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5 easy tricks to cut your Christmas spend

Compilation image of a family sitting around a table at Christmas serving up food and a girl carrying a large pile of presents
Christmas panic purchasing could land you in a mountain of debt. (Source: Getty)

This is part one of Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon’s two-part strategy for saving money this Christmas. Read part two: How to find EXTRA money this festive season, tomorrow.

It feels like we are in the midst of a festive frenzy already – I blame bigger-than-ever sales events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

And most of us can ill-afford an expensive Christmas. Get into panic purchasing and you may well get in above your head.

So let’s think about how to get the most bang for your hard-earned buck… without painful financial repercussions.

Read more from Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon:

Because it’s vital, if you want to stop the Yule from being ‘cost cruel’, to do this in advance with a concerted plan.

Savings strategy 1: Buy vouchers

It may be that you need to take the financially biasing brain chemicals (serotonin and others) out of the equation. These give you the, if you like, buzz for your buck. And that can be (debt) dangerous.

One effective way is to avoid retailers and online stores altogether and buy vouchers instead.

Better still, all sorts of associations, road-side assistance clubs and even health funds have partnered with goods and services outlets to offer vouchers at a discount – as high as 20 per cent.

In tougher times, they want your loyalty to lock in their fees.

Remember, these are quasi-cash presents at a cut-price cost, for which your giftees might even be able to redeem more in the Boxing Day sales.

Savings strategy 2: Buy experiences, not 'stuff'

There is a lot of research that suggests money CAN buy you happiness IF you spend it on experiences that are going to stick with you… rather than on stuff.

This implies that another alternative to a high-price-point present is, say, an inexpensive brunch.

Either make a date with the recipient so you also get an extra holiday catch-up or buy them a – hopefully discounted – voucher.

Note, too, that you can often find movie vouchers discounted as much as 50 per cent off face value.

And who doesn’t love going to the movies?

Savings strategy 3: The 'fun swap'

You’ve heard of the food swap? Well, try what I call the ‘fun swap’.

No, I don’t mean have less of it; I just mean do it in a way that is different and less destructive to your bottom line.

That gold class cinema? Recreate it at home, with the aid of your no-doubt big screen TV, oodles of pillows and much-cheaper popcorn and other food and beverages.

That night out on the town? What about a cocktail or mocktail party where everybody brings a bottle of something you get shaking. Similar to tellies above, stereos are pretty next-level these days.

And that restaurant reunion? Everyone may, as a far-cheaper alternative, love cooking and contributing their own hero dish for all the re-connection without the cost.

Indeed, if you don’t already, this is the year to share the responsibility for the Christmas feast and each bring something, literally, to the table.

Savings strategy 4: Shake up your routine

Everyone has their non-negotiables - the things that without them, you feel like life is a bit of a hard slog.

Think about where it is you can direct your money that will make you the happiest, for the least amount.

And ditto for the people around you for whom you fork out for Christmas. Children particularly spring to mind.

Remember, young ones are likely to be as transfixed with the box as the bike.

And do the adults really need to stick to the same old routine on the day?

For example, are most of the prawns left untouched after Christmas lunch? Their aftermath is a palaver whether they are eaten or not.

Do you need to pay maybe $12 – probably at a minimum – for Christmas bon bons filled with trinkets that will become landfill, flimsy paper hats and poor puns?

Maybe get the kids on craft and the Dads on jokes instead.

And in my family, every member has to do a mandatory Christmas performance.

Cheap – sometimes dodgy – entertainment.

Savings strategy 5: Don't keep up with the Joneses

It is very possible all this festive frugality is a nice theory but that you feel pressure from people around you to maintain your usual Christmas standard.

Three-in-five Aussies (64 per cent) say the rising cost of living is impacting their holiday plans and dampening their excitement surrounding the potentially ‘silly season’.

Says research by consumer intelligence research agency Toluna, 40 per cent of respondents are stressed about having enough money to buy gifts this year, yet they feel obliged to spend because of the expectation of gift-giving around them.

There is a saying that applies at any time of the year and couldn’t be more relevant this Christmas:

Don’t keep up with the Joneses – drag them down to your level. It’s cheaper.

See if you can get your family and friends to agree to go easy this year. Times are tougher.

And you could still all enjoy the festivities, just without the financial hangover.

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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