5 ways to slash your Christmas present spend while money is tight


Without wanting to scare you, Christmas is barely five weeks – and potentially another rate rise – away.

And another thing: the Reserve Bank’s (RBA) interest rate actions in 2024 will heavily depend on how much we imminently spend. (And not just at Christmas but in the Boxing Day sales).

In my last column, I called for Aussies to swap Christmas presents for the gift of lower home loan repayments instead. But if presents are non-negotiable for your crew, here are a few tips to contain the cost this financially challenging festive season.

Compilation image of Nicole and Santas talking and a speech bubble with Christmas spending numbers

Overspending this Christmas could convince the Reserve Bank to raise interest rates further. (Source: Supplied/Yahoo Finance AU) (Samantha Menzies)

Aussies are expected to spend 10.69 per cent more – to a total $1,864 – on Christmas this year, according to a study by World Remit, with $822, on average, going on gifts. And that could, in fact, cause us double trouble. The RBA will be watching the subsequent retail sales numbers closely in its next rate decisions.

Also by Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon:

So, avoid more interest rate pain and cut the cost instead with my five cut-price gift tricks.

1. Make the ‘Santa’ secret

We all know the drill here: names go in a hat and people draw out the person for whom they have to buy. You set the amount and guidelines. There is no shame in going low – say $20 max – this stretched season, we are all in the same budgeting boat.

2. Steal that Santa

This is a twist on Secret Santa where you just buy a present of a particular value, for no particular person. You draw out not names, but numbers from a hat, and then the person who gets number one opens a present from the pile first, the person who gets number two opens second, and so on.

The stealing part is that, after each person opens their pick, they have the option to ‘swap’ it for a previously opened present. In other words, you can raid the good ones. The game works best if there is a mix of naughty and nice presents. Prepare for controversy and comedy.

3. Buy discounted vouchers

You can get vouchers on discount for all sorts of stores, from all sorts of associations, health funds, and telcos. Loyalty offers are the strategy de jour in these tight times. You can then drive your loved ones’ dollars even further by shopping in the Boxing Day sales – like a cut-price pre-pay.

4. Get cashback from the apps

For any presents you purchase, it makes sense to keep a little for yourself. Cashback apps are conduits to hundreds of e-tailers and retailers, who will rebate you a percentage of the price you pay. Of course, you can still buy the items on sale, too – and you should.

One thing to be aware of though is that you may have to wait up to three months for your rebate to be available in your credit account. But this could subsidise your essential spend down the track. Note that you usually can’t use vouchers for purchases via cashback services.

5. Shop with Qantas

Qantas has done deals with thousands of merchants so you can earn multiple points per dollar spent when you transact through Qantas Shopping. This works similarly to cashback apps and sites in that the Qantas service is just the conduit to the merchants themselves.

Cold, hard cash back is always better than points, but Qantas Shopping works well if you want to purchase with vouchers (bought on discount, of course) or where you want to buy from an outlet that isn’t on offer through a cashback service.

Taking the ‘silly’ out of the present season this year is incredibly financially smart.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is the author of How to Get Mortgage-Free Like Me, available at www.nicolessmartmoney.com. Follow Nicole on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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