Surviving the Christmas spending splurge

However you see it, Australians are increasingly generous in our gift giving, spending a collective $11 billion on Christmas presents last year. The average person spent $593 in the festive season, a quarter more than 2012, according to the Commonwealth Bank’s Consumer Spending Survey.

Christmas can be a hugely costly period for many, with Bureau of Statistics’ retail trade figures suggesting people spent 23 per cent more in December than November last year overall. They also spent 60 per cent more in department stores and stores selling clothing, footwear and other personal accessories.

With these costs may come emotional strain, with a separate survey by Groupon finding 49 per cent of respondents were worried about how much they would spend on Christmas expenses such as gifts and catering.

But don’t panic, it’s never too late to find ways to ease the burden on your bank balance. Here’s our quick guide to saving money this Christmas before you hit the shops:

1.  Don’t give unnecessary gifts

Psychologists call the practice of buying presents for everyone you can think of ‘obligated’ giving. Cut out the obligations this year and save yourself money by only buying presents for your nearest and dearest. The postman and your hairdresser will survive Christmas without a token offering from you.

2.  Set spending limits

This is particularly important when you are buying for children. Establish a maximum sum per child, whether it’s $25 or $100, and do not exceed it. Encourage older children to enjoy the challenge of researching and writing a wish list of specific items they would like up to this limit. This helps with planning, encourages their maths skills, and also avoids choosing presents which they don’t want, which is a waste of money in itself.

3.  Be careful who you shop with

The people around us can have an effect on how much we spend. Some of us get into the cycle of going shopping every weekend with the same people, and there’s an element of egging each other on. It is easy to fall into the trap of competitive shopping, with friends, or partners: “Oh, well, if she’s getting one of those, it means I should get one of these.” But, as your mum might say, just because someone is spending hundreds of dollars, do you need to do it too?

4.  Play Secret Santa with the adults

It’s an established tradition in many workplaces to run a Secret Santa, in which colleagues buy gifts for each other for a certain agreed amount. Why not introduce this in your family too? Each adult – mum, dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles – draws a name out of a hat, buys just one item, and wraps and labels it ‘from the family’. This saves both money and shopping time.

5.  Go shopping with gift vouchers

They’re meant well as presents, but gift vouchers for major stores and online retailers are often left at the back of your purse and forgotten about. Don’t waste them – hunt out unused vouchers use the credit to buy presents for others. Don’t feel guilty; treat them as cash.

6.  Return and cash in on refunds

Check cupboards and wardrobes for items you have bought and never worn or used. You could be due a refund which you can redirect towards the cost of Christmas. Under the Consumer Rights Act (2015) you have the right to return non-faulty goods for an exchange or refund as long as the retailer has a returns policy, which they must abide by. A receipt is not always needed as long as labels are intact. Most stores will have a cut-off period for returns – often 28 days – but check in store, as after this time a credit note might be given in lieu of a return, which you can still spend on presents.

And remember, it’s not about the gifts or the money you spend. It’s all about spending quality time with your nearest and dearest.

Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy holiday season!

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