“Oh, Santa just needs some help”, I tell the little ones when they start to discover their parents are somehow involved with the whole gifting thing. Help indeed! Santa needs funding, and especially help stretching those Christmas dollars as far as elvishly possible.

But it’s not just about getting the most stuff for our money. “Living sorted” means squeezing 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 help you hack the holiday.

1. Buy with cash (it still reigns).

This may come across as outdated in today’s cashless world, but if you ever want to truly stretch your dollars, cash is king.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 interest-bearing debt as possible – it’s such a drag! 

2. Set dollar limits for gifts.

Secret Santa’s your best friend. Simply agree on a dollar limit on gifts and have family or friends just 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.

3. 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.

4. 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 screaming out “Buy me! Buy me! Buy me!” all the time. Check yours twice… at least.

5. 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.

6. Make more memories.

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

7. 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.

8. Stick to gifts kids actually need.

Kids need school stationery. Kids need togs. Kids need shoes. Persuade whānau that these kinds of presents will keep on giving – much longer than a whole bunch of plastic toys that will only end up as landfill.

9. 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 are there any gift cards you have lying around?

10. 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 homemade gingerbread cookies than many a store-bought present. Get the kids involved too, whether it’s baking, crafting or card making.

11. Give homemade vouchers.

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

12. Flip the FOMO.

FOMO is fear of missing out on what everyone else is up to. Our surveys have shown that 40% of us who celebrate think we’re spending less than our peers. Only 16% of us think we’re spending more. So while it seems that everyone around us is spending more than we are, it’s often not true. It just feels that way.

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. May your money choices buy more cheer!


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