How to cure your post-Christmas financial hangover

Holiday shopping might be fun, but the aftermath might sting.

Holiday shopping might be fun, but the aftermath might sting. Photo: Getty

Australians are expected to spend big on their holidays, which means many could be ending the year with a financial hangover.

Finder data shows the average Australian is expected to spend $1479 this Christmas on everything from presents to travel, with the country collectively set to fork out $30 billion this festive season.

This represents a 10 per cent increase compared to last year’s estimated $27.3 billion spend.

RMIT University associate professor of finance Angel Zhong said rising cost of goods and services may have a large part to play in the apparent increase in spending.

Finder personal finance expert Amy Bradney-George said after dealing with the cost-of-living crisis all year, people also likely want to focus on celebrating the end of the year rather than on their finances.

But doing so could run the risk of biting off more than you can chew, especially if your savings account looks a little light, with Finder data showing 46 per cent of Australians could only survive off their savings for one month or less.

“That is a concern when it comes to spending at Christmas time,” Bradney-George said.

“Particularly if you go over what you plan to spend over the holiday season; then it might be hard to dip into your savings, or if you do dip into your savings, there could be a risk of not having funds for something else that comes up.

“So definitely there is a risk that people could end up financially stressed after the holidays.”

If your less-than-thrifty holiday spending has you staring down the barrel of extreme penny pinching and instant noodle dinners for the foreseeable future, there are some things you could do to ease the financial burden.

Think before you buy

This step should really be taken while you’re shopping for the holidays rather than afterwards, but it’s still good to take note of this any day of the year.

Zhong said while everything can look rosy when big discounts are being splashed around during sales, it’s important to weigh up what you want against what you need.

“Plan ahead, work out what you actually need and what you can afford, so that you don’t need to recover from the [financial] hangover.”

Keep track of payment due dates

With household funds becoming increasingly tight amid the rising cost of living, many Australians could be relying on buy now, pay later (BNPL) services to get through the holidays.

But Zhong warned seemingly generous BNPL offers could still come at a steep price, particularly if you’re late to make repayments.

If you’re not careful to remember when repayments are due, you could be charged a “hefty” late fee.

Consolidate debt

Whether you’re using credit cards or BNPL to pay your way through the festive season, moving your money around could help alleviate some debt pressures.

“If you’re paying interest on a credit card, you can move it to a card that offers 0 per cent interest on the balance that you transfer, and that can help you save money on interest while you’re paying off what you’ve spent.” Bradney-George said.

“With buy now, pay later, there’s not necessarily that option.

“But if you are feeling stressed, you may be able to set up a payment plan with the buy now, pay later provider or consider getting a personal loan to pay off that amount if it ends up being cheaper to pay off than the buy now, pay later.”

Use the new year to refresh your finances

The start of the year is always a good time to work out your budget and financial goals for the upcoming 12 months, Zhong said.

Bradney-George echoed this sentiment, and said it was a good time to check over your spending habits and hold yourself accountable.

“If you have overspent your budget, it could be eye-opening to go back to basics and take a look at what you’re spending and how that lines up with what you expect to spend, or what you plan to spend,” she said.

One way you could help alleviate some financial pressure could be by shopping around for better deals on everything from utilities, to your home loan, to your phone plan.

Don’t lose hope

Even when you feel crushed under the weight of money troubles, Bradney-George said there’s always something that can be done to help.

“If you … spent more than you expected to have, it can be easy to feel really defeated. But it is normal, it does happen – we can’t always be on top of everything,” she said.

Some steps you could take to get help include contacting your bank or BNPL provider to let them know you’re struggling, as they should have financial hardship support services to work out a less stressful repayment plan.

You could also contact the National Debt Helpline and speak to a free financial counsellor over the phone or online to get some advice on your next steps.

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