Like a speeding bullet train we are heading for a collision course with Christmas and the end of 2016. Whether we like it or not that’s our destination, so strap on your tinsel belts and hold on to your spending budgets tightly, the impact is hard to predict, but may result in damaging blows to your savings and a stack of refugee gifts awaiting new homes on boxing day.
Retail stores having sales in November and December was unheard of before the GFC. Traditionally November and December are when retail make up to 70% of their yearly profits. But times they are a changin’ and people are moving to online retail for their Christmas shopping and it’s having a devastating blow on retailers. However with many bricks and mortar stores now opening up online stores too, you can have the best of both worlds. The good news is you may score more bargains during your Christmas shopping than expected, whether you shop in the real OR virtual world. But there is something about being able to touch and feel (and even smell) items before you buy them....
But if you choose, avoid the crowds, the traffic, the fluorescent lights and the trashy Christmas tunes and shop in the comfort of your own home. You don’t even have to get dressed to do it! And you can do it at 4am if it pleases you. If last weekend's 'Black Friday' sales clogging up your inbox didn't lure you into some early Christmas shopping, then now is the time to get cracking. Buying online means you have to wait for delivery, and with more and more people taking advantage of online shopping there is a huge demand on couriers and the postal service this time of year, it's better get in early than late! And while there might not be the crowds, or the unhelpful staff (in fact there is no staff at all!) shopping online has its own challenges. There is a world of other dangers such as unsafe credit card transactions, fishing sites and lecherous fraudsters who may be stalking you online.
Here are some tips to keep in mind before you make your online Christmas purchases:
- Only use trusted sites, pay through PayPal or other websites which keep your credit details encrypted.
- Always log off banking websites and email, particularly if on a public computer. In fact avoid doing any transactions on a public computer or with free wifi if possible. Save banking and shopping for when you're on a secure and private device.
- Check your rights as a consumer before you commit – ensure there is a refund policy if you don’t get what you have ordered. Keep in mind if you purchase internationally you may not have the same protection so its worth investigating.
- Look at photos and read the product description carefully to ensure you are happy with what you are purchasing.
- If buying holiday packages or retreats make sure you know what is and isn't included in the package. Read all of the fine print, even if its very long and boring looking. Often these packages don't include airport transfers, taxis, extra meals and the costs of day to day activities.
Money Management - Set yourself a Christmas gift buying budget and stick to it
Christmas is the one time of year we justify big spends, and fair enough, it’s a special occasion and an opportunity to demonstrate your love to family and friends. But it is also the time of year we often spend beyond our means, as there are lots of expenses in one hit. There are holidays to embark upon, flights to take, gifts to buy, and in the case of casual and contract work often you won’t be paid for your time off work. So having a spending/savings strategy is definitely recommended and having a budget it will definitely help keep your spending in control.
- Set an amount per person and stick to it. If you feel bad that you can’t afford as much as the recipient, perhaps let them know what your budget is and suggest they spend the same on you.
- If you are hosting any Christmas events, parties or dinners ask people to bring a plate or a bottle of bubbles to help keep the costs down.
- Keep costs down but give your time creating something special to give as gifts. Making jams, relishes, aromatherapy preparations, shortbread cookies or Christmas puddings are all lovely gifts to give and show you’ve spent time crafting something especially for them.
Let the Games Begin!