How to manage Christmas shopping so it doesn't blow your budget

By Henry Clarke

"Leave it to the last minute!" says that dangerous little voice in the back of your head. "There's no need to budget, just deal with it in January!" says the financially irresponsible impulse deep within our psyche.

Let's face it, Christmas shopping has the potential to put a huge dent in your wallet. But what if we told you you could... not... do that?

Here are some tips on how to manage your Christmas shop.

Plan ahead

We might sound a little like a bossy parent here, but one of the keys is to always be prepared. One easy tip is to take stock of what you already have in your house. There should be no stigma in re-gifting, because it's basically giving something that's already been thoughtfully gifted.

Get all your potential gifts gathered and organise who you'll gift them to. Hopefully, you'll have ticked a few names off the list before you even leave the house. If you have any re-gifts leftover, you can make someone else's Christmas (and yourself some extra dollars) with a Gumtree ad.

And remember, if you can't re-gift it this year, there's always next year.

Write up a list

Making lists is easy. Right now, you're reading a listicle, which is just a more complicated list. Your list can be even more basic than this. We'd break it down into categories, like presents, food and entertainment. Or maybe break it down by date, like Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. If you like, you could also break it down by cost, like 'kinda 'expenny', 'not too bad' and 'cheap as chips'.

In any case, write up a list of everything you think you'll need and check it twice. What are the essentials? What can you compromise on? Do you really need a back-up turkey? Do you really, really need Michael Bublé's 32nd Christmas album? Total up the cost and see if it fits within your budget. If it doesn't, see where you can substitute the bigger expenses for cheaper alternatives. Think sparkling instead of champagne, or, if you're really cutting costs, sausage rolls instead of lamb cutlets.

Track your spending

When an impulse buy is just a card tap away, it can be tough to stay within budget. But one thing that can help to keep your spending under control is a budget tracker, like Wally. Wally actually gives you the option to create daily budget trackers that take note of what you bought and how much you bought it for. If your daily shop turns into a weekly shop, you can track each day and how much you over/under spent.

Another great option is Mint. Mint is one of the most popular budget trackers because it alerts you when you're spending an unusual amount. Which might make you rethink some of those big purchases on the day.

Recoup some of your losses

So you've got your budget and you're sticking to it, but what if you desperately need a bit of extra pocket money?

And that doesn't mean charging uncle Pete $150 to stay over. But if you're hosting your share of Christmas events, don't be afraid to cash in some of that goodwill to a dinner or two at your friends and family's houses down the line.

Start saving for next year

If you're really feeling the pinch this year, it might be a good to look ahead to next year. You might have some re-gifts in storage, but what about savings? Once you've managed this year's budget, you'll have a pretty good idea of how much to keep in the bank for next year.

So at the end of December, total up what you've spent on Christmas supplies, then divide that number by 11. You now know how much to put away each month, so your balance is ready for when the festivities kick off next year.

Thinking of getting a loan to tide you over? Here are 8 ways to stay on top of interest and loan repayments.

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