The holiday season comes with a flood of sales from some of the country’s biggest retailers, but these specials could tempt cash-strapped Australians to spend money they don’t have.
PayPal research found 94 per cent of Australians are concerned about security as they shop online this holiday season, with two in five more worried than they were in previous years, likely influenced from this year’s unprecedented major customer data leaks.
But these fears won’t be keeping many wallets closed.
Data from Finder shows the majority of Australians will dip into their savings to cover their holiday shopping costs, while 24 per cent of people will be pushed into debt by relying on some form of credit.
Centaur Financial Services principal financial adviser Hugh Robertson told The New Daily that Christmas and Boxing Day sales will trick people into buying things they don’t need.
Although the festive period and end of the year means it might be time for indulging, he said Australians should be prepared for tighter budgets in the near future.
“Tough times are ahead. Interest rates are rising, the cost of everything has gone up, so now’s not the time to be silly,” Mr Robertson said.
“Let’s all lean into the fact that it’s been a really tough year, but don’t give ourselves a debt hangover for 2023.”
If you researched the best ways to save money during sales, but still found yourself spending more than expected, read on for five cures to your silly season financial hangover.
Cull your subscriptions to ease financial stress
Australians enjoy access to a wide range of subscription services, with the most prominent being video and music streaming.
But if you find yourself needing to tighten your belt after a festive period overspend, consider dropping these subscriptions to help build up your savings for a while.
If you still want to enjoy all the perks subscription services can provide, consider replacing your cancelled service with a free trial period for another.
“There’s quite possibly alternatives that will give you 14 days or a month-free trial on [products] that are quite similar to what you currently have,” Mr Robertson said.
Make repayments ASAP
Finder data shows 13 per cent of Australians will depend on their credit card to get through their Christmas shopping, while 9 per cent will turn to buy now, pay later services.
Both can be a risky endeavours for cash-strapped shoppers, with the lingering threat of interest rates on credit card debt and ‘quasi-interest’ rates for BNPL debt.
A 2022 RateCity survey found 41 per cent of BNPL users found themselves in some level of financial trouble using these platforms at least once in the previous year, including 18 per cent missed paying important bills, such as their mortgage, to meet BNPL payments.
“If you’re putting your purchases on a credit card, make sure you can pay the total in full when your next bill comes in,” RateCity research director Sally Tindall said.
“Buy now, pay later platforms might be interest free, but they can still cause chaos on your budget if you don’t have the funds to pay the money back.”
Finder credit card expert Amy Bradney-George said it’s best to get on top of repayments as quickly as you can after incurring the debt to avoid late fees or interest charges.
And it’s not just late fees you need to watch out for if you’ve used BNPL; payments on BNPL platforms are typically automatic, which means if you don’t have enough money in your account you could end up going into overdraft with your bank.
Consolidate your debt
Bradney-George said if you find yourself juggling multiple debts simultaneously, debt consolidation could be an option.
“That usually involves [moving], say, two credit card balances over to a new card that offers zero per cent interest for an introductory period,” she said.
“And that means instead of making two repayments, you make one repayment and it’s interest-free for that introductory period, which can help … because the whole payment’s going towards what you’ve actually spent.”
Review ongoing bills
Mr Robertson said you should use the post-holiday sales period to take stock of what regular expenses you could possibly cut back.
From choosing the right insurance and home loan repayment options, to your food budget, he said you should regularly look for ways to lower your spending.
“Never be victim to what we spend on. We made a choice, we did it, and now go and make it right,” he said.
“How you start is how you finish. Start 2023 with a focus on keeping your expenses controllable.”
Seek free financial advice
If you are worried about how much debt you have, Bradney-George said one of the best courses of action is to contact your bank or financial institution to talk about your situation and hopefully be offered assistance by their dedicated support teams.
The National Debt Helpline is also a great resource that offers free information on its website, as well as online and phone chat services where you can speak to a financial counsellor for free.