Saving Money For Christmas
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
A couple of years back, my mother came up with a rather controversial idea on how to save money for Christmas. As yet, she hasn’t managed to convince the rest of the family to take it up. But, I have a feeling 2014 might be her year. She gets a little closer with each go around.
There’s no doubt that most Australians need to save money for the holiday season. In 2013, the Australian National Retailers Association (ANTA) estimated that we were spending close to a billion dollars a day over the Christmas period.
It’s also clearly something that doesn’t come easy to us. A survey conducted by McCrindle Research in 2013 found that 80% of Australians intended to spend less on presents that Christmas – but, according to ANTA, Australia spent 5% more on Christmas in 2013 than we did in 2012.
Granted, there are other factors at play with that statistic – people were spending more money on holidays that year, for example – but I don’t think it’s hard for any of us to remember a year where we struggled to cap our spending (or even just our eating) over Christmas and came up short.
There are, of course, already a number of tried-and-true tricks you can use to ensure that you’re a little more comfortable and confident about saving money for Christmas. One of the best things you can do, for example, is set up a specific budget in the weeks and months leading up to Christmas.
If you haven’t done a budget before, we’ve got you covered. If you have, but find yourself struggling with sticking to it when it comes to saving money for Christmas, I’d suggest looking into a money-management/budget app like Pocketbook.
With your permission, Pocketbook will link to and monitor your bank accounts and spending and help you develop a budget to achieve your goals. If you’re skeptical, it’s completely free and available for use on most computers and smartphones, so it’s easy to give it a try.
Once you’ve set up a Christmas budget, you can also implement other tricks to save money. For example, only paying for things in cash. Psychologically, spending cash (as opposed to spending electronically) makes you less likely to impulse buy (or spend money in general).
Or, putting aside savings before you pay your bills or enjoy your leisure spending (otherwise known as ‘paying yourself first’). By putting aside your savings before you can spend them, you establish savings as a mental priority and ensure you’re only spending what you can afford.
There are non-budget-related approaches to saving money for Christmas as well, of course. A really pragmatic approach is sidestepping some of the expenses of the Australian summer. 75% of Australian households now have an air conditioner, for example.
And, if you’ve got an oscillating fan, some ice trays and a freezer, you can shave a lot off your electricity bill by switching off your air conditioner and building your own makeshift one. It might feel silly – but I did this during one of Brisbane’s hottest days on record (41C) and it was amazing.
You just find a smallish room, grab your oscillating fan, put a bowl full of ice cubes in front of the fan – and let it fill the room with cooler air. As the ice melts and the water evaporates, the cool air passes the fan – which blows it all around your room and cools it down. It works a treat.
You can also simply skip paying your hot water bill by taking cold showers in warm weather – which, as you may or may not know, also can benefit your health. Cold showers can help you lose weight, fight depression, relieve stress and clear up your skin.
The Controversial Idea
But, none of that is what my mother suggested to save money for Christmas. No, my mum suggested we stop giving each other presents. And, frankly, I think it might be the way to go. Obviously, it’ll save money – but there are other benefits that I like as well.
I’ve always loved gifts. A well-chosen gift communicates to another person that they are observed, respected, thought of and valued. When you can give someone something that makes them smile without their saying a word of request, it says ‘I care about your wants and I care about you’.
A little mushy, I know. But, still. That’s what gifts have always been to me. A chance to show that you care. But, you don’t actually need a gift for that. And, frankly, a lot of people find it so stressful trying to find those gifts that it almost defeats the purpose.
With a family of my size, you have to buy gifts for basically ten people – and that’s ignoring cousins, aunts and uncles. When, really, wouldn’t it be so much nicer and more straightforward (not to mention – more cost effective) to simply say what a present is meant to?
‘You are valued and I care about you’.
If you’re looking to save money for Christmas, there are plenty of ways to go about it – but simply skipping presents might, ironically, be one of the nicest. Give it a shot.
My mum’ll be happy, at least.