Shop with cash, plan ahead and make a budget if you want to save money this Christmas says a top New Zealand budgeting service.

As one of the most expensive times of the year, Christmas can be a struggle for many Kiwi families.

Last year Kiwis spent up large swiping away a whopping $5.9 billion in card transactions during the month of December in 2016 according to Paymark - a 6.6 per cent increase on the same month in 2015.

According to insights from their 2016 records, households are expected to spend 156 per cent more than the average week of the first 10 months of the year.


The build up typically starts in November and continues until the day before Christmas.

"Based on 2016, when Christmas Day last fell on a Monday the biggest shopping day is likely to be the Friday before Christmas," say Paymark.

Kiwi Families editorial director Jarrod Rendle says Christmas doesn't have to be a blow out however.

These are five top tips for saving during the silly season.

1. Put the credit cards away, and shop with cash.

According to Rendle this should be your number one rule for Christmas gift shopping.

"Only spend the money that you have, and can earn between now and Christmas.

"For some reason, as we approach Christmas our budgets just go out the window. We find ourselves spending frivolously on food and drink, and all those retail specials that suddenly appear. When you add the Christmas gift purchases on top of all this spending, things get a bit wobbly," he says.


"By shopping with cash, or a pre-loaded credit card, you'll continue to shop within your means."

2. Create a Christmas gift budget, and stick to it.

Work out exactly how much you can afford to spend on gifts this Christmas.

"If you have been budgeting throughout the year, then you should have a wee pile of cash sitting in your bank that you've earmarked as 'gifts' in your budget. Just be sure to review your budget for next year, and make sure you don't have any big new expenses coming up."

If you don't have a budget, don't fret, now's the time to create one.

3. Plan your purchases ahead of time, and shop online to compare prices.

Sites such as can be very useful in finding the best deals on Christmas prezzies.

"Don't just do this in your head. Actually sit down and write out all the gifts you plan on buying, and what you're prepared to spend on each," says Rendle.

"Now, jump online and let your fingers do the comparison shopping. It only takes a few minutes per gift to find out who has the best price."

Doing a bit of research will allow you to either shop online or scout the best deals in store which will ultimately save you money.

Rendle says, "whichever way you choose to shop, just make sure you stick to your budget. It's such a tempting time of year while you're out buying lots of things, and there's all those specials everywhere. Just don't be tempted, use your willpower and stick to your plan."

4. Plan for a larger food bill, and shop accordingly.

"With Christmas, the kids home from school, and a family holiday or two over summer, watch for a food bill blowout.

"Just plan ahead for that carefully budgeted food bill you've stuck to all year to increase considerably over this period. This is especially true if it's your family's turn to host Christmas this year."

5. Remember all those 'back to school' costs are just around the corner.

Unfortunately there are many expensive periods which follow Christmas such as back to school for kids which can knock the family finances.

"The real trap for families is what happens after Christmas. A New Years party, a family holiday, a bunch of school holiday excursions … a new uniform, school textbooks, subs for sports and tuition … they all add up."

Ultimately Kiwi families are likely to spend more at this time of year despite careful planning and budgeting.

Following these tips however will mean you face a short-term dip in savings rather than a full credit card blow out.