More than half of us fail to stick to a budget over the holiday season, according to the latest ASIC Money Smart research.
More than half of us fail to stick to a budget over the holiday season, according to the latest ASIC Money Smart research. DAN HIMBRECHTS

'Tis the season to set spending limits

'TIS the season for giving, but all too often our generosity and love for the festive season comes with a blownout budget.

With only 45 per cent of Australians sticking to a budget over the holiday season (according to the latest ASIC Money Smart research) and the average person spending $1079, it's important to be honest about what you can afford.

How do the additional expenses fit into your current budget?

Emotion-laden purchases such as Christmas gifts can easily creep up, especially when you're wanting to spoil your loved ones.

Set expectations with your family early.

Can you set a dollar limit on gifts? Are people happy to organise a Secret Santa or instigate a children-only gift giving policy? Who is responsible for hosting Christmas activities and how can everyone else pitch in?

Forward planning also helps you to set a budget and gives you time to set money aside. Be savvy with your money to stretch it further.

Use online shopping to compare prices across several retailers and give yourself enough time to avoid panic-buys.

And there are also ways to give that are entirely free. Go home-made. Baked gifts are some of my favourites and can be a personal way to give. Go online for inspiration.

Cash in your rewards points. Christmas is a great time to take advantage of all your loyalty programs and trade your points for presents.

Experiences over things. Among friends, give yourselves permission to spend time instead of money on each other - they'll probably thank you for the memories you've created.

Take advantage of the weather to head outdoors or make use of the many free activities organised by local councils over summer, such as movies in the park.

Volunteer. Organisations always look for additional volunteers at this time of year, and it's a way you can give that's entirely free.

Do it with your teammates for a ready-made Christmas activity or get your children involved and teach them the true meaning of Christmas.

These ideas don't break the piggy bank and can make people feel valued and create positive memories.

For all your banking needs, visit your nearest Suncorp Bank branch or phone 131175.

- FINANCE TALK by Lynne Sutherland, Suncorp Bank executive general manager of stores and speciality banking