Given all we’ve been through in 2020, Christmas tips should come in handy more than ever this year.

And it's not just to get the most stuff for our money. The idea is to squeeze the most ‘Christmas’ out of that spend – as much uplifting fun as you can, however you celebrate.

In that spirit, here are 12 ways to hack the holiday that can help.

1. Flip the FOMO

So many of us are feeling the pinch this year, and you may find yourself feeling like you’re missing out on what everyone else is up to. Yet our surveys have shown that 40% of us think we’re spending less than our peers, and only 16% of us think we’re spending more! So if it seems that everyone around us is splurging more than we are, don't worry. It just feels that way.

2. Make a list, check it twice

Sticking to a checklist really ticks all the boxes for keeping spending on track. It keeps us on point, focused on the task at hand – the exact opposite of a shopping experience that is designed to keep us buying on impulse both in store and online. Check yours twice… at least.

3. Stick to your plan (not someone else’s)

There are two things working against us: the feeling of limited time (it’s running out) and scarcity (there are only so many gifts available). Don’t be swayed by the feeding frenzy out there and end up feeling that your money didn’t go where you wanted it to.

4. Set dollar limits for gifts

Secret Santa’s your best friend. Simply agree on a dollar limit for gifts and have family or friends pick a name out of a hat. It’s still heaps of fun, and no one feels obligated to give to absolutely everyone – and overextend themselves moneywise along the way.

5. Comparison shop ’til you drop

Get the best deals possible by researching prices online. Beyond the convenience, websites are the perfect place to quickly compare. The mark of someone who’s good with money is that they compare options and get the best deal available. It doesn’t take long, but it’s worth it.

6. Redeem points on your reward cards for vouchers or gifts

Every little bit helps ease the holiday budget! Rewards points are a great way to save money at Christmastime. If you’ve been building them up all year, you may be pleasantly surprised how far they can go towards ticking off your giving list. Or do you have any gift cards lying around?

7. Try DIY

There’s something undeniably special about a ‘do-it-yourself’ present. Low dollar amounts nurture our creative sides, and there is often more of an authentic Christmas experience in gifting homemade cookies than many a store-bought present. Get the kids involved too, whether it’s baking, crafting or card making.

8. Make more memories

A family tradition of an early stroll on the beach Christmas morning can bring more happy memories than many gifts might. Which will we remember most in the years to come?

9. Skip shopping for yourself (for now)

Gift-giving is supposed to be about others anyway, but it turns out that focusing on those you care about first is a good money choice, too. Wait until Boxing Day, and you’ll score fantastic bargains for yourself.

10. Stick to gifts kids actually need

Kids need books. Kids need togs. Kids need shoes. Persuade whānau that these kinds of presents will keep on giving rather than a whole bunch of plastic toys that will only end up as landfill in the end. Have you heard of the ‘want, need, wear, read’ strategy for gift giving? Giving one of each makes sure they get something they need (and gets them reading more).

11. Use cash (it still reigns)

This may come across as outdated in today’s cashless society, but if you ever want to truly stretch your dollars, cash is king. Our brains work differently when we use paper over plastic. Shop with a huge envelope of notes and you’ll find yourself making laser-sharp money choices as you go. The goal is to get through Christmas and the holidays with as little debt as possible!

12. Give homemade vouchers

These can be for babysitting, gardening, oiling the deck, cleaning the boat or anything else. My favourite was when my sister-in-law gave her hubby a set of chic wine glasses… complete with a voucher for lifetime washing. (Apparently he’s a bit accident prone while washing stemware.)

Whatever you choose to spend money on, don’t bother copying what everybody else is up to or what expectations dictate. These are your gifts you’re giving after all.

In the end, more spending does not necessarily mean more Christmas. Especially this year, may your money choices buy more cheer!

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