Seven ways to tighten your Christmas spending


As published in Hawke's Bay Today. Canny View by Glen Trillo, Authorised Financial Adviser.

Last year, New Zealanders managed to spend a record $6 billion shopping in December, which was the highest monthly figure recorded by Statistics New Zealand.

Hawke's Bay enjoyed the highest holiday splurge, with a near 11 per cent increase on the previous year.

Kiwis are going to smash that record this year, reinforcing a trend for the past four years as Retail NZ estimates a record $17.4b shopping this Christmas.

If you are starting to worry about the impact Christmas spending is going to have on your finances, then it might be some consolation to know you still have some time to safeguard your financial house from holiday budget blowout.

In this week's Canny View, I'm sharing my thoughts on holiday budgeting and putting some smart measures in place to spend less and save more year-round.

As much as it might pain some, it's time to get on top of your expenses and put some smart actions in motion to become financially savvy.

December is the peak time for retail spending in the New Zealand economy and 2017 is no exception.

As is typical at this time of year, households ramp up their spending on a range of items, with large increases in spending on durable goods such as home furnishings and also high spending on apparel and consumable items.

Although it is sometimes easier said than done, the best way to manage financial pressure around Christmas is to actively plan for the increase in expenditure and have a clear strategy around how to manage your budget.

Whether this is spreading purchases throughout the year, reducing the number of people bought for or decreasing the amount spent overall, the key thing is to have a budget and financial plan that works for your family and to stick to it.

Having a household financial plan is a key element to a harmonious break and start to the new year.

Households which display the greatest financial planning discipline are those which have mastered the skill of discussing financial matters which include purchases, while setting guidelines and boundaries for their financial decisions.

There are some concrete measures you can take in this holiday season to help keep your spending in check and reach your financial goals:

1 Avoid unnecessary credit card usage in the first place. I know, it's obvious. But let's face it, it always seems very easy to swipe away, spending what feels like free money.

2 Spend cash rather than credit or Eftpos. Handing over a stack of notes will make you realise how much money you're forking out.

3 Keep all your receipts and make a point of adding them up each week. You'll be more conscious about your spending when you see all the small items quickly mounting up to a large spend.

4 Just look around and see how much stuff you probably already have. Make a wish list of the things you really want to buy and set yourself a goal of when you'll be able to afford it.

5 Buy the best quality you can afford, and hopefully, it'll last longer and cost you less per use than the cheaper version.

6 The oldest and most effective trick in the book is to make sure you pay your future self first. Divide your income, set up direct debits to pay off loans and contribute to savings before you even see your salary in your bank account. You won't even notice the difference. Budget and live off the remainder, allocating some money to fun and shopping.

7 If you have a surplus at the end of a budget period, lock it away in savings or pay it into the mortgage before the next payday so it 'disappears' and can't be wasted.

Lastly, treat yourself periodically. The human brain is tricky. If you starve too much, you might end up buying something under impulse that doesn't actually fit in your budget. If you allow a controlled spend from time to time, you're less likely to splurge.

At the end of the day, the Christmas period should be a time to relax and unwind, rather than feeling under financial pressure. 

• Glen Trillo is an authorised financial adviser and Head of Wealth at Stewart Financial Group. Stewart Group is a Hawke's Bay-owned and operated independent financial planning firm based in Hastings. 

• This represents general information only. Before making any financial or investment decisions, we recommend you consult a financial planner to consider your investment objectives, financial situation, and individual needs. A disclosure statement can be obtained free of charge by calling 0800 878 961.