COMMENT:

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love said to me: "Where did that credit card debt come from?"

According to Paymark we're already spending 1.2 per cent more than last year, according to statistics from the first full week of December. That's excluding fuel.

A small amount of thought can really pay off. Here are 12 ways to manage your money more wisely this summer:

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1. Put more thought into presents

A clever gift needn't be expensive. Earlier this month I received a gift from the GoodFor Wholefoods Refillery store in Takapuna. I love the store but I am too cheap to shop there. The result was two decorated jars of freshly ground coffee. Probably cheaper than buying some generic gift pack and the jars are way more cherished.

2. Cut the present list

We need to start feeling less obligated and also communicate with others rather than buy, buy, buy. Get in first and say: "Hey, let's not do gifts this year", or "let's not give to the adults" or "why don't we set a price limit?".

3. Fulfil a need

Buy something they need, not something they want. It may be that the recipient can't afford to buy it, is too tight to, avoids spending money or hasn't got the time to go shopping. This is very situational. If I received toilet paper or dish washer tablets from friends or family I might not be impressed even though I need them. Yet a petrol or supermarket voucher gives me the warm fuzzies even though I don't need assistance in those departments. There are, of course, people who only want something beautiful and/or expensive.

4. Cut one thing from your Christmas spend

It might be the most ridiculous thing. It could be the most expensive. Or the item that you got the least joy from last year. The first thing I can think of is gifts for pets, although a very good toy will bring happiness to the animal. The Gifts for Pets section on TheWarehouse.co.nz lists a phenomenal 89 items. If you can't cut the pet present from your spending then think about something else. It will get you in the right frame of mind to reassess all seasonal expenditure.

5. Use up your vouchers

Have you got vouchers that are in danger of expiring? Using them to pay for Christmas presents pays off.

6. Reflect

Whether you're religious or not, Christmas is a time of reflection. The more organised you are about this reflection, the better it is for your personal finances. A spreadsheet can help you reflect on your spending and saving. Think about the after effects of last year. What happened to the items you bought? Were they used? Did they end up in the landfill or op shop? Did the spending at Christmas affect your family finances in January?

7. Buy yourself one present

Sometimes to spend less we have to plan to buy. Is there one thing you can spoil yourself with this Christmas rather than frittering money for the rest of the month every time there's an excuse? My one thing for December is always a shellac pedicure, although that might be cut next year when I get around to investigating the environmental impact.

8. Cut the booze bill

Do you need two bottles of wine for your event or two dozen beers when one would do?

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9. Return unwanted goods

If you're like me, you find it a chore to return things that don't work or you don't need. Put the item in your bag or car today with the receipt and next time you're passing take it in.

10. Make your own

Everything from brandy butter to Christmas decorations are far nicer when you DIY. Even better, make gifts from items you already have in your house. The word upcycled in a Google search can uncover many great ideas.

11. Less is more

I sound like a scratched record, but using your brain to buy less is way better than throwing money at the problem of Christmas. Give gifts and do activities that will be remembered for years to come.

12. Find 12 ways to improve your finances

Take time over the break to write down 12 actions that would improve your finances this year. It could be a budget, or registering your phone number and mail to stop yourself being bothered with pitches from sales people to part you from your money. It could be better utility deals or deleting online purchasing apps. Put your actions in an order that makes sense for you such as easiest first and start ticking them off.

Meri Kirihimete.