I am a marketing and communications consultant and freelance writer. Living on the Gold Coast in Australia. Check out my website www.sarahsays.com.au or follow on Twitter @WENGoldCoast
Published October 22nd 2012
Save some $$$ this Christmas
Firstly, let me apologise for talking Christmas in October, however in my experience, Christmas is a very expensive time for many, so the more you can plan ahead and start the process early the better for everyone.
During my life I have never been blessed with having too much money, so I always have to be creative and plan ahead in order to keep up with the many parties, the many presents, the many cards and the many trips and the costs associated with all that. This year is no exception, in fact, it is even more so a budget Christmas for me as I still try to establish myself in Australia and set up my own contracting business. With this in mind and with money not coming in during the Christmas break I have to be even more vigilant on where my money is going.
Over the years I have come up with some cunning, and if I am honest mostly obvious, ways of saving money at Christmas.
Here is my list of money saving ideas that I am lovingly sharing with you.
Set a Budget – Quite an obvious one but sometimes we forget or don't stick to it, I am terrible for just seeing and buying and then thinking later and before you know it you have spent so much money and you never intended to. My mates and I have always set a strict budget on what we will spend on each other at Christmas, it can be $10 or $50 depending on who and the situation. But that way we all know what to expect and what to spend. There is nothing worse, and this has happened to me, than swapping presents with a mate only to see they have bought something small, where as you have spent a fortune. Cue awkwardness and overcompensating – not what you want whilst digging into your turkey.
Buy Now – I know it seems a little previous, however many of the store have so many deals on at the moment, that you can bet your bottom dollar when December comes they will be a distant memory. For instance, Big W has many toys, games and sweets at knock down prices that you can stock up on and use as you wish. Buy starting a bit early and purchasing things in advance, I have always found it spreads out the cost over a number of pay cheques and means that the wallet is not so abused in December, ease it in if you will. Be sure to make a list of stuff you do buy early, as often you can forget what you have bought and then over buy, which defeats the object somewhat. Food and drink wise – anything that can be frozen it may be worth buying some items now, again spreading the cost and stocking up. Plus those "must have" items that fly out if the store at an alarming rate in December, are happily sitting waiting to be bought in October, so get in early.
Buy Online – I have found Australia pretty expensive if I am honest, so for the more expensive items like the presents for my 4-year-old niece I shop online at eBay. I often find buying from the UK, including express overseas postage, is much cheaper than buying here. Strange, but true. If you order now it should only take about 10 days, often quicker, to arrive. I have already bought her a few things on eBay for her, and I know she will love them, they will arrive in time, they will arrive safely packaged and I will have saved money, excellent. For more adult stuff such as films, music, electronics and books, Amazon usually have free postage overseas if you purchase over a certain price in one order. So if you have a number of books, DVD's or CD's you are planning on getting then I would absolutely look at this option. Trust me you will save a lot. Another cheap online option is to use your images and get them printed on mousepads, keyrings, mugs, calendars, canvas prints and much more, you upload you photo and it will be delivered to you, in my experience they are pretty cheap to produce and make a lovely personal unique gift.
Shop Smart: Make a List and Check it Twice – It is very easy to get carried away at the supermarket when stocking up on food and drink at Christmas, especially with all those tasty seasonal treats that tempt us from the shelves. What I have done in the past is make a list of essentials; I get a trolley and the essential go in there. But also, I have a basket for the none-list-temptations – those items that find there way into the trolley and that you decide you suddenly need. When you get to the checkout the essentials trolley items go through first, then, you can put through the "temptation basket" items. I can guarantee that as the total amount increases you will soon decide what is important and what is not. By leaving till last and keeping separate, it allows you to be practical and see the costs – you can then make a decision on if the temptations are worth going over budget for. Also be realistic in what you will get through and buy in bulk where you can, especially alcohol, the more you get the cheaper it is, if you know you will get through a fair bit whilst entertaining its worth spending that bit more at the beginning and saving money down the line.
Get Creative – Now this one is a fun one, especially if you have kids. Instead of buying cards or gift-wrap or presents, make your own. Get down to somewhere like Riot Art and Crafts or Stacks and pick up some card, glue, glitter, paint and what ever takes your fancy and get making. Disposable items like cards and gift-wrap are pretty expensive so why not do something that is more personal and create your own. What I have done in the past for gift-wrap is to use old magazines, if you are clever you will be able to fold and stick so that their favourite celebrity or something they love is on the front. If you have kids who love One Direction, who are pretty much in every magazine and paper currently, keep them and use their image to wrap a present. Or if you have access to a printer then why not make your own, make your own design, personalise it or use some celeb pictures. For gift ideas Riot have a section of wooden items such as photo frames and jewellery boxes that you can decorate and personalise yourself, which makes a cute alternative to bought options.
Host a Party: Share the Cost – In this day and age people expect money saving options and certainly don't expect the host to completely fund a party. If you are hosting a Christmas party, chose a theme and ask that everyone bring one food item and one drink item. That way everyone gets a cost effective party, with plenty of food and drink but without the huge cost that can be involved when you try to provide everything yourself. Plus, now shhhhh, quite often you end up with many leftovers that can keep you going for a few days, which totally makes up for the big clean up you have to do the next day. Drink and food prices are pretty expensive when you are out and about, so having a house party cuts the cost dramatically, and you don't have to wait forever for a taxi home.
Be Outdoors – On the Gold Coast, we are incredibly lucky to have such awesome weather over Christmas. Whereas in the UK we need to be in pubs, restaurants and clubs to get a bit of central heating, we can hold many outdoor BBQ's, parties and get-togethers at one of the many beautiful beaches or parks. Grab a picnic, bring a bottle and some games and spend the day with family enjoying the glorious weather and the wonderful beach for a fraction on the cost of being in a bar all day. There is no need to hide away indoors, when there is some much free stuff up and down the coast that we can enjoy.
Clear Some Space, Make Some Cash - We all have stuff we no longer need and use that is still in pretty good condition – I am terrible for buying things and not using them and discovering them months later with the label still on. So why not have a clear out and sell some stuff on gumtree and eBay, or have a car boot or yard sale, and get yourself some extra cash in time for Christmas. Especially if you have children, who lets face it get bored of things and grow out of things pretty quickly, you can sell some old toys and games and make some extra money that can fulfil the latest craze. Plus, you are helping out someone else by saving them money this Christmas, spreading the cost saving cheer if you will.
Make A Change – Making a small change can make a big difference. For example, I love my coffee and I buy one a day during the week, so roughly $35 every week, eek. So I have decided to make a change. I have nominated one day to be my shop bought coffee day (Monday, as that's when I need it the most) and the rest of the week I will go without or bring my own, instant isn't so bad, sob. From today, by making this small change to my routine, I will save $270 before Christmas day. Wow – I have actually shocked myself with that, note to self - give up coffee. Perhaps you buy your lunch each day or you have a coffee habit like me, but a small change can really save a fair bit of money that could be put to better use, like a pampering day for yourself during the Christmas holidays.