How to ‘rein in’ your spending during the festive season

The festive season should be a wonderful time of the year: time off to spend with family and friends to ‘eat, drink and be merry’ (to borrow a phrase). However, for many people it’s an extremely stressful time.

Xmas spending

One of the main contributors to this stress is financial worries. Christmas is an expensive time of the year and often is responsible for huge blowouts on the credit card. A study conducted by Roy Morgan found that 7.6 million Australians consider Christmas to be the most stressful time of the year, with 6 million people spending more than they can afford over the festive season.

A separate study by found that Aussies spent $25 billion in 2019 over the holiday season, which equates to around $1,325 per person*. More alarming is that 5.4 million people used credit cards to fund their Christmas, meaning that many of us are going into some debt to fund our festivities.

Xmas debt

Here are some ways to ‘rein in’ your spending at Christmas

Set a budget and stick to it

The first (and most important!) thing to do is set a budget.

Write a list of everyone you want to buy for and set an amount for each person. Remember to also budget for unexpected gifts and stocking fillers.

Be realistic about how much you can spend and stick to it!

A good idea is to create a Christmas savings account as early as possible and aim to put $10-$20 a week into it, or whenever you have any spare cash. Over the course of a year, you could have saved $1000 by putting $20 per week into savings, which can have a huge impact on your financial position at Christmas time and reduce financial stress considerably! 

Plan ahead. Plan ahead. Plan ahead

This is a really important tip because it can save you hundreds, if not thousands! 

Plan well ahead and start shopping months in advance – it can save you a small fortune. Buying things over the course of a year also spreads out the spending, so it doesn’t all happen in a 3-week timeframe and cause ‘bill shock’. 

Shop smart

These days, there’s really no reason to pay full price for anything anymore; there seem to be sales on every few weeks – mid-season sales, end of season sales, Click Frenzy and Black Friday sales. 

As early as possible, prepare a list of what you want to purchase and buy these items only when they’re on sale – do that and you have probably saved at least 20%. 

Create wishlists in your favourite retailer websites; save the items you want to buy so when they’re on sale you can immediately add them to the cart. 

Be organised and strategic about when you shop

As Santa says: make a list and check it twice! 

When you do hit the stores, don’t go anywhere near the shops without a list. That way, you’ll purchase only the things you need and won’t be tempted to buy anything that’s you haven’t budgeted for.

Other tips to rein in spending at Christmas time

  • Feast, not famine! Christmas lunch can cost a small fortune to put on: spread the expenses and have all the family contribute to the lunch. Ahead of time, plan your menu and ask each person attending to bring one of the items on the menu to reduce your costs.
  • And while we’re on the topic of food, buy your non-perishables ahead of time. In this COVID-age, we’ve become pretty good at stockpiling, so apply the same principle to your Christmas grocery shopping. 
  • Opt for Secret Santa – instead of buying lots of gifts for your extended family, ask the adult relatives in your family to buy one ‘good’ gift for another person. And the silver lining to this is that you’ve just reduced the stress associated with having to run around shopping malls looking for a million presents for your family!
  • Plan for next year – it’s never too early to get a head-start on next year’s festive spending. For example, decorations and bon bons can be up to 90% cheaper when you purchase them after Christmas
  • Holiday at home – not surprisingly, December and January happen to be the most expensive times to holiday. Think about having a ‘staycation’ and instead take the opportunity to explore your home city or town. Try some home-town experiences: a tourist attraction, a restaurant, a festival.
  • As much as possible, pay with cash. That way, you will minimise credit card blowout. Better still, if you’ve been saving throughout the year, you’ll be able to dip into your Christmas savings and your finances won’t take as much of a hit!

PS: have a wonderful Christmas!


The information on this page has been issued by Maritime Financial Services Pty Limited (MFS). It contains general information that doesn’t take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. It’s important to consider how appropriate this general information is in relation to your situation before making an investment decision. We recommend that you seek financial advice before making any decisions regarding your super or investments. The information on this page is current at the time of publishing.