Ho-ho-ho without the o-o-overdraft

Ho-ho-ho without the o-o-overdraft

It’s October when I write this, which means it’s been Christmas in retail land for about six months now. While a couple of weeks off in summer in honour of Baby Jesus’s birthday is an attractive proposition for most of us, it can also be a financial time bomb, set to go off when the bills arrive in January or February.

So how can you make it through the silly season without spending silly amounts of money? Short of converting to a religion that considers the whole Christmas malarkey a bit ridic (or inventing one whose entire Christmas ritual consists of giving each family member a single boiled egg) here are a few ways you can have a great Christmas and summer break, without sending your bank balance into meltdown.

Gift rules rule

This one is especially handy if you have a big family. Instead of everyone buying everyone else gifts, consider making it a one-to-one thing. Some families put everyone’s names in a hat, then take turns drawing the one person each of them will buy a gift for. For extra points, set a sensible cash limit and stick to it. Bonus: choosing a gift for just one person means you’re more likely to choose something they’ll actually like.

Skip the lines by shopping online

Shopping malls at Christmastime are a happy wonderland of laughter, snowflakes and magic – as if the Tom Hanks movie The Polar Express took retail form for six magical weeks. Kidding! From carpark awfulness to the sad fatty smell of thronged food halls, real-world Christmas shopping can be hell. Luckily, smart scientists in the 1970s invented the internet. So if you’re clever, and get onto it now, you can shop around and find gifts that suit your family and your budget. Once you’re chosen, try New Zealand websites PriceSpy and PriceMe to see who’s got that must-have gadget for the best price.

Bake it till you make it

This one’s a school holiday activity and a gift solution rolled into one. Biscuits, fudge, shortbread… they’re all way easier to make than MasterChef would have you believe, and the ingredients to whip up a batch cost peanuts (or walnuts, if your recipient is allergic to peanuts). The best take we’ve seen on this is a batch of biscuits wrapped up with a vintage Edmond’s Cookbook ($5-10 or so at your nearest second hand bookshop or Trade Me). You can get the recipes online too at the Edmonds site.

Go sale-ing

The Warehouse might have put a bit of a dampener on this classic Kiwi money saving tactic with its new policy of having no more sales, but convincing the family that they’ll get twice the present bang for your buck by shopping on Boxing Day can be a winner. See our note above about shopping mall Hell though…

Staycation and save

Out of town or overseas summer holidays can cost a bundle. Don’t forget though, you already live in one of the world’s favourite tourist destinations! (Unless you’re reading this in Lower Hutt, obviously.) People from all over the world dream of coming to New Zealand for their holidays, so spending a week or two as a tourist in your own town makes a lot of sense. Do what the tourists do: check out this page on TripAdvisor to see what’s worth flying 20,000km for (and you can just take a bus to get to).

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