Three simple hacks to avoid coughing up too much this Christmas

With Christmas just over three weeks away, the pressure for shoppers has started and it is a time for many when budgets could do with a little help.

As promotional noise tempts shoppers to open their wallets at every turn, obligation can quickly lead to overspending.

Newshub spoke with a financial educator and money trainer for their top tips on how to stay out of the red this Christmas.

Ayesha Scott, senior lecturer - finance at AUT said that when buying gifts, people can fall into the trap of equating price with love.

"Children don't have to wait the entire year for a new toy the way they used to: society is geared up for people to buy what they want, when they want it.

"As technology such as PayWave makes it easier to part with money - not to mention buy now, pay later - people need to stay mindful of where money is going," Scott said.

Tony Hailwood, a money coach, said that one of the biggest "financial killers" is the belief that the same amount must be spent on each person.

"I recommend taking time to think about appropriate gifts, rather than to a specific amount - in most cases, [people] will end up spending less than [they] think," Hailwood said.

Three ways to save money on gifts include fun games to limit costs of gift-giving, setting a Christmas budget and shopping wisely.

1. Have fun with 'gift games'  

To help with budgeting and equal spending, it can be useful to set a spending limit, particularly within extended families where there may be multiple people to buy for.

Christmas gift traditions that include an element of fun are easy to organise and equalise spending, particularly useful where there's disparity in income.

Here are two novel variations on the standard 'Secret Santa'.


Ideal for a larger group, the 'steal a gift' game requires each person to buy and wrap one gift.  The gift they end up with is determined by a couple of throws of the dice - with many laughs in between.   

1 - Keep your gift

2 - Steal anyone's gift

3 - Everyone pass their gift to the left

4 - Everyone pass their gift to the right

5 - Keep your gift

6 - Steal anyone's gift.

'Mean Santa'

For work or extended-family based games, Ayesha Scott suggested 'Mean Santa'.  Each person buys a fun, useful or 'gag' gift up to $20 (or an agreed value). 

"An order is established (usually by ballot), where one person opens a gift at a time," Scott said.

"The next person can choose to open a new gift or 'steal' the previous gift.

"Practical gifts, such as car products or kitchenware are popular and can lead to playful arguments."

2. Set a Christmas budget  

As with grocery shopping, setting a Christmas budget and sticking to it will help shoppers get what they need and avoid overspending.

"A separate [Christmas] budget or spending plan is useful in two ways: It gives you boundaries which help reduce impulse buying and removes the temptation to spend at the expense of other bills," Hailwood advised.

Over and above gifts, an ideal Christmas budget would include money for family activities, travel - and rides.

3. Be a savvy shopper

To help shoppers get more bang for their buck, Tony Hailwood provided the following tips.

Shop once

Having set a budget and made a list, set aside one day to complete in-store Christmas shopping.

"Making several trips eats into other money, [e.g.] travel to and from, coffee or lunch while shopping and [extra trips] will often include impulse buys," Hailwood said.

Take advantage of online discounts

"If buying online, proceed to the checkout then wait 24 hours and see if the same item [is] now cheaper [e.g. through email marketing discounts].

"If [it isn't cheaper], go back and buy it, but [in many cases], it will be," Hailwood added.

 Buy ahead of time

"Don't buy last-minute - things are always more expensive," Hailwood said.

While Kiwis aren't typically hagglers, bigger ticket items, such as whitewares can provide opportunities to negotiate.

"Ask for a discount [or added value] - you may be surprised at what you get," Hailwood suggested. 

As part of the New Year's financial resolutions, keeping a tally of expenses and using that to plan for costs next Christmas could help ongoing affordability.

"Try and save throughout the year - $20 a week [equates to] $1,040 per year which is alot easier than trying to find money at the last minute.

"If leaving savings alone is hard, try negotiating small extra payments on rent, power [or other] expenses to build up a credit, so those bills aren’t required during December," Hailwood suggested.

According to Paymark, the busiest shopping day before Christmas in 2018 was Thursday, 20 December, when Kiwis spent a whopping $296m. Christmas Eve is usually the busiest shopping day of the year, and as it falls on a Tuesday this year (as opposed to Monday last year), shoppers wanting to avoid the queues are wise to get it done earlier.

With Christmas closing in fast, it's important to keep spending within the limits of affordability. 

Incorporating fun games to limit the cost of gift-giving, setting a Christmas budget and planning shopping to avoid multiple trips and take advantage of promotions will help shoppers emerge from the 'silly season' with a healthier bank balance.