The festive season is always a time of celebrations with family and friends. But, with so many things to buy, family budgets can be squeezed considerably. So how do you reach that happy middle ground where you can still enjoy all your normal luxuries, on top of funding the additional expense of gift shopping while avoiding a New Year debt hangover?
The answers lie in finding effective ways to cut your expenses, rather than cutting out the fun. These tips will hopefully help you eradicate some of the costs associated with buying presents, foodstuffs and alcohol at this time of year without the need to make too many sacrifices.
One idea to free up some more cash for more important things this Christmas is to speak with friends and family and agree on a set price-per-gift. By this I mean agree whether you will only spend $30 or $60, for example, on each other. Another idea could be to agree an "only kids rule” where friends and family only buy gifts for the younger ones.
Alcohol flows freely throughout the festive season, so don’t let their costs take advantage of you. Buckscoop regularly features deals and voucher codes for wine/booze. You will find these both here on our blog, or you can check out our ‘Food, Booze and Groceries’ category on the Deals page. To wet your appetite, check out this current deal on Dan Murphy’s ‘Johnnie Walker Black Label’ whiskey, which is actually cheaper than Aldi at the moment. This offer ends 30th November 2014. Another well known way to buy alcohol more cost effectively is to buy in bulk. For instance, buy a single bottle of Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz for $15 at Dan Murphys, however, buy six and the price drops to $10 per bottle.
Save with Voucher/Promo Codes
Vouchers are an excellent way to make your money go further no matter the season. Hunt around on the Buckscoop Vouchers page to find coupon codes and voucher codes from an extensive range of retailers. For example, Hallenstiens are offering 30% off their entire site at the moment, Target are offering $10 off when you spend $50 on kids wear, while Woolies are giving customers a 15% discount when spending $15 or more on confectionary items.
Alternatively, if you have a load of points stored up on your supermarket club card, it works out better value for money if you convert those points into vouchers, which can then be used directly at the checkout counter.
Avoid Over-catering and Waste
Many people having friends and family over this Christmas will want to show off their hosting skills, but often aiming for the title of being "the host with the most" simply means ending up with plenty of leftovers going to waste. A good tool to use to avoid this scenario is the online portion calculator called LoveFoodHateWaste. This tool will allow you to select different foods and the number of adults / children that you will be feeding, as well as helping you understand the right quantities of food required to feed them all. Out of interest, I selected five adults and three children, to which the website recommended between 520 to 800 grams of chicken.
Consider a Supermarket Change
One thing to bring down your costs could be changing your supermarket chain. Aldi, for example, produces very high quality own-brand products compared to Woolworths and Coles who typically sell third party products. This is one reason neither can compete with Aldi’s pricing. Free-range eggs for example are $3.99 for a dozen (57c per 100g) a Aldi, whereas Coles and Woolies are $4.70 (67c per 100g). Another example is Aldi’s 500g Pavlova base, which you can pick up for $7.99 at Aldi’s special offer day on the 3rd December. This is considerably less compared to Coles' 500g Pavlova for $11.75 and Woolies' 600g Pavlova for $12.
This is in line with the current sales bonanza currently hitting the market this weekend. Black Friday and Cyber Monday mean that there are plenty of offers out there where you can save money. Whether you like shopping online or going to the store, make sure you check out the sales items. If its designer brands you’re after, find reduced rates online by visiting outlet and clearance websites. Or if you prefer getting out there, outlet villages are another great way to pick up products at discounted rates.
Out with the Old
I have personally been trying to get rid off odd items around the house to create more money for Christmas this year. So like the old saying goes, “out with the old, in with the new.” Try selling some of your old stuff on either Gumtree or eBay. These sites are very easy to use. Simply take a photo, write a little bit about the product and post it. In the past three weeks alone I've managed to sell 3 old laptops and 4 old mobile phones myself in this way. If you can't think of what to sell, have a look at eBay's own list of the “Top 20 Most Popular Searched Items on Ebay,” to jog you memory for old stuff lying about the house that you could get rid of.
Shop Like a Deal Hunter
While there are a few easy ways to get discounts all year round, there is no better time to start than around the Christmas season when money becomes more limited. These are a few of the basic strategies that any deal hunter worth his salt would make use of when looking for ways to pay less for something online:
Newsletters: A number of websites offer new customers the chance to receive discounts, if they sign up to the company Newsletter. This is a free way to get a discount code with little effort.
Membership program: Many websites offer loyalty memberships to their customers, which in many cases are not only free but also tend to offer discounts upfront once registered. So try to look out for any signs that a website offers special offers to members.
Cart & Dart: This one doesn't work everywhere but is worth trying out if you're not in need of purchasing an item and having it delivered right away. What you want to do is select an item on a retailer's website and add it to your cart, but do not complete the checkout process. Instead, leave the website and what you'll often find is that quite a few retailers have automated systems which email you (usually within 24 to 48 hours), reminding you that you left that item in your cart. A fairly common tactic used is to then offer customers a discount as a way to encourage them to complete the purchase. You may find that you'll need to wait between 3 - 5 days though before you receive an email which actually includes a coupon/voucher/promo code though.
Shipping Threshold: When shopping online, make sure you check out what the website's order size threshold is to get free shipping. It's easy to ignore this which often results in customers being just a few dollars short of being able to get delivery for free. So instead of finding a low value item to get them over the threshold (like a cheap accessory), they instead end up having to pay anywhere between $8 - $12 (on average) in delivery fees. Depending on the price of the initial item you've chosen to buy, this could equate to a significant increase in your final total. For example, let's say free shipping is valid on orders over $25. If you you have an item in your cart for $22 and delivery fees are an extra $10, then you'll end up paying $32 in total. Had you realised that you were only $3 short of getting free shipping, you could have probably found something cheap (but useful enough) for the extra $3. In this case, you would have ended up saving $7 for shipping (or an overall saving of around 22%).
Choosing to post your own gifts can add to your Christmas shopping expenditure. So if you plan to send some gifts this year, discount couriers can sometimes work out cheaper than Australia Post. Before you send something check online with Australia Post’s postage calculator, to see how much it will cost you to send that item via them. Then check this price with other discount couriers, simply type ‘Discount Courier’ into Google. If you would like an example, Sendle are currently offering $25 off door-to-door delivery for items up to 10kg within Australia.
One final way to make your money go a little further is by using cash reward schemes that usually give you a small percentage back of the total price you spend. As an example, Dick Smith recently had an offer where they gave you $50 cash back when you purchased their Canon SX50HS camera. Have a quick search online for cash rewards to find some companies or products you can receive money back on. eBay for example mention how you can receive 2% cash back on eBay purchases.