14 December 2023

Summer $avings: Helping you get through the holiday season without breaking the bank

| Jen White
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Woman holding a pile of bills.

The added costs of Christmas and holidays can heighten the pain of a tough financial year. Photo: iStock/SDI Productions.

This week, Region Illawarra launches a special series to help families manage their spending through Christmas and the summer holidays.

It’s been a tough year on so many financial fronts – steadily increasing interest rates adding to already high mortgages and placing extra burdens on renters, and increased costs for petrol, groceries and electricity.

Throw Christmas into that mix and rather than being a happy time, it can be the final nail in the family finances.

So we’re doing some of the hard work for you, to help you enjoy the festive season and holidays without breaking the bank and starting the new year with a budget hangover.

Over the next few weeks, our Summer $avings series we’ll be offering some handy hints on finance-friendly Christmas gifts and decoration ideas, how you can look great for less, fabulous food options, keeping your cool at home and how to make the most of the Boxing Day sales.

READ ALSO Illawarra Christmas champion creates comprehensive map of all the best light displays

Keep an eye out for our handy list of free school holiday activities to keep everyone in the family happy right through until school goes back, and we haven’t forgotten the other important member of your family, the pampered pets.

If you thought you couldn‘t afford a holiday this year, we’ve gathered some ideas for mini-getaways and special day trips.

It’s all too easy to be swept up in the commercial craziness of Christmas, and naturally, parents don’t want their children to feel they’re missing out. Here are a few tips to help explain to young children why Santa can’t deliver the gift they want:

  • A wish list gives Santa some choices for gifts, but explain that Santa decides which one to give.
  • Santa has a budget, too. It is not like ordering items online where you place an order and that’s what you get. Santa will still bring gifts but maybe not so many and not as expensive.
  • A note from Santa for the child, saying that he had given away the last one from his sack to another child but he hoped they would like what he left. A letter from Santa might make up for the initial disappointment.
  • Santa is about feeling loved and cared for. The toy they love most, and which will make them feel most loved, is the one Santa will try his best to get.
  • Look at “wish lists” but also promote thinking of others. Suggest a toy/book clean-out and donate them to an organisation to help make other children happy.
  • Santa may not be giving out as many gifts, but the best one of all is being with each other.

READ ALSO This Christmas, I’m looking for the gift of simplicity and peace

If you need financial help, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for it and try to avoid turning to pay-day loans, or overspending on your credit card.

In the Illawarra, the following organisations can help with food supplies, vouchers, presents, a place to spend Christmas Day or someone who will listen: Salvation Army assistance line: 8775 7989; St Vincent De Paul: 13 18 12; Anglicare: 1300 111278; Salvation Army Wollongong; Salvation Army Shellharbour; Food Fairness Illawarra low cost and free meals directory

Many local community centres and churches also serve free Christmas lunches.

If you are feeling lonely or struggling with your mental health, reach out to Lifeline, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on 13 11 14. Lifeline has also created an online Holiday Guide which offers help on managing pressures from financial stress and general wellbeing.

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