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Surviving the festive season

6th November, 2020

Heading into the busy Christmas / New Year period is often stressful but this year has been particularly tough for many people. Lockdowns, reduced or lost employment, home schooling and a whole new hygiene routine are just some of the challenges we’ve had to face this year. So how do we get through what is meant to be a festive period, financially unscathed?

Plan ahead

With travel restrictions still in place in some states, the holiday season may look a little different this year. Some families will not be able to get together as usual, and that will be hard emotionally, but may be easier on the budget (silver linings). Putting together a plan can help you get organised. Here’s a few things to think about:

  • Location – Are you at home for Christmas this year or are you planning to travel? If you are travelling interstate, will you need to organise a border pass or make certain declarations prior to travel?
  • Food – Will you be buying or preparing food? Plan meals and entertaining in advance, and make a shopping list of all the additional food items you’ll need to buy between now and the New Year.
  • Share responsibility – whether you’re hosting or visiting with extended family or friends, sharing the responsibility and cost among those getting together with will reduce stress on the host and make the gathering more enjoyable for everyone. Plan ahead so that everyone knows what they are bringing to the table.
  • Gifts – Who you will be buying gifts for and how much you are you planning to spend?
  • Events – There will likely to be fewer parties, get-togethers and other events this year due to social distancing and other restrictions. If you are planning on hosting or attending get-togethers, factor the costs into your holiday budget.
  • School holidays – If you have school age children, consider any additional expenses you may incur, such as the cost of vacation care or other holiday activities, and of course back-to-school costs, such as new uniforms if you are posting to a new location.

Do a budget

If you’re the type who gets to the end of the silly season with credit card debt and a sense of regret, now’s the time to do a budget and stick with it. Write out a plan and allocate an amount for gifts, food and drink, and entertainment over the holiday season, and make sure it’s affordable.

According to Finder, the average Aussie spends over $900 each year on Christmas. If that’s not in your budget this year, a well thought out plan may be your friend. If you have children, don’t feel pressured into buying everything they want, set their expectations early. We all have a limit, better a little guilt now than a lot of debt later. Christmas is about fun and family.

Be realistic about what you can afford. If you have a partner, consider setting spending limits for each other. A thoughtful inexpensive gift may be just as well received as an expensive generic one, so put some thought into who you are buying each gift for, and why. Consider doing a Secret Santa (i.e. one gift per person), gifting to children only, or having a “silly present” rule, that is, small novelty gifts with a price limit. When you have a reasonable idea of what you intend to spend over the coming holiday period, divide it by the number of pays left in the year, to work out how much you will need to set aside from each pay to cover your planned expenditure. If the amount seems too high, go back to your budget figures and think about where you can cut costs.

Get in early for discounts

With your plan and budget in hand, you can start looking for bargains early. Here are some tips on how planning ahead can save money:

  • Travel – Still planning a getaway? Maybe within your own state? You’re more likely to find deals on airfares and accommodation if you book early. Check the refund policy carefully as we know things can change quickly in the current climate.
  • Food – Start buying non-perishable items now to spread the cost over the next couple of months. This will also allow you to take advantage of specials when they are available.
  • Shop online – It’s easier to hunt down bargains online, saving you time and money, especially when free delivery is available. Sign up to a cash-back website so you’ll not only receive cash back on purchases but they’ll alert you when sales are on. If you need to send gifts interstate for Christmas, have them delivered directly, and if you are buying for people overseas, use a website that delivers to the relevant country for free.
  • Posting gifts – if you are posting gifts, Australia Post is recommending you get in early if you want them to arrive on time.
  • Reward points – If you are a member of a rewards program that lets you exchange points for gift cards, and you have points available, consider using gift cards to do some of your Christmas shopping, or use them as gifts!

Planning ahead and sticking to a budget can take some of the stress out of the holiday season, after all this should be a time to relax and spend time with those you love. If you can’t be with loved ones this year plan video calls, Skype or Zoom catch-ups so that you have something to look forward to.

If you need help during this period, please call the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608.

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