Scrooge or spendthrift? Six tips to find some Christmas balance

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‘Tis the season to be jolly… and that means avoiding financial stress, so you can relax and enjoy the time spent with your loved ones.

We tend to go overboard at this time of year. The sun is out, excitement is in the air, everyone has time off work. It’s easy to throw caution to the wind and get swept up in it all – but that could leave you with a serious debt hangover come the new year.

So if you want to avoid that, you need a plan. A budget you’ll stick to, some lists and a bit of creativity, and a few helpful online tools. Organisation doesn’t have to be a bore. With these six tips, you’ll be stress-free and in the spirit by Christmas Day.

1. Get serious with budgeting tools

Online or mobile tools (such as MoneySmart’s TrackmySPEND app) make it simple to set spending limits and categorise your budget into money for gifts, food and decorations. It’s a lot easier to commit to a spending plan when you’re accountable to someone – even if that ‘someone’ is an app on your phone. Don’t forget extra costs like wrapping paper, cards and postage.

2. Shop around online

In 2015, there’s no excuse for not shopping around for the best price on Christmas gifts. You can save serious dollars by using online comparison tools. An added bonus: you’ll avoid the crowds at the shops. Many online retailers publish cut-off dates for guaranteed delivery in time for Christmas Day, so make sure you plan in advance and get your orders in on time.

3. Party plan like a pro

If you’ve got a party or Christmas Day lunch to organise, plan early to make sure you don’t blow your budget and still enjoy the festivities. Make lists and buy in bulk where possible. If you’re delegating responsibility, make sure everyone knows what they’re expected to bring so your party runs like a well-oiled machine – no more last minutes dashes to the shops for the stuffing that everyone thought someone else was in charge of.

4. Do it yourself

Some of the most treasured gifts are handmade. Frame kids’ artwork or make calendars out of family photos for older relatives. Younger family members might be less impressed with your handicraft – but try creating your own cake or cookie mix with all the dry ingredients measured out in a big jar, ready for mini master chefs to whip up. When it comes to decorating, turn scraps of leftover wrapping paper into Christmas crackers and make modern wreaths out of branches from the garden.

Pinterest is a great source for thrifty and creative ideas.

5. Bring the discounts to you

According to Deloitte’s 2015 Christmas retail survey, more than a quarter of Australian retailers are planning to discount their products from early December. Sign up for email newsletters from your favourite retailers to be in the know when this happens. Many online retailers offer discounts just for registering.

6. Sale shop for 2016

For some, braving the crowds of the Boxing Day sales is unthinkable. But if you can bear it, you can pick up quality decorations, wrapping paper and cards for next Christmas at heavily discounted prices. When it rolls around you (and your budget) will be thanking your forward-thinking self.

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