Finance Your Budget Money talk: Why it pays to discuss shopping plans with your partner
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Money talk: Why it pays to discuss shopping plans with your partner

Couples have been urged to discuss their shopping plans before spending big. Photo: TND
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Open communication with your partner and relatives will help stop money fights ruining your festive spirit this holiday season.

And Christmas during a pandemic is a unique chance for couples to reassess how they will celebrate, not only in 2020, but for years to come.

Relationships Australia chief executive Elisabeth Shaw said couples are likely to feel more stressed about money than usual this year, as many people’s financial situations have changed.

Attitudes towards money are based on family beliefs and traditions – and conflicts can arise if one person in a relationship grew up with a heavier focus on gift-giving than the other, she said.

It’s really about how the philosophies clash and how people believe they should manage the holiday season,” Ms Shaw said.

“Some people do see holidays as down time and (value) just to be able to hang out together and maybe do more simple family activities, (while) other people might be feeling like ‘we deserve a treat and I want the five-star hotel.’”

Ms Shaw said couples should discuss how they will approach Christmas spending before they begin planning or buying gifts.

She said couples who do well acknowledge their different approaches to money at Christmas and reach a compromise both people can tolerate.

But problems can arise when one person spends money without first talking to their partner.

Retail sales have been strong over the past couple of months. Photo: AAP

In this scenario, the gift they buy their partner can be interpreted as a hostile act, while the recipient may be silently grumpy, instead of vocalising their feelings.

“The couples who are going to struggle are the ones that really feel that each year it’s an uneasy truce … they just grit their teeth and get through it but it’s never really resolved,” Ms Shaw said.

“Even if this is normally a battleground, this year I would really encourage people to seize the opportunity of it being such an odd year to do some odd things.

“Maybe families will try a simpler kind of holiday and maybe one of the people in the couple has always wanted that but just never got it, so it’s actually a chance to create new traditions.”

It is also important where someone has been made redundant to be open about it with relatives and for the extended family to be considerate, Ms Shaw said.

Melbourne accountant Brett Wood and his family will spend more on gifts this year.

A survey of around 1000 Australians conducted in October shows they are planning on spending around one quarter less on Christmas presents than normal.

Respondents estimate they will spend around $413 on presents this year, compared with $544 in previous years, according to the survey commissioned by retailer Big W.

But some families plan to spend more than usual because they want to make Christmas a big celebration after a tough year.

Melbourne accountant Brett Wood, who lives with wife Emma and their primary school-aged sons, will spend more this Christmas than in the past on decorations, seafood and drinks for a special meal with extended family.

“Mum doesn’t really drink, she probably has one glass a year, and she said, ‘It’s been a hard year, get me the best bottle of champagne you can buy and I’ll have a glass of champagne to celebrate finally catching up’,” he said.

Mr Wood said the family has spent much less this year on dinners out with friends so they are drawing on some of that cash to enjoy Christmas.

“In our situation we haven’t had an income cut – we are one of the lucky ones – but it gives us a chance to now … spend a bit more and make it a happy end of the year.”

Although it might be tempting, Creo Wealth financial planner Kylie Sultana warns couples against going into debt to fund Christmas, adding that family and friends will understand if you are unable to get them a gift this year.

“If family and friends don’t understand and they know the financial situation you are in then it might be time to find new friends.”