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9 weeks to go: How to start saving for Christmas now

The earlier you create a plan, the easier it will be to save for gifts and Christmas expenses.

Compilation image of money saving piggy back with a Christmas hat and a number 9 with cash inside
Saving money for Christmas ahead of time can save you from financial strife. (Source: Getty) (Samantha Menzies)

There are just nine weeks until Christmas (yes, really) and now is the perfect opportunity to get financially organised.

Between seafood platters and Secret Santas, the holiday season can be stressful enough. Here’s a nine-week money-saving game plan to help ease the financial load so you can float seamlessly through the eggnog season.

9 weeks to go: Set your budget

Now is the time to lay out a budget for each category of spending you need to consider. Set a budget for each person’s gifts, and if you’re on hosting duty, work out how much you expect to spend on food, decorations and any other associated costs.

Also by Emma Edwards:

Here are some expenses you will want to factor in:

Gifts: How many people are you buying a gift for? And what do you want to spend on them? A 2022 study found the average Australian would spend $1,059 on Christmas gifts. If you’re reducing your gift budget this year, you’re not alone - 42 per cent of Australians are planning to buy fewer presents compared to previous years, according to PureProfile’s 2023 Christmas Report.

Oh, and don’t forget the wrapping paper.

Food and drink: Forecast your food-and-drink budget for the key holiday dates in advance by noting down how many people you’ll be hosting and the key ingredients you’ll need to plan for. Research has shown that Aussie food-and-drink spending is set to remain in line with previous years at $306.

Decorations: Have you got everything you need to deck the halls? Expenditure data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has shown that Australians spend approximately $27 each year on Christmas decorations.

Parties: If you expect to attend Christmas or holiday parties this festive season, set a budget for any costs to attend, including transport, clothing and tickets.

Utilities: If you’re hosting friends and family these holidays, it pays to factor in an additional buffer for increased utility bills. More people taking showers and heavier use of air conditioners and kitchen appliances can dial up your bill.

Travel: Research in 2022 revealed the average Aussie would spend $458 on travel for Christmas, but many could be staying put this year to combat rising costs. The 2023 Christmas Report revealed that 60 per cent of Aussies would stay local for the holidays.

If you do plan to get away, plan ahead for the cost of flights, accommodation and fuel if relevant.

Additional costs: If you need to arrange child care, house sitting or pet sitting, lock these in as soon as you can to avoid competing with last-minute high demand.

Once you’ve got everything listed out and an estimated budget for each category, total everything up and add a 10 per cent buffer to be safe. Then, divide that total by the number of times you get paid between now and the end of the year.

Set up an auto transfer to a separate account for that amount each payday, and you’ll know your Christmas budget is taken care of. If making transfers isn’t your thing, you could try cash stuffing instead.

Then, each time you tick something off your list, cover it with your pre-allocated savings.

8 weeks to go: Time for a pre-Christmas declutter

A seasonal declutter will make it easier, come the holidays, when friends and family are about to descend on your living room, and it might give you a chance to list some preloved items for sale and earn some extra Christmas cash.

7-6 weeks to go: Research

Black Friday is coming up, so it’s the perfect opportunity to research what and from where you want to buy. Then you can spot a deal when it crops up.

If you have high-ticket gifts or purchases in mind, consider using layby to secure them early, and then pay them off each week. Retailers like Big W and Target still offer traditional layby, and help you bypass the overspending risk of buy now, pay later providers.

5 weeks to go: Track or consult with your savings plan

We’re nearing the pointy end of the spending season, so check in with your savings plan and forecasted budget. Each time you buy something, jot down the amount and the category in a notebook or spreadsheet. You can use this tracker to plan ahead for next year.

4 weeks to go: Tick off your gifts, at a discount

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2023 fall on Friday, November 24 and Monday, November 27 this year. With your gift list prepared, see what items you can tick off at a discount. If you score an average of 15 per cent off $1,000 worth of gifts, that’s a saving of $150 just for getting on top of your shopping sooner. Plus, the Deloitte 2023 Retail Holiday Report revealed 71 per cent of retail executives expected higher levels of discounting in the lead-up to Christmas.

Be sure to do your research on price drops, though. Some retailers inflate original RRP prices in order to boast a more impressive markdown, so check price drops across stores before buying.

3 weeks to go: Book online orders

It’s now early December and we’re approaching Australia Post's shipping cut-off dates. If you’ve any last gifts to order, get them in as soon as possible. This helps you avoid paying extra for express shipping and overspending due to last-minute pressure.

It’s also a good time to place online orders for festive food to avoid missing out.

2 weeks to go: Last-minute essentials

With not long to go, it’s time to do a run-through of your holiday budget and plans and make sure you haven’t missed anything important. This is the opportunity to get any last-minute things locally, with whatever is leftover from your predetermined budget.

1 week to go: Finish up and review

By now, everything should be coming together and, hopefully, the only thing left to do is collect any of your online orders, source fresh items for the big day, finish up your wrapping… aaand relax.

With your Christmas spending behind you, now is a great time to revisit your money plan and see how your actual spend stacked up against your predetermined budget. Identify any areas where you spent more than you expected so you can be better prepared next year.

Get ahead for 2024

Now you’ve got a snapshot of your holiday-season spending, take that total and divide it by the number of times you get paid in 2024. If you spent $5,000, set aside $96 each week from January 1, and you’ll be fully funded by the time next Christmas rolls around.

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