Today marks nine weeks until Christmas.
That means just 63 days until Santa visits and a few more pay cycles to get your gifts in order.
This is the first year where I have felt that Christmas decorations appearing in early October is actually acceptable. As crazy as that seems, let me tell you why.
First of all, after the year that we have all had, it’s comforting to be reminded of the simultaneous normality and craziness of the holiday season. Second, for many families, this Christmas will be tough due to the financial impact of the pandemic so preparing earlier than usual will be key to easing some of that silly season stress.
Recent research by Finder has revealed that 37% of Australians are planning to spend less money this Christmas compared to last year – that’s equivalent to 7 million people. So, if you count yourself among those looking to rein in the Christmas budget, here are five things you can do now to get started.
Create a Christmas fund
It doesn’t matter how big or small your contributions, setting aside a little money each week for Christmas will help you budget in a more manageable way.
Consider dipping in every couple of weeks from November onwards to tick a few gifts off the list. This way, you can avoid the dreaded bulk shopping trip where you try to get everything done in one day. This will make Christmas a little easier on your wallet and your feet.
It also helps to leave some of this money untouched until December so you’re ready for any last-minute Christmas expenses.
Figure out what you can buy ahead of time
This works best for non-perishables like snacks and alcohol. These can all be bought well in advance and stored until Christmas. Be sure to make a list of items you’ve pre-purchased and where they’re stored to avoid doubling up on supplies closer to the day.
Even perishables can be bought ahead of time if stored correctly. Seafood is an Aussie classic at Christmas and the good news is that most seafood will last around three to six months in the freezer. Just place it in an airtight freezer bag, store it at -18°C or less and label and date to keep track of expiration. This allows you to beat the Christmas Eve queues and even get a better price.
This approach is great for your budget because it means you can shop for Christmas lunch incrementally, rather than being hit with a huge spend in one go.
Get your online orders in now
Finder’s COVID-19 online shopping report estimates that around 17 million Aussies are now doing at least some of their shopping online. If you factor in a global pandemic, that leaves a lot of potential for delayed deliveries.
The best tip here is to get your online shopping done as early as possible to avoid disappointment (especially for the little ones). For Australian deliveries, it’s a good idea to allow for a buffer of three to seven business days on the recommended delivery time to be sure your order will get to you by Christmas. Although retailers and Australia Post are working round the clock to ensure timely deliveries, it’s good for your peace of mind to have a bit of wriggle room.
For orders coming from overseas, you might want to allow up to a week or more on top of the estimated delivery time. This will vary by country though so be sure to check the relevant advice for estimated delivery times for each location.
Sign up and save
In 2020, we say no to paying full price for anything!
Lucky for us, there are endless deals to be had in the lead-up to Christmas, particularly when shopping online. Signing up to the mailing lists of your favourite brands is an easy way to stay on top of any upcoming sales, as well as giving you access to member-only discounts. And don’t worry, you can always unsubscribe once you’re no longer interested in the offers.
Now is the perfect time to start receiving these notifications ahead of major sale events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Use these sales to snag an early Christmas bargain on toys for the kids or something special for your partner.
Put your lockdown hobbies to good use
After spending all that time at home, it’s safe to say a few new hobbies were born out of lockdown and this is a perfect opportunity to put your new talents to work. Instead of purchasing presents this year, think about the types of DIY gifts you could give to your loved ones. Whether it’s baked goods or something crafty, a homemade gift can save you a bit of money and get the kids involved with gifts for family and friends.
The trick to spending less without compromising on a beautiful Christmas is spending smarter. By getting ready for the festive season ahead of time you’ll not only save yourself some cash but also the stress that comes with the holiday season.
Bessie Hassan is a mother of two and money expert at Finder, Australia’s most visited comparison site.