It’s not uncommon to feel the pinch over the silly season. If you’re looking for some ways to save a few dollars and budget better over summer, check out our tips and ideas.
A Christmas saver account
Consider having a small amount from your regular pay cheque deposited into Christmas saver account. They’re offered by many banks and credit unions and you can’t access your savings until it’s time to do the Christmas shopping (usually November).
Alternatively, you could use a high-interest online saver account – to give you those few extra dollars towards your Christmas shopping. It may be too late for this year, but think about starting in January – if you save $25 a week, you’ll have $1,200 to splurge on festivities, and no credit card hangover to worry about.
But if you haven’t saved anything towards Christmas this year, don’t panic! There are plenty of other ways to save this year while still enjoying the season.
Saving on Christmas lunch
If you go for the traditional Christmas dinner, a frozen turkey will set you back around half what you’ll pay for a fresh one – and you won’t be able to tell the difference.
If a seafood feast is more up your alley, then check out the Queen Vic Market (who even offer online shopping), Footscray Market or Dandenong Market. If you’re buying from the supermarket, go for the frozen versions.
Or if you skip the meat completely, you’re already well on the way to saving money as eating vegetarian usually works out a lot cheaper – check out Jamie Oliver’s vegetarian Christmas ideas for inspiration.
When it comes to the pudding, the mince pies and everything else, remember generic brands often beat name brands in taste tests – and will save a fair chunk off your shopping dollars.
When it comes to drinks, Aldi has won a surprising number of gold medals for wines that cost less than $5.00, and according to the Herald Sun, their cheap beers aren’t half bad either. If you’re a bit under the weather the next morning, it’s worth remembering that home brand paracetamol costs as little as four cents a tablet, compared with Panadol Rapid at 31 cents each.
Saving on gifts
As adults, do we really need to unwrap a bunch of gifts? Surely the point of Christmas is to spend time with loved ones, and of course eat and drink!
If you’re nodding your head at this point, think about doing a Secret Santa or Kris Kringle, at least for the adults, and with a reasonable price limit. Buying just one gift will let everyone think more carefully about what the recipient would like, as well as saving some cash.
For the kids, a lot of people are adopting a ‘four gift philosophy’ – something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read – as an antidote to the immense piles of gifts that often end up under the tree. There are some cute printable templates to help your kids write their wish list here.
Check if your employer or your union offers discounts for major retailers – if you’re an ASU member for example, you have access to Union Shopper, which has gift cards at 5% off for retailers including Woolies, Coles and Kmart.
Saving on wrapping
The cheapest way to buy Christmas wrapping paper is after Christmas the year before. But, we’re not all that organised, so consider buying 50 metres of brown paper at office supply stores for around ten dollars. Because it is plain, you can use it year round, dressing it up with different ribbons and cards.
You can even print free gift tags from the internet, and you can buy 25 yards (about 22 metres) of ribbon for about $1.00 on eBay (or if you’ve left it too late for overseas shipping, about $5.00 from an Australian EBay seller.
Saving on cards
Getting a Christmas card in the mail is even more of a special thing now that we all communicate. For about 75 cents a card, you can make your own Christmas cards using a photo of your family, or your pets, or your friends.
Snapfish and Vistaprint are both online printing services that have frequent discount offers – just Google “Snapfish discount code” or “Vistaprint discount code” to see what’s available. Vistaprint and Snapfish both offer free white envelopes with their cards. Make sure you get the special Christmas card rate stamps from Australia Post!
Saving on Christmas holiday activities
If you’re out and about in Melbourne, why not check out the Myer Christmas windows? This Melbourne tradition is free, but of course, it comes with a crowd, so it’s a good idea to go early to avoid the rush. If you’re still after some more Christmas magic, be sure to visit the (almost) free gingerbread village at the Melbourne Town Hall for a gold coin donation.
Sure the cost of a movie ticket isn’t what it used to be, but there are a surprising number of ways to get a discount. There are discounts available to Optus customers, Telstra customers, members of Union Shopper, Frequent Flyer, and through the Village Cinemas and Hoyts loyalty clubs. Do a bit of research to see if you qualify for anything.
If you want to get outdoors, take a picnic to one of our great parks, or go to the zoo. Your kids will get free entry to the zoo on weekends, public holidays and Victorian school holidays, thanks to the Victorian Government. You can also save 10% on adult tickets here. If you go to the zoo more than three times a year, think about buying an annual membership from around $30 (gives you entry to interstate zoos too!).
If you’re an RACV member, you can get a range of discounted tickets to attractions around Victoria. Check out the list here. The Victorian Government also offers a long list of school holiday activities around Victoria, and a lot of them are free or cheap!
If you’re looking for something fun to do at home - did you know, that for the cost of a stamp (65 cents), you can write a letter to Santa, and you’ll get a reply? This is run through Australia Post, and is sure to get the kids excited.
Maybe sitting around and watching TV while you recover from Christmas lunch is more your style. In that case, why not try out some subscription services like Stan, Netflix, Presto and Quickflix. They often offer free trials, just be sure to cancel the service if you don’t want to use them beyond the free period – set a reminder on your phone or in your calendar.