A special Christmas can be enjoyed with planning and realistic expectations, Dunedin Budget Advisory Service executive officer Andrew Henderson says.
Ideally, people would have budgeted for Christmas spending from the start of the year.
“December is not the time to start budgeting for Christmas.”
The later a family began its Christmas budget, the more difficult it would be to “get through”.
Preferably, people should shop for Christmas items with cash rather than by buying them with a credit card.
If a credit card was used, it was important to ensure the repayments were affordable, as accrued interest could force a family into a spiral of debt.
Summer was an expensive time of the year.
Families in the southern hemisphere had a “triple whammy” of costs over summer – Christmas, school holidays and back to school.
People could spread the cost of Christmas by buying gifts throughout the year, paying for them on lay-by and save for Christmas food by joining a supermarket’s Christmas club.
Savings for Christmas should only be made if a family could afford to pay for essentials first, such as rent, food and electricity.
If a family was struggling to pay for Christmas, a talk to children could set realistic expectations so no-one would feel let down and the family could work together to have a special Christmas.
“It’s a tough time on families because they feel obliged to keep up with the Joneses.”
To curb spending, children could make gifts and decorations or give “gifts of time”or a “chore chequebook” – vouchers to complete duties, such as washing the dishes.
For Christmas dinner, a turkey or ham could be replaced with a cheaper protein, such as chicken.
At Community House in Moray Pl, families could book in for the free Dunedin Community Christmas Dinner in the Dunedin Town Hall on Christmas Day.
A special Christmas did not need to be expensive.
Adults often struggled to remember all the gifts they were given as a child on Christmas Day but could more easily recall where they were and the people they were with, Mr Henderson said.