Finance Consumer Three tips to avoid a budget blowout this Christmas
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Three tips to avoid a budget blowout this Christmas

With this year's Christmas likely to be more subdued, here's how to cut back on some of the largest festive costs. Photo: TND
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Whether they’ve been naughty or nice, Christmas has seemingly snuck up on families in this frenetic pandemic year.

Many households weathered hits to their income and are looking for a cost-effective way to ring in the festive cheer.

For those who have left their planning to the last possible minute, here are some tips on slashing spending on the biggest Christmas expenses.

Make a list and check it twice

Drawing up a list of presents before heading out the door helps last-minute shoppers avoid a budget blowout, according to Elevate Wealth Solutions director Matthew Hawkins.

Mr Hawkins said he normally advises shoppers to use cash to better keep track of how much they have spent on gifts.

But given many retailers have gone cashless during the pandemic, he said shoppers could instead set up a separate bank account solely for gifts.

“It reinforces your spending limit and is a great way of assessing what you’re able to spend on certain gifts during a spending expedition,” Mr Hawkins told The New Daily. 

“Gift cards can also be cost effective, and allow you to help retailers who have been bleeding through the year by helping to boost your loved ones’ spending capacity in post-Christmas sales.”

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Making a list before you shop for last-minute gifts can help lower the chances of going over budget. Photo: Getty

Discuss spending limits with family

Researcher at RMIT’s school of economics Dr Jozica Kutin told The New Daily the pandemic for many families had normalised discussion around money and personal finances.

She said setting expectations around how much people are willing to spend on gifts with an “uncomfortable conversation” can help families find the right balance.

“Especially right now where the purse strings are tightened, there needs to be that chat that reinforces that not spending the same extravagant amounts of money does not mean you love or value a relationship any less,” Dr Kutin said.

“It’s about trying to understand each other from different perspectives.”

Think local at the dinner table

The Australia-China trade war has inspired a drive to buy locally-grown produce over the festive season, after Beijing’s heavy tariffs on products including wine and beef cut off exporters from their key market.

Mr Hawkins said our traditional Christmas lunch menu should look a little different as a result. Not least because major supermarkets are now selling traditionally expensive lobsters at markedly lower prices.

“If you haven’t tried lobster before, now’s the perfect opportunity to try some. They’re roughly $20 at Woolworths for a frozen lobster or even better, support a local delicatessen or fishmonger,” he said.

While not quite as cheap as chips, lobsters have become an affordable seafood option this year. Photo: Getty

With up to dozens of people gathered at family get-togethers, Mr Hawkins also advised hosts to compile a guest list to make sure they stay on budget and are not left with a plethora of leftovers.

“There’s always the situation where you wake up on Boxing Day with a heap of food, so make sure you only cater for the people you know are attending or the alternative is to ask each family member who’s getting together to bring their own plate so you can share that expenditure,” he said.

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