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Byline author: Bessie Hassan

Christmas is just around the corner and Aussies are tipped to spend $464 on presents alone, equivalent to $8.8 billion nationwide. Though it’s nice to spoil your loved ones, it can be deceptively easy to overspend during the festive season. Decorations, entertaining, gifts and food can all add up, and you don’t want to start the new year with a financial hangover.

Bessie Hassan, Money Expert at finder.com.au, shares tips to help you cut down the cost of Christmas.

Make a list (and check it twice)

Keep an organised list of everything you’ll need to buy in the lead up to Christmas. This will help you keep track of your spending and prevent unnecessary purchases. Apps such as ASIC’s TrackMySPEND can also be a useful way to monitor your finances. Just remember to cross items off as you go to prevent doubling up.

Compare the pair

If you like to shop online, make sure to price check against other sites before making a purchase. Smaller brands are often stocked by larger retailers who may offer a more competitive price for the same item – particularly during a sale. Bear in mind that postage and handling costs may differ across sites, so take this into consideration when deciding which is the more cost-efficient option.

Stick to your budget

The sentiment “go on, it’s Christmas!” certainly rings true, but just because it’s the silly season, it doesn’t mean you should lose all financial sense. The average Australian faces around $1,727 in holiday debt. To avoid being stung, assess your finances in the lead up to Christmas to create a realistic and workable budget. Set a gift limit

Though it may feel uncomfortable, try to speak with friends and family about setting a spending limit for gifts, or only buying for one person. This can significantly reduce your overall spend, and chances are that everyone else feels the same. Use those unclaimed vouchers

We all end up with a handful of unused vouchers or gift cards wedged in our wallets. Christmas is the perfect time to make the most if them before their expiration date. Every dollar of gift card credit spent is less money from your own pocket. Use them to stock up on food and supplies, or to purchase a gift for someone else. You’ll be amazed how much you can end up saving.

Open a Christmas cracker account

Few people are aware of the benefits of opening one of these hidden gems. Christmas cracker accounts allow you to make deposits throughout the year, but your funds won’t become available until November. By transferring just $20 per week into the account, you can easily have $1,000 saved by the time Santa comes to town. Though it may be a little late this Christmas, now is the perfect time to start saving for next year.

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T’is the season to be jolly. But it’s also the season to be thrifty! It’s no secret that Christmas costs Aussies a fortune and can leave your finances in a flurry. But if you’re smart this silly season, there are some awesome ways to spread the Christmas cheer without busting a gut or breaking the bank. Consider the following creative approaches to gift giving. Combine these tips with some good old fashioned D-I-Y and you’ll be chuffed with the results. A merry Christmas and bank balance!  We spoke to Gordana Redzovski from Scoopon to get her top Christmas shopping hacks.

1. DIY = VIP

A foolproof way to get people feeling special this year is to handcraft their gift from scratch. Not only does this show the rellies you’re willing to go the extra mile, but it also shows you are mighty creative, while being quietly frugal. Maybe your work colleague loves chocolate cookies? Bake them up a delicious batch, put them in a mason jar and finish this off with a super cute ribbon. Not only does this DIY dessert show you’ve put in the hard yards, but it’s also a budget friendly way to celebrate Christmas. Remember, it’s the thought that counts and the effort you’ve put in will not go unnoticed. Plus – food is such a crowd pleaser.

2. Gift Experiences to Families

When you’ve got multiple family friends with several kids each, gift giving can be confusing and expensive. If you’re stuck in a shopping centre with a list as long as your arm, your finances will be screwed without some savvy tricks up your sleeve. Santa sure has a lot to deal with and as nice as he is, he never likes overspending on presents – ever. Here’s a good one. Think smarter this Christmas and instead of giving separate presents, give groups an event or activity voucher they can enjoy together. A group activity is a great way for a family to spend the day. This little trick also saves tailoring present buying to each child, which can be hectic. Wouldn’t you rather be at the beach than at the mall fighting all those crowds? A trip to a paintball centre in the school holidays is a winner over a thoughtless t-shirt from a bargain bin. You’ll give them an experience they’ll remember forever, while also giving their parents a welcome rest while they watch the madness (or not!).

blickpixel / Pixabay

4. Subscribe Away

As December 25th fast approaches, dedicate a day to sitting down at your computer and subscribing to email alerts from. Go for your favourite brands, coupon websites and online retailers. There are so many deals and discounts on offer this time of year, that it’s a guaranteed way to save some serious cash in the lead up to Christmas. This weekend is perfect timing! If you don’t want your email to implode with all those savings create a new email address just for those Christmas discounts. That way, you can revisit them again next year and use that same address again. Spend the time in the room and you’ll thank yourself later when you check your bank account. You’ll be able to ahead to the beach and afford all those ice-creams the kiddlings will badger you for.

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Travel is so great in hindsight isn’t it? I’m always happy to leave home, but then the sight of my bed after getting back is usually nothing short of blissful.

Of course, the degree of post-travel happiness depends on how the trip went. If you want to shake off any travel mishaps you might have encountered over the holidays (or in life generally) just Google ‘Travel Horror Stories’ and you’ll feel better immediately. There’s always someone who’s done it harder.

Travel has really evolved since I embarked on my world trips some 20 years ago and there are some amazing solutions for making the experience more pain-free.

Here are 20 crazy travel stories from my younger travelling days, all wrapped up for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

Why tickets can be cheap

I bought the ‘cheap’ world trip ticket where there was a blizzard in every city I visited. All my travel photos looked like this. Still the ticket only cost me $500 out of Japan – so I was over the moon. Next time, make sure to check the weather forecast first before booking!

Image Source: Wikipedia.org

When your timing is just plain wrong

The beaches were closed for my entire time in Hawaii due to waves that were big enough to kill you.

Image Source: Awesomeocean.com

When the weather steals your show

I visited Canada in minus 35 degrees, which caused all my guitar strings to break all at once as I left the airport. So sad.

Image Source: Greshamguitar.com

Because tears remove fears (not)

I cried on a plane because the pilot loved turbulence so much he decided he didn’t want to lift the plane into a better spot in the sky. I was the girl in the toilet being told to return to her seat.

Image Source: Gizmodo.com

When Single White Female is a man

I shared a teacher’s house with an American psychopath in Japan who faked his own suicide one summer. Needless to say he had aspirations to be ‘an actor,’ which we (his flatmates) were ultimately not impressed with.

Image Source: Amazon.com

When you wish they’d actually flown you to Mexico

I flew six times over the Rockies from Vancouver to Calgary because they filled the plane up with enough fuel to travel to Mexico. They needed to burn fuel off before landing. The Rockies were a grand view, but by the 5th flight over those majestic mountains, my good memories of the Rockies and I were done.