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Was Santa Claus as generous in your household last month as in previous years?

Was Santa Claus as generous in your household last month as in previous years? Did you have to binge out on the credit card just to make ends meet?   Home loan repayments, spiralling electricity costs and an overall general increase in the cost of living all contributed to a sizeable chunk coming out of most family budgets. But don't let money problems be the Grinch who stole Christmas. Dr Adrian Raftery, senior lecturer in Financial Planning and Superannuation at Deakin University, provides a few ideas to help avoid a repeat this December. 

“Implementing some of them won't be easy.  But the more disciplined you are now, then the easier it will be for you next Christmas” says Dr Raftery.

Spread those purchases

It's all too easy to overspend when Christmas shopping is left until the last minute. People get into a panic as they know they have to buy something and will often spend more than they can afford. Why not try to spread the cost here by buying some presents in the months leading up to the Christmas? A few stocking fillers or small gifts each month makes a difference.  Also consider using lay-by, the great old-fashioned way to save up for a present. 

Open a Christmas Club account

Christmas Club accounts are a great way to save for the festive season.  The earlier that you can start one and put a regular amount in the better it will be for you next December.  Most of these accounts can be started with a minimum balance and don't incur any fees.  You don't have easy access to funds with withdrawals limited to December and January only so they force you to save.  But they pay terrible interest.  You are not going to get much Christmas joy on 1% interest.  Instead consider opening up a high-interest online savings account.  You need to be more disciplined but at least your money is working harder.

Look out for bargains

Keep your eyes open now for some amazing bargains.  Usually the cheapest prices are during the post-xmas and end of financial year sales.  But make sure that discounts are genuine and that quality is not diminished. 

“Online auction sites are also an excellent source particularly at this time of year when people try to offload some unwanted presents”, said Dr Raftery. 

Save those $5 notes

Over the course of the past year, keep every $5 note that you come across in change and put it in a jar of savings.  It may sound bizarre but it you could save well over $1,000 in a year!

“This is one of my favourite – and most unique - savings ideas and I got it from a good mate of mine” say Raftery. 

“Who knows, these five dollar notes may become even valuable if everyone is taking them out of circulation and they become scarce!” joked Raftery.

Take advantage of our dollar whilst it is at this level

After a few good years, the  Australian dollar is predicted to decline in 2015 against most of the world's currencies.  So why not shop online now and take advantage of that buying power.  After all, there is no guarantee that this strength is going to last for long so don't be surprised if prices for overseas goods are as much as 20% more in eleven months' time.