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3 tricks to spread Christmas costs, without any interest

Compilation image of hands counting out $50 notes, buy-now-pay-later written on the screen of a smartphone, a multigenerational family with Christmas attire opening presents and a pile of credit cards
Christmas can be expensive time of year, so it pays to be smart about how you're spending your money. (Source: Getty)

Six weeks to go and the festive frenzy seems to be in full swing.

It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement, fall into a preparation frenzy and panic (early) purchase.

Equally, though, leave it to the last minute and you risk expense escalation, as you snatch and grab presents you think will work for each person, then add extras to try and keep it fair for everyone else.

My top tip for a low-cost Christmas? Make a plan.

Read more from Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon:

Agree to share all the outlay you can, cut down on Christmas presents if all recipients are in agreement (consider secret or ‘stealing’ Santa) and prepare a shopping strategy in advance.

But perhaps the most crucial element to plan when things are a little tight is not what you purchase but how.

If you can’t pay immediately, interest can make it a financially cruel yule.

So here are three delay-pay plays that buy you time without incurring interest.

Delay-pay play 1: Use the layby strategy

I’ll talk about laybys first up because there are six weeks to go and possibly three pay days.

The buy-later-pay-layby strategy is great when it comes to Christmas because you don’t need the gifts until December 25.

It’s not like stashing them away in a storeroom until then thwarts your own instant-gratification impulse.

The problem is that this year has seen some companies stop offering layby (like Mathers) or add additional charges that mean it would be cheaper to simply put items on a credit card and cop interest for a couple of months (hello Big W)!

So be sure of the terms and conditions before you commit to the instalments.

Speaking of instalments…

Delay-pay play 2: Buy now, pay later and credit cards

Now let me preface this by saying the technique is only for the very responsible money managers - people with that clear purchasing plan and all the resolve to stick to it.

But what you can do is use a combination of buy now, pay later (BNPL) and a credit card, to get 10 to 12 weeks extra to fund Christmas.

If it’s just a matter of kicking the ‘cost can’ down the road for a few pay cycles, until you are able to afford it, it might be best to shop just before Christmas Day too.

That could extend your final instalment all the way into mid-March.

The strategy is 2-step.

Firstly, make your initial payment using a BNPL service, typically offering a six to eight week extension without interest (they make their money from the merchant and from you in the form of penalties if you miss a payment).

But first hook this service to a credit card with a 55-day or more interest-free period.

This way, even though the first BNPL payment doesn’t come out for two weeks, you don’t have to actually foot the (credit card) bill for more like six weeks.

Then you will have as much as three months to meet the final instalment.

I stress again though, you need to be very disciplined to make this time-buying technique work and not to overspend versus your expected income.

Do your numbers carefully to ensure you don’t get caught and have to pay interest down the track.

Delay-pay play 3: Vouchers

Vouchers are discounted in just so many places… and you may not realise it.

Your road-side assistance club. Your health fund. The Entertainment Book that you purchase for $70 or so from your favourite charity and carries a ton of ‘coupons’ for cheaper deals everywhere.

All of the above might offer lower-cost vouchers. Up to 10 per cent off.

But the real beauty of giving cut-price quasi cash like this is that it can then be spent in the Boxing Day sales, yielding far more than face value.

Take the saving strategy stratospheric by convincing all your family to do the same.

And you can all go on a ‘free’ fun outing to the shops – perhaps with bonus elbowing - after Christmas.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is the author of How to Get Mortgage-Free Like Me, available at www.nicolessmartmoney.com. Follow Nicole on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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