Debt-free holiday tips

Many of us tend to overdo it during the holiday period; whether it be eating or drinking too much, planning too many social outings, or spending too much. It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of the season and wanting to be generous with our money, but it can leave us worried about the impact our excess will have. However, there are ways to ensure you have an enjoyable time without racking up any debt.

If you don’t have a budget, it’s time to make one. Knowing how much money you have to play with and what you feel comfortable spending is vital in keeping you in control. There are lots of (importantly, free!) budgeting tools online, such as the Ministry of Social Development’s budget worksheet.

It can be very tempting to go overboard when it comes to buying presents. Lots of families do gift exchanges, called KKs or Secret Santas, where you buy a gift for one person, rather than everyone. There are many gift exchange organisers online (such as DrawNames.com); all you need to do is set a price limit, add in the names of participants and away you go.

But don’t leave choosing gifts to the last minute, as you won’t have the time to compare prices, and will likely panic-buy something that might not be appropriate. Check online shops to find the best price for what you’re after and order it early, avoiding express postage charges.

Offering to host the Christmas Day lunch can be a costly experience, especially if lots of people will be attending. So you’re not left having to buy all of the provisions (and spend all of your time in the kitchen), you can ask guests to bring a plate to share. Some hosts ask directly for financial contributions to the meal, whether it be a set amount (say $25 per head) or whatever people feel comfortable giving. This can make some people uneasy however, so decide what will work best for your situation. If neither option sits well with you, look out for bargains ahead of time, freezing and storing what you can ahead of the day. Visit markets and plan your meals so they’ll be good value for money.

Social gatherings can also empty your wallet, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a hermit. If a lot of restaurant and bar visits are on the cards, see if you can shift the location to a park for a picnic instead, making the most of the warm weather. Instead of meeting up with a friend for lunch, how about going for a bushwalk or visiting a gallery? There are many ways to socialise that don’t involve money.

And if you’ve been longing to jet off for the holidays but haven’t booked anything yet, consider waiting for a quieter period, when flights aren’t so expensive. Don’t forget about the amazing destinations we have on our doorstep—Bali or New York may be more exotic, but it’s a lot cheaper and easier to get to a local beach or city skyscraper to celebrate.