having to choose. Just make sure you don’t give the same gift twice...

10. Suggest a Secret Santa

If you have a big family or circle of friends, Secret Santa can be a smart way to give one person something they really want, rather than buying lots of people gifts they’ll never use. This can be a waste-conscious form of gifting and means you don’t have to spend on everyone. 

Plus, setting a price limit for Secret Santa means everyone’s gifts are of an equal amount and reduces pressure to spend excessively.

Ben Thompson, co-founder and CEO of people management platform, Employment Hero.

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