All wrapped up

IMAGINE. We’ll spend €1.5bn on food, drink and presents this Christmas — more than any other EU country.

The average spend in 1.6bn Irish households, excluding travel, will be €894.

The good news is we’re spending a lot less than the heady days of the boom — back then the average festive spend was €1,300.

And it’s nice to think we’re still a generous bunch. Of the €894 we’ll part with this year, €484 of it will go on presents to other people (€258 will be spent on food, the remaining €150 for socialising).

The Dutch, meanwhile, according to the Deloitte survey, come in at a measly €286.

We love Christmas and you know what? Tough times or not, there’s nothing wrong with spending more than our EU counterparts. So long as we can afford it.

The good news is we plan to spend less, 22% of us say we will look for sale items, 56% insist no impulse buys.

Nearly half of us had our shopping done by December — and this, really, is the trick. We have to plan ahead. It’s the only way to save money.

Truth be told, after years of recession, our expectations are low when it comes to presents. Keep that in mind as you make your list — and lists, by the way, are essential. Don’t forget anyone as that’ll lead to biggest money-waster of all: the impulse/last minute buy.

And the gifts we like to get Christmas morning? Books, money, clothes, shoes (in that order).

It’s probably starting to get a bit late in the day — check delivery dates to be sure — for online shopping (the post- Thanksgiving Black Friday sales are the time for that) but a browse on the net can help you decide presents in advance. Again to avoid those impulse buys.

When it comes to family, bring the Secret Santa from the office to the home. Or, all agree on a present amount. Alternatively, choose one big buy and split the cost. And, a controversial one here, if something substantial is likely to be reduced in sales put an IOU in an envelope for the Stephen’s Day sales (1 in 10 of us intend to start our shopping on Dec 26).

Leave the credit cards at home. And make sure you shop around too — it’s easier to find the deals when it’s quieter in shops in the mornings or late at night.

One of this year’s top toys, the Furby Boom, for example, is down from €72.99 to €59.99 in the likes of Smyths and Tesco. And last month Argos had a ‘three for the price of two’ deal on all toys. Kids get on average six gifts at Christmas, and while the latest Barbie doesn’t sound too expensive at €25, multiply that by six presents, times an average family of three children, and suddenly she’s not quite the bargain you thought.

It helps everyone if the children write the Santa list early — before the catalogues and TV ads get to them and raise expectations. And if your child wants a smart phone look at the Sony Xperia for €70 rather than the €500 iPhone. With older kids, be honest, explain, set realistic budgets.

When it comes to food — stay calm people. The shops only close for one day. Don’t over buy or it will be wasted. Log what’s in the food cupboard, and make a list. Clear the freezer for leftovers. Use own brand goods. Having all the family over? Get everyone to cook a dish to save money — and your energy. Put your outside lights on a timer too and remember, you’ll be home a lot more at Christmas. The heating will be on so budget for it ahead of the next energy bill. If you do need to borrow, go to your credit union. But repay the loan ahead of Christmas 2014.

The best advice of all? Start planning in February — set up a manage for a debt free and stress-free Christmas.

The National Consumer Agency has a Christmas budget planner on www.consumerhelp.ie


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