Managing the Silly Season

Christmas is something that comes around every year, but for many of us it seems to come as a big surprise – especially for our wallets! Being organised and budgeting for the Christmas period will ensure that you can enjoy it rather than being stressed about how you will make ends meet.

Christmas is a time for giving,
BUT it pays to keep it real when it comes to how much you spend.


For many whānau the Christmas holidays is the most stressful time of the year financially. There is always extra expense so if you don’t budget you are likely to overspend. Often this means racking up large debts on your credit card so that your lasting memory of Christmas is a nasty credit card bill that stays with you for the New Year. 

To avoid this take a bit of time and calculate what you will need – well before the Christmas period, as it will save you a lot of money and stress further down the track. 

Things you may need to budget for include: 
  • Gifts – see below for tips on how to keep your costs down.  
  • Christmas Day – food, alcohol, decorations. 
  • Holiday/Travel. 
  • Visiting relatives/friends.
  • Activities for the children.
  • Back to school – uniform, shoes, stationery. 
Once you have written up a list allocate an amount to each category and stick to it. When you have done the maths you may decide to cut down on some of the things you don’t really need- maybe skip the holiday this year or cut down the amount you will spend on gifts. Only spend what you choose and can afford – just ask yourself what is in the best interests of your whānau.

You could:  
  • Open up a savings account and put a little bit of money into it each week. 
  • Join one of the supermarket Christmas Clubs. These clubs allow you to buy credit when you can afford to so that by the time it gets to Christmas you will have enough to cover your Christmas food costs. Most of them operate a bonus system so that you get that bit extra for what you put in. 

Tips for Gifts

Buying gifts (especially for tamariki) can get very expensive as the latest toys cost more and more and expectations continue to rise. Remember: You don’t have to buy into this! Think about what you really want for your whānau and remember the financial goals that you set for yourself when you decided what you were going to spend over the Christmas period. Once you have your priorities right, it will be much easier to do what’s best for your whānau rather than what everyone else is doing.
 E iti noa ana nā te aroha 
Although it is small, it is given with love
Think about who you need to buy for. Present giving can get a little bit out of control as your whānau wasn’t such a big deal buying for your brothers and sisters, but then they had their own tamariki and now you need to buy them for too...and it can all get very expensive! Some options to get around this:  
  • Only exchange gifts for the tamariki – and remember expensive gifts are wasted on small tamariki. Something shiny and new from the $2 Shop will receive just as much attention as an expensive gift! 
  • Make homemade gifts. Use your creative side and make homemade gifts...this allows you to use what you are good at – and it can be a lot of fun! This may be cooking (home baked cookies, for example), arts and crafts or whatever! Making something for your loved ones shows that you have put all your love and energy into what you are giving. Alternatively, you may want to give a loved one a coupon for something you can do for them- offering to look after the tamariki for example, is often appreciated by tired out parents. 
  • If you are in the habit of buying for adult friends you may want to come up with some other arrangement – why not go out for a cheap dinner with everyone or have a pot luck dinner at someone’s house instead of exchanging gifts. Remember spending time with the people you love is what it is all about.  
  • Another good idea is to put a maximum amount that can be spent on gifts. You would be surprised with what you can get for $5 if you look around!  
  • Get it second hand. You don’t need to buy gifts new – why not buy on Trademe or the op-shop. 
  • Secret Santa. This works by putting everybody’s name in a hat. Each person then pulls a name out of the hat and buys a gift only for that name.
  • Layby. If you want to make a larger purchase put it on layby and pay it off in the months leading up to Xmas – avoid tempting hire purchases or putting it on your credit card. 
  • Buy presents during the year – especially when you see something on special. This will help you to avoid the last minute budget blowing Christmas eve shop. It often means you buy more thoughtful gifts as well. 
Over the Christmas period you also need to think about how you will manage the school holidays and the back to school supplies. For tips on dealing with these issues click here.