An exploration of money, mindset and a meaningful life
Christmas Presents

3 ways to avoid overspending at Christmas – without being a grinch

Christmas is a time when we want to splash out and show people we care.  However, this doesn’t mean the Christmas spirit has to drain your bank balance. Want to know how to avoid overspending at Christmas? Keep reading!

It’s definitely one of the most financially stressful times of the year. For some of us, money worries often overshadow what should be a fun and love-filled event. This is especially true given the impact of the pandemic – this study conducted last year found nearly half (41%) of Aussies felt financially stressed at Christmas. That’s something we should really be thinking about this year too.

If you know me or have read any of my previous posts, you’ll know I’m a big believer in creating abundance in our lives. However, true abundance also means looking after yourself financially too. So if we can set up the systems and mindset to avoid overspending at Christmas, then we can focus on what’s most important – connecting with the people we love, showing each other we care and having a great time!

Here are three simple (but not always easy) steps to help you avoid overspending at Christmas this year, without becoming the grinch.

(Note this article is not about budgeting for Christmas, but an important precursor to it. If you’re interested in the planning and budgeting step-by-step, check out my Christmas budgeting post here.)

1. Think about why you’re buying gifts

As I’m sure you’re aware, there is so much social pressure around gift-giving and spending at Christmas.

We all know that money doesn’t buy love, so why are we stuck with this idea that spending lots of money at Christmas is the only way to show our affection?

Research conducted a couple of years ago found that a third of people receive unwanted gifts at Christmas, which means almost $100 million dollars worth of goods is wasted every year. Wow!

You know the stuff I mean. You pick it up from a junk shop (in a last-minute panic) a few days before Christmas – novelty cups or funny joke presents that get used on the day then thrown away.

Not only does this waste money, but it adds to the landfill problem and continues to fill our oceans with plastic. Of course, if you want to buy someone a genuinely thoughtful gift then there’s nothing wrong with that. What we’re trying to think about is taking it back to mindful spending.

Constantly check your purchasing against the mindset that when you spend money at Christmas, it should be on meaningful gifts. It makes it easier to ditch the last-minute stuff you grab just to fulfil unwritten social obligations to buy a gift for every last member of your extended family.

2. Think presence over presents

This year, connection is more essential than ever. Many of us have been physically distant from each other for ages, so Christmas is a great opportunity to reconnect. And perhaps with everything we’ve been through, it’s also a chance to reassess how you want to show care and affection to your family and friends.

Ask yourself whether you really want to buy a gift for someone. Buying a gift because you feel you ‘should’ is not a positive thing at all and can lead to resentment. Think of ways to make gift-giving more thoughtful and meaningful. It’s not about the price tag but the care and attention that goes into picking a gift.

For example, that friend who is notoriously difficult to buy for? Maybe you could suggest you both spend the money that would have been used for a gift on going for a nice dinner to catch up (especially if you’re like me and live somewhere where you haven’t been able to do that for ages!) Or, break the unwritten rule that gifts have to be a ‘surprise’ and just ask her what she wants.

Alternative Gifting

You might also want to think of ideas for alternative gift-giving at Christmas, such as:

  • Arrange a Secret Santa
  • Make a home-made gift or Christmas ornament (there are so many great ideas on Pinterest, including bush ornaments)
  • Bake something yummy for everyone
  • Have a ‘presents for kids only’ policy
  • Try a second-hand gifts policy
  • Buy only from local businesses, going for quality over quantity
  • Pool money with other family members or friends to buy bigger, more useful gifts without spending more
  • Suggest everyone skip gifts and just has fun

Money Saving Ideas

Also, try challenging other Christmas conventions to become smarter about costs without being mean. Other ways to avoid overspending at Christmas include:

  • A picnic with your friends is a cheaper and just as nice way to catch up as a fancy restaurant
  • Do you really need a new outfit for your Christmas party?
  • Resist the need to save face. Does it really matter if your neighbour brings caviar and you bring crackers and dip?
  • Can everyone bring food or contribute to the cost of your Christmas lunch?

3. Have a conversation

With weeks still to go, now is a great time to start setting expectations around Christmas.

Conversations around money are tricky – often, they’re tied up in all kinds of emotions, especially when it’s to do with something as personal as Christmas. The best way to avoid this is to first address your own money mindset. Remember to be honest, but kind. Don’t let yourself get caught up in guessing what they might be thinking or making assumptions about what they want. Keep your communication style clean and clear, but compassionate too – the person you’re talking to may not be aware of their own money stories!

Remember, it’s been a tough year financially for many people with shutdowns due to the pandemic, so that might be a great way to start the conversation. It’s not always easy to have these kinds of conversations, but it’s important to be true to who you are and the way you want to spend your money.

I guarantee, putting some thought into Christmas spending will not only help you avoid overspending at Christmas but will also make it feel better – and the Grinch is nowhere in sight!