This article originally published in The Northern Daily Leader on 20 December 2013.
It’s only five days until Christmas and the shops are starting to gear up for the last minute rush. For many people, Christmas is a time of excess, both in terms of eating and drinking, but also financially. The gift wrapping, cards, decorations, beer, wine, turkey, prawns, lolly mix and Christmas crackers all add up, but it’s usually the gifts which do the most damage to the credit card at this time of year. Rather than stress about the cost of Christmas however, plan to enjoy yourself and buy what you have to, but consider a financial detox once the festive period is over. Much the same as checking into a luxury health spa to try and undo some of the damage caused by consecutive days of eating and drinking, start the New Year with a brand new financial health regime. Try the following:
1. Halve your credit card limit. If you’re prone to loading up your credit card and suffering the consequences later, halving your limit will keep your mind focused on your spending and may encourage you to keep a closer eye on any gradual increase in your credit card debt.
2. Swap banks. If you have a mortgage, make it a New Year’s resolution to find a home loan with a cheaper rate. Most of us could save money by shopping around, but it’s a hassle, which the banks rely on to keep you in an overly-expensive loan. So shop around, but just remember to take into account any loan establishment or exit fees.
3. Give your superannuation a health check. By the time you reach retirement age, superannuation is likely to be your most significant asset, so give it the attention it deserves. How is it performing? Is the investment selection appropriate? Are your fees reasonable given the level of service you receive? And if you get a pay-rise this year, ask your employer to pay the extra into superannuation rather; you won’t even miss it but it could make a substantial difference to your retirement.
4. Spend ten minutes jotting down some financial goals. As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail. Having some financial goals and a rough strategy to achieving those goals is going to put you in a far better position than just dealing with it on a day by day basis. An investment of ten minutes of your time now could pay off handsomely in the future.
Best wishes for a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.