Almost one in four Australians say they will go into debt to fund their Christmas shopping this year, prompting warnings from financial advisers.
A new survey from Reviews.org shows 24 per cent of us plan to borrow an average of $570 across credit cards and buy now, pay later services to cover festive costs.
And while separate data from the Reserve Bank shows Australians owe less money on their credit cards today than at any point since May 2003, personal finance experts said people planning to go into debt should keep in mind that it’s a slippery slope.
“It could be $500 this time for Christmas presents, [but] in a few months it could be another few hundred dollars for something else,” said Chronos Private principal adviser Chris Giaouris.
Draw up a budget
Reviews.org’s survey of 1000 Australians found shoppers were planning to spend an average of almost $700 on Christmas gifts and ‘necessities’ like food and decorations.
But more than half said they weren’t planning to draw up a budget for their shopping and would just spend as they go.
Canstar chief spokesperson Steve Mickenbecker said this was a recipe for disaster – as without a budget people would have no limit on their spending.
Mr Mickenbecker said people planning to go into debt should first consider whether they can make their repayments.
“Work out your budget, and say, ‘Look, I can afford to repay this amount over a couple of months,'” he said.
“If you’re in doubt that you can afford [repayments], maybe you shouldn’t be spending it.”
Mr Mickenbecker said deciding what items you want to buy ahead of time would relieve some pressure and help you stay under budget.
Mr Giaouris said in the future, if you know you’re going to spend big over the holiday season, start saving during the year.
Deciding what you are going to spend and putting away an amount like $10 a week will help ease some pressure when it comes time to spend, he said.
But putting aside money throughout the year might be impossible for some.
A Canstar report released on Wednesday shows 25 per cent of Australians saved no money during 2021, mainly because they were living from week to week.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Just spend less throughout the year’ … but that’s not always possible for some families,” Mr Giaouris said.
If you’re struggling to save money for presents, organising a Secret Santa might work.
Mr Giaouris said being randomly allocated one person to buy a gift for will prevent you forking out too much cash on everyone you know.
Gifts also don’t have to be expensive, and just spending time with someone or doing them a favour can be enough, Mr Mickenbecker said.
Christmas can be an awful financial trap, but if you’re in a tough spot, your loved ones will understand, he said.
“I don’t think the people that you’re gifting to at this time of year would want to see you in financial hardship because you’ve given them a gift.”