If cash flow is looking a tad grim this year, here are some ideas to up the presents under the tree, noting it’s the presence around it that really counts.
We don’t need to list the events of 2021 to say it’s been yet another big one, particularly as we approach the festive season, where common face-to-face interactions may still be limited to a phone or video call.
As we’re potentially faced with our second different-looking Christmas in a row, the good news is many of us will go into it with a new-found appreciation for the presence of loved ones over the presents of the material kind.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for some tips for how to manage the costs of Christmas gifts on a budget, here are some ways you could shop a little smarter, so your money goes a little further.
Create a plan and write yourself a list
Despite the fact that for many, budgets are tight in 2021, research shows we’re still planning to spend big this year – many of us haven’t been shopping during lockdown, and are looking forward to a bit of splurging. Gift buyers are expected to spend an average of $726 each, with those aged 35 to 49 the most generous age group1 . While we might love the sound of ripping through wrapping paper, much of this generosity is unplanned, with nearly 75% of Aussies indicating they don’t budget for gifts2 , which could lead to increased pressure on household budgets well into the new year.
While there’s much to be said for the spur-of-the-moment spree, more of our generosity could be planned, with a bit of time being spent thinking about what you might buy, saving money for Christmas weekly, setting up a Christmas budget worksheet and doing your research online before hitting the shops.
As many events, such as Christmas, anniversaries and birthdays fall on the same day each year, it may also be somewhat easier planning for these occasions in advance.
Buy in bulk and look at cheaper alternatives
Bulk buying multiple gifts that aren’t intended for a specific occasion is a growing trend, with one in three of us doing it, providing a way to save both time and money3.
Women (31%) are more likely than men (24%) to be wise to the blessings of bulk buying, however it’s an even more popular trend among young families4.
Even taking advantage of a bargain pack of Christmas cards, rather than buying them individually from a newsagent, could save you quite a bit. Meanwhile, give some thought to resellers, such as Gumtree or eBay, as you may be able to buy the same products second hand and at a fraction of the price. In some instances, things may still be in brand new condition, too, with people often needing to sell things unexpectedly.
It also goes without saying to keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to sales. In the lead up to Christmas, there’s Click Frenzy, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday and Free Shipping Day, not to mention Boxing Day if you happen to be seeing someone after the 25th5. This is also a great time to jump back onto reseller sites: Gumtree’s 2020 Unwanted Gifts Report showed that Aussies received $572 million worth of ‘unwanted’ gifts the previous Christmas6, and are planning to sell them online.
It’s a good idea to also think local. Many domestic retailers have suffered over the last two years, and buying from them not only offers support, but will also save you on potentially expensive international shipping fees or import tax mark-ups on products.
Give the gift of time or skill
There’s more to giving than things you can wrap – more meaningful experiences matter, too. Instead of another bottle of wine or a vanilla-scented candle, taking someone out for lunch, or providing a home-cooked meal, could be more up their alley. Plus, it means less waste – less paper and plastic going straight to landfill.
In fact, given the choice, 61% of us would opt for quality time, with only 30% preferring cash or a tangible gift7. Intangible gifts are also particularly important for those aged 18 to 24, with more than half saying that an intangible gift such as time, an experience, or learning a new skill has had a more significant impact on shaping their life8.
On top of that, if you’re lucky enough to be going to someone else’s place this Christmas and you’ve got skills in cooking, decorating or manicuring lawns, offering these services to help with the prep work may be a highly valuable commodity for those taking on the job of hosting. And if you have another talent – amazing at arranging flowers, up-and-coming artist, musician – it’s easy to come up with a DIY Christmas on a budget.
Pitch in as a group
Group giving can be a great way to reduce individual costs while harnessing the purchasing power of many to buy something that may be on the expensive side.
Whether it’s colleagues, friends or family, 73% of us get together to give gifts9. It also gives people a chance to play to their strengths and take a different role, whether it be providing gift suggestions, collecting the cash, purchasing the present, wrapping it or writing the card.
Other ways you could play to a group scenario this Christmas is Secret Santa. It may be an obvious one, but if in the past you’ve all bought each other a present, this provides a way for everyone to buy just one present for a member of the group, with the specifics of the arrangement up to you.
Regift it – nearly half of us do
Admit it, you’ve probably done it. About two in five Aussies have regifted at one point or another, with those aged 25 to 39 the second most serial regifters, only after young families10.
It makes sense too. After all, why let a bottle of red go to waste if you don’t drink it, let alone un-worn clothes, or a box of chocolates, particularly when you’ve now got a stash of half a dozen.
Whether we don’t like what we’ve been given, or ethically choose to reduce waste and lengthen an item’s lifespan, regifting is an increasingly acceptable approach.
Looking for further tips?
Remember, true Christmas cheer – the kind that’ll last into the new year – has rarely been accomplished on the back of riches of the financial kind. After all, the gift of time is your most precious resource. For further tips on managing your money now and in the future, check out our AMP insights, and if you’d like some free financial counselling, reach out to the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.
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1 Roy Morgan (September 2021): Countdown to Christmas – Australian’s set to spend over $11-billion on gifts
2,3,4,7,8,9,10 Financial Planning Association of Australia (2019): Gifts that give: research into Australian gift-giving
5 Finder.com.au (2019): Australian sale events in 2020
6 The Times (December 2020): Gumtree’s Unwanted Gifts Report
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