Staying financially well during holiday season

Written and accurate as at: 11 November 2013

The holiday season can be a fun time spent with friends and family, gifts, celebrations and sometimes a little overindulgence in food and drink. The holidays aren’t so bright however when finances are tight leading to unwelcome stress.

Here are a few tips that can help you stay financially well this holiday season:

– Forecast big spend items. Identify in advance where you want to spend a bit extra on spoiling yourself and your family. Start by adding these items up to get a feel for your possible or probable holiday spend. Before making purchases, write a list of all the things you need to buy and set a realistic holiday budget


– Identify the in-between activities. With kids off school, December and January are often the most costly months for a family budget. The in-between entertaining and activities can be expensive, but with a little bit of thought and planning there are loads of other fun activities that are kind on the wallet. For example, go for a ride on a bike, paddle in a kayak, take a family hike or organise a picnic in the park. If your kids are grown up and have kids of their own, you may like to suggest a family gathering or take one of the grandkids to the movies if that’s of interest. 

– The holiday season is often a time of socialising, with work parties to attend and family and friends to see which can mean overspending on eating out and takeaway. Try to be mindful of the amount that you’re spending and see if you can eat before you go out, or opt for places that are BYO. Entertaining at home and having everyone bring a plate can also be a great way to share the expense of catching up.

– Change the holiday season spend. Depending on what the big-ticket items and in-between activities are looking like, you may choose to, or need to, adjust other expenses.  Make a list of who you plan to buy gifts for this year and once you’ve written your list, review it to work out if it’s time to update and adjust. Could you buy three gifts instead of six? Is it time to put some money to better use than gifts for people who have everything they want anyway? If saying “no gifts” this year is too much, you could look at recycling gifts of previous years (as explained in “a different way to give this Christmas”.  It doesn’t need to be cheap and nasty, it could actually be a bit of fun! 

– Other ideas to help you maintain the giving spirit but reduce your overall holiday spend include organising a Secret Santa rather than buying individual presents. This can be particularly useful in larger families or groups of adults. Alternatively, you may wish to consider the gift of time for someone that is proving difficult to buy for. Sometimes the simpler things make the best gifts. 

– On another note, if you’re going away over the holiday period, it pays to double check your home and contents insurance is in place and provides appropriate levels of cover. These insurances are so easy to renew each year without giving appropriate thought to whether the levels of cover are still appropriate. If you’re travelling, be sure to look into travel insurance and shop around to get the best deal. You can read more about insurances here.

The holiday season represents the end of one year and commencing of the next. Take a moment to reflect on how things have gone financially for the past 12 months.

Using the year’s reflections, you can also set some intentions for next year. Can you be more organised or more interested in your financial affairs? Are there new opportunities that can make next year even better than this year? A review at this time sets you up to help with New Year resolutions and may better prepare you for next holiday season.