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12 Days of Christmas finances

An image of an Aussie Christmas

We love Christmas getting together with friends and family, the food, the decorations (the tree is a favourite, especially with the cat). But it can be an expensive time of year, before you know it you have run up a whopping great bill that means starting the new year with a mini (or maxi) finance hangover.

We asked guest writer Peter Wood for his thoughts on the financial strain of Christmas.

Making valuable adjustments during the 12 day of Christmas finances can see you left with spare cash and better habits for 2013. They may even bring you closer to celebrating retirement at your next New Year bash.

Consider the 12 days of Christmas as a chance to improve your financial situation. Some effects will be immediate, some may need time and all can be passed on to your family.

1. Buy in season

Don’t get sucked into buying the goods of Christmas carols – Northern Hemisphere traditions may be hampering your Aussie Christmas. Think local, seasonal and fresh. Replace traditions like roast pumpkin and chestnuts with salads of sliced mango and melon. Keep the theme going in 2013.

2. Buy online

In the first week of December, stores expected a $4.9 billion spend while online shops were set to reap $767 million, according to the Australian National Retail Association (ANRA). If you’re prepared with your Christmas shopping, you could see big savings shopping online.

3. Know the tricks of retail price hikes

Savvy retailers will know when you have missed the window for delivery from online stores, and many stand firm on prices in the days before Christmas. Know your prices and don’t get caught paying more at the last minute.

4. Introduce Kris Kringle

ANRA tips Australians to spend around $32 billion this Christmas, splashing out on average more than $1200 per person. For families trying to tighten their Christmas finances, Kris Kringle or Secret Santa can save some of that massive spend. Choose an age when kids are ready to get less under the tree or start the process with the older members of the family.

5. Habits: What can you cut?

Monitoring smoking and alcohol can have a instant payback when it comes to Christmas finances. Cutting a pack-a-day cigarette habit for 12 days will see you with more than $200 to spend. If you drink bubbly at Christmas, is there a local producer with a more intriguing wine for your guests than the same tired luxury brand?

6. Gift your own time

Nothing says ‘Merry Christmas’ like going out of your way to help family. Offer your services as part of your Christmas gift. It costs you nothing. It could be anything from pet sitting to mowing lawns to taking the grandchildren for an entire weekend.

7. eCards

Surprise your family with personalised eCards. Unless you are happy to buy 20-packs of generic cards, you’re probably spending too much. Have eCards delivered to smartphones or tablets on Christmas morning.

8. Use credit cards wisely

You may have a low interest credit card or be looking to maximise your rewards. However, have a plan for how you will wipe out that debt at the end of your interest-free days. Use online banking to keep tabs on your budget.

9. Use daily deals sites

Sites like Our Deal and Groupon offer a huge range of products and experiences with savings of up to 70 per cent. But don’t forget to claim the deal!

10. Buy on Christmas Eve

Being prepared is financially smart, but leaving a few things until Christmas Eve can squeeze some additional savings. Look for great last-minute deals on your entire Christmas spread, especially deli meats, fruit and vegetables.

11. Earn extra or boost someone else’s dream

You could be earning extra cash from a hobby on sites such as Etsy, eBay or local markets. Consider this Christmas to be the time to turn your hobby into a money-spinner, or give a loved one a gift that helps them in this direction.

12. Gift a financial overhaul

Setting up savings is one thing, but financial planning can also be an ideal present for a loved one who is in financial disarray. It could be as easy as starting with a book.

You can realistically make instant improvements to finances in the days surrounding Christmas. And the best decisions will also reward you for months to come.