It seems a bit strange to be talking about Christmas when we still have 6 months to go, but this is the perfect time for a budget conscious person to be considering how to make their Christmas stress free money wise as possible.
One way to ease the monetary stress at Christmas is to join a Christmas club now if you haven’t already. In March 2014 the Consumer Magazine compared a number of the Christmas Hamper and Supermarket based Clubs and their findings may be of interest to you if you can find a copy.
Christmas Hampers work by you selecting a hamper from a catalogue and paying a regular direct debit or automatic payment until it is paid. You receive whatever was in the hamper around November or December so starting now could involve twice the normal payment or a smaller hamper. These operate like layby purchases so make sure that when you sign up you check to see if they have a ‘cooling off’ period and what the penalties for cancelling your membership will be in case you change your mind.
Supermarket based Christmas clubs allow you to either buy vouchers or pay into a Christmas card using direct debits, automatic payments, or at the supermarket when you can afford it. You get to choose the groceries you want to buy. If you buy during the Christmas season (usually starts 1 December) some clubs provide bonuses and discounts. Some Christmas clubs also allow for unused savings to be carried over into the future. You are limited to buying only from the relevant supermarket stock, but most supermarkets now have quite wide ranges of goods available.
If the thought of saving for Christmas and spending your money on other things as well as groceries seems best for you then try putting away a few dollars regularly and a few more when you can afford it into a separate savings account is a great idea. This requires strong discipline and you must resist the urge to spend your savings prior to Christmas but it offers the most flexibility in terms of what you purchase at Christmas.
Ask yourself do I need a certain amount of money to buy or pay for groceries and other items at Christmas and if so work out how much you will need to save (frequency and amount) over the coming 5-6 months. Alternatively you can look at how much you can afford to save now and calculate how much savings you will have if that amount is deposited on a regular basis (eg. $1 a day from 1 July to 20 December will total $173 to spend on Christmas Eve or later. The most important thing though is to sit down now while you still have time and plan what you want to do, then follow that plan through. By starting at the beginning of the year you will accumulate more.
Pakanui Tuhura (Manager – Rotorua Budget Advisory Service Inc)