In a time of high living costs and financial stress, this Christmas could easily become the season to be jaded, rather than jolly. It’s lovely and natural to want to give your family a great Christmas and a fun holiday, but we don’t want you to have to spend the next year paying it off. With all the advertising you’re constantly exposed to, it’s easy to lose sight of a fundamental truth: love is not measured in the value of the gift!! Your time and attention can be more valued than a thing. So, to help you have a Christmas focused on what’s truly important, we’ve pulled together our guide to having a great Christmas – without the financial stress.
1. Be realistic about your budget
During the work year, your opportunities to spend are somewhat limited. In the holidays you have all day, and soooo many sales after Christmas day. Spending can easily get out of hand before you know it. If you haven’t already, take the time budget for Christmas now.
If you do want to get some things in the sales, set a spend limit and make a list ahead of time of what you need or want. This will help prevent impulse purchases that are often regretted later. Try and avoid Buy Now Pay Later cards and loading up your credit cards. If you put a purchase on a GEM Visa or QCard make sure you get it paid off in the interest free period or DO NOT buy it. Those cards are for emergencies only.
Think carefully about who you are going to buy presents for and how much you will spend. We strongly recommend not going into debt for Christmas; putting yourself under financial pressure to provide gifts is not going to serve you in the long run, and the loved ones you’re buying for surely wouldn’t want you to overextend yourself.
If you’re a business owner, plan for the costs that come with the holidays. Make sure that you have budgeted in holiday pay for yourself and staff, as well as reduced business income during the period. If you need funds to support your business through the holiday season, we have some options available – please don’t leave it to the last minute.
If your business relies on invoicing for payment, be aware that other businesses can be slower to pay during the Christmas break. Follow up any outstanding invoices prior to Christmas and be clear with customers about your expectations for payments due during the holiday period.
2. Think outside the gift box
Gifts of time or skills are valuable and shouldn’t be discounted as “cheap” or “not as good”! People with children would love vouchers offering your baby-sitting services; for others you could help with a project or in the garden. If you’re handy and have tools, you’ll be able to help loved ones with any number of things they have been meaning to do around the home.
Homemade vouchers are also a great gift for children to give. Promises of cups of tea or helping fold the laundry are classic gifts for a reason. Children will love making and decorating the vouchers themselves and will get lots of satisfaction in giving gifts that needed no parental funding. It’s an opportunity for them to think about what acts of love would mean the most to those around them, helping them develop empathy and awareness of the needs of others.
These gifts of time and skill so often also create great memories. What a bonus!
3. Focus on the traditions you love
Identify which Christmas traditions are most important to you and your family and create a budget that focuses on them. If you have young children, this is a wonderful opportunity to teach them that they don’t need everything, and to identify what is most important to them. Conversations about how some families have much less, and engaging in donating toys or volunteering can help children value what they have, and learn the pleasure that comes from giving to others.
4. Don’t try to do it all!
If you’re hosting Christmas dinner, don’t commit to fully catering for everyone. Plan out approximately what is needed (nibbles, number of carb dishes, salad, dessert etc) and allocate out to the guests. Keep the number of guests front of mind when planning, if it’s just four of you then you don’t need three different desserts – unless for you dessert is an important part of the holiday of course!
If the adults in your wider family usually give each other gifts, consider doing a Secret Santa. This way, instead of spending lots of money giving everyone small gifts, you can spend a decent amount on one person to get them something they’d love. If approached right, Secret Santa is lots of fun, as you try to get present ideas out of the person you’re buying for without giving away that you’re their Santa. For this game to be a success, a spend limit needs to be set – one that everyone is comfortable with. Once the limit is set make sure you stick to it! While being generous is a fantastic thing, this game is about equality and not the time to splurge.
In today’s work environment, we are often accessible and responsive to work needs at all times. Whether you’re an employee or business owner, plan to do what is needed before going on break and set expectations as to your availability to allow yourself the time and headspace to rest and recharge.
5. Get creative
By yourself or as a family, come up with a list of things you love to do at Christmas time that is cheap or doesn’t cost money.
If you have young children, make the list into a bingo card grid for each of them, they’ll love crossing off each one. Some of our favourite ideas for Christmas Bingo are:
- Decorate the Christmas tree – don’t get drawn in by shops displaying new colour schemes and decorations every year! If you’ve already got a tree and decorations then you have everything you need. If you don’t have a tree and decorations, look for some bargains at op shops, or ask on your local community Facebook page if anyone has some they want to get rid of. People are always upgrading and changing their decorations and it’s far better the old ones get a new home rather than going to landfill.
- For those with young children, start the tradition of creating Christmas decorations. You likely already have everything you’d need; paper, coloured pens or paint, cardboard, cotton balls etc. There’s lots of ideas online to get kids started. This suggestion is not for perfectionists or décor enthusiasts, as the creations will be wonky and weird! But they’ll also be wonderful, and worth keeping for a laugh with the kids once they’re grown.
- Family beach day (or day at a park or gardens if you’re not on the coast). For the deluxe version, include an ice cream and finish with a fish and chip dinner.
- Board games or a puzzle night. If everyone can’t agree on what to play, draw ideas out of a hat.
- Christmas movie night. Grab all the blankets and pillows and make lots of popcorn.
- Camping at home. This is a great activity for families with young children, especially if petrol and camp ground costs are a bit of a stretch. If you don’t have camping gear, ask family and friends if you can borrow theirs – there are good odds that you’ll be inundated with offers to borrow equipment that has been sitting unused for years!
- Which brings us to the next idea; Look through your home and gather all the recreational summer things you’ve bought over the years but have never really used – boogie boards, pétanque sets, camping gear etc. Add them to the bingo card and set the challenge of using everything over the summer. If you get to the end of summer and some things haven’t been used, consider selling them or giving them to someone in need who would use them.
Now you’re ready to download our Christmas Bingo template and start filling it out. We’d love to hear what activities you choose and how it goes!