Christ­mas costs weigh in

Central Leader - - NEWS - By EMMA WHIT­TAKER

THE hol­i­day­ing rel­a­tives might barely be out the door but it’s nearly time to start plan­ning for next Christ­mas if you want to avoid it be­com­ing a fi­nan­cial bur­den.

Ide­ally you should start pre­par­ing for the fol­low­ing Christ­mas in Jan­uary, Pres­by­te­rian Sup­port money man­age­ment and bud­get­ing ser­vice man­ager Mau­reen Lit­tle says.

The pan­icked phone calls from peo­ple not sure how they’ll make it through the fes­tive sea­son usu­ally start rolling in around Oc­to­ber.

‘‘Peo­ple come in and want a mir­a­cle which some­times we haven’t got,’’ Ms Lit­tle says.

Pres­by­te­rian Sup­port of­fers both bud­get­ing ad­vice and a money man­age­ment ser­vice.

Peo­ple can come in on a ca­sual ba­sis to get a bet­ter idea about plan­ning their day-to-day fi­nances or in more ex­treme cases they can have their in­come paid to the ser­vice which will then pay all of their ex­penses.

‘‘We’ve got peo­ple who live on the street and all they have is their ba­sic $206 a week from a ben­e­fit and then there are peo­ple earn­ing over $100,000 a year.

‘‘There are peo­ple who are on very good in­comes that you think should be able to man­age well but it’s all rel­e­vant – the more you earn the more you spend and the richer you think they are.

‘‘But usu­ally they go away well ed­u­cated and do well af­ter­wards.’’

The ser­vice has been op­er­at­ing for around 70 years and was orig­i­nally for war vet­er­ans.

It sounds sim­ple but the most ob­vi­ous fi­nan­cial mishap peo­ple make around Christ­mas is spend­ing money they haven’t got on gifts.

‘‘If you set a price for gifts you have to spend the same on ev­ery­one and I’ve seen peo­ple with lists of about 25. You’re talk­ing $2000 or $3000, but they can­not take one sin­gle per­son off the list be­cause they think peo­ple will be up­set.

‘‘I say to some peo­ple ‘why don’t you give time’? Why don’t you give a card say­ing ‘I’ll give you five hours babysit­ting’?’’

Su­per­mar­ket Christ­mas clubs are another good tool.

With most you can put away as lit­tle as $10 a week and earn bonuses which are like in­ter­est on the money you’ve in­vested.

Layby sys­tems like those of­fered by Chrisco and Ham­ster are not rec­om­mended.

‘‘You’re ac­tu­ally pay­ing for them to do the work. If you got one of their parcels and then costed it out you’re prob­a­bly pay­ing about a third for them to put it all to­gether and bring it to your door.’’ But they’re bet­ter than noth­ing. ‘‘I’ve got one client who bought his son an elec­tric scooter which sort of broke my heart be­cause I think it was over $200 and they’re about $99 at The Ware­house. Never mind though, he was happy to give his son a re­ally good Christ­mas and it was pain­less to pay $20 a week.’’

If you’re read­ing this and think­ing it’s great ad­vice for next year but it isn’t go­ing to help me out of the red this year, just keep read­ing.

Fe­bru­ary is when the credit card bills start ar­riv­ing and it’s when most peo­ple start to get the full de­press­ing pic­ture of just how much dam­age con­trol they’re go­ing to need to do.

Ms Lit­tle’s most im­por­tant piece of ad­vice is to get on top of it early.

‘‘Even if the first state­ment hasn’t ar­rived yet, come and do a bud­get and see what you can af­ford to pay off. Just don’t leave it too long be­cause it’s very dif­fi­cult to ne­go­ti­ate down the track.

‘‘Peo­ple think they’ll get on top of it next month, but they never do.’’

Photo: EMMA WHIT­TAKER

Fes­tive fi­nances: Pres­by­te­rian Sup­port money man­age­ment and bud­get­ing ser­vice man­ager Mau­reen Lit­tle says early plan­ning is the key to avoid­ing money wor­ries at Christ­mas.

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