Nine clever hacks to stay on budget in a COVID Christmas


This Christmas will perhaps be our most important one ever - the chance to regroup and express gratitude for everything we still have in our lives, after a year marred by bushfires and COVID-19.

While it won't be business as usual, these tips will help you make the most of the festive season.

1. Get back to basics

covid christmas budgeting

With borders closed and travel restrictions in place, why not recreate memories from your backpacking days and take the family camping. Alternatively, rent a campervan and hit the road to take in Australia's beautiful attractions. You could even buy one with the money you would have spent on an overseas jaunt.

2. Try a gift trade-off

If money is tight, try swapping presents for time. That could be time spent:

  • together on a family holiday
  • helping elderly relatives or neighbours in the garden
  • baking gran's favourite biscuits
  • volunteering at a homeless shelter or animal refuge

Memories are generally more valuable than gifts anyway.

3. Redeem points

Don't spend money, spend points instead! Chances are you have unused points on frequent flyer schemes, credit cards, supermarket loyalty cards etc. Especially if you're cash-strapped, redeeming points is a great and free alternative.

4. Don't blow the budget

Aussies have collectively repaid over $5 billion in credit card debt since COVID hit. Don't squander those efforts: bank that win and stick to your budget this Christmas. Beware of overusing buy now, pay later services like Afterpay too - they help cash flow, but can affect your borrowing capacity (banks see this as you lacking financial discipline).

5. Shop wisely

Fraudulent Facebook ads, bogus emails, fake door-to-door salespeople - these scams have stolen more than $22 million from Aussies so far in 2020. So, be smart about where you shop online. That doesn't mean you can't support small businesses you've never heard of before. Just do some research to ensure they're legitimate.

6. Get in early

Delivery volumes have soared as COVID pushes more people online - Australia Post parcel deliveries surged 54% this July compared to July last year. Couple this with less air freight and social distancing restrictions in packing warehouses, and it's no wonder there are shipping delays. Be organised: do your shopping earlier this year. That will avoid disappointments and, more importantly, won't force you into buying secondary gifts because the first ones didn't arrive in time.

7. Empower others

I generally prefer gifts that help people improve themselves. Experiences, books, cooking/pottery/photography classes - something that allows the recipient to learn fun and useful new things. They may even learn something that could earn them money.

8. Play it safe

We don't know if/when a next wave could strike; if we could be forced into isolation or become sick; nor when/how quickly the economy will bounce back. Anyone could lose their income or health in 2021. Therefore, consider setting money aside in case things go pear-shaped. A 'better safe than sorry' mindset will make for a happier new year than one of 'let's blow it all now and hope for the best'!

9. Remember the true meaning of Christmas

This year especially, remember the true meaning of Christmas. There's lots we can do to spread joy and hope at a time when so many are struggling. Send Christmas cards to let people know you're thinking of them. Bake goodies as gifts for neighbours who live alone. Support local jobs by buying Australian made gifts from Australian businesses. Donate to worthy charities - you'll even get a tax deduction on donations over $2.

The key is not to get in over your head. A little planning will ensure that joy you're spreading doesn't come with a nasty debt hangover.

Get stories like this in our newsletters.

Related Stories

Helen Baker is an Australian financial adviser and founder of On Your Own Two Feet. She is the author of On Your Own Two Feet: Steady steps to women's financial independence and On Your Own Two Feet Divorce: Your survive and thrive financial guide. Helen holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) degree, a Master of Financial Planning, and a Master of Management (Innovation and Change).