Christmas spending stress hits hard

If you are starting to worry about the impact Christmas spending is going to have on your finances then it might be some consolation to know that you are not alone.

More than half the population (51 per cent) will be feeling some financial stress due to additional outlay over the holiday period, according to research commissioned by credit card company MasterCard.

The survey on Christmas shopping habits shows women appear to feel under slightly more financial pressure in the lead-up to Christmas than men, with 53 per cent of women and 46 per cent of men surveyed reporting money worries.

Perhaps surprisingly, parents do not seem under any additional financial pressure as their responses to the survey were similar to the national average.

The survey also reveals that while most Kiwis (64 per cent) are expecting to spend about the same as they did in 2012, more than a quarter (26 per cent) will be tightening their belts and are aiming to spend less overall on Christmas this year. Just 9 per cent of respondents said they were planning to spend more this year than the last.

MasterCard New Zealand country manager Peter Chisnall said the lead-up to Christmas could be one of the most stressful times of year when it came to managing finances.

"At the end of the day, the Christmas period should be a time to relax and unwind, rather than feeling under financial pressure," he said.

"Although it is sometimes easier said than done, the best way to manage financial pressure around Christmas time is to actively plan for the increase in expenditure and have a clear strategy around how to manage your budget.

"Whether this is spreading purchases throughout the year, reducing the number of people bought for or decreasing the amount spent overall, the key thing is to have a budget and strategy that works for you, and to stick to it."

The survey also shed some light on New Zealanders' gift-giving habits.

This year, 36 per cent of Kiwis are planning to buy gifts for between four and six people while 24 per cent will be giving seven to nine presents, according to the survey.

Women appear to be more imbued with the spirit of giving, with almost a third planning to buy gifts for 10 or more people compared with just 10 per cent of men.

As to who gets the lion's share in our budgets, children come out as clear winners for parents, with an average being spent of $88 - although in 27 per cent of households, parents were planning to spend more than $150 on gifts for their children this Christmas.

Partners are next in line with an average of $86 being spent. Parents and in-laws will receive a gift worth $48 on average, siblings $32, other family members $23 and friends $22.

To manage seasonal spending, survey respondents reported relying on a combination of credit cards (35 per cent), their November-December pay cheques (33 per cent), putting money aside in a savings account (32 per cent) or buying throughout the year to spread costs (31 per cent). Only 8 per cent of respondents use a Christmas club scheme to fund their Christmas purchases.

The research also shows 39 per cent of women (compared with 21 per cent of men) plan ahead and try to make purchases through the year in order to spread costs, while men are slightly more likely (38 per cent) to put their purchases on their credit cards compared with 33 per cent of women.

Fairfax Media