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"Christmas is hard," says Mele*. "My family is big enough to feed, and then my cousins and their children come, my aunties, my uncles, my mother, and my mother's mother! They all come and say ‘Aunty Mele, what's for Christmas dinner?' "
Last year, Christmas wiped out all the family's money - every last cent - and the kids got hardly any presents.
This year, Mele has resolved to do things differently.
She and her husband approached a budget adviser for help.
The adviser showed them that saving with their local supermarket worked out cheaper than the Christmas hamper they were eyeing up.
She also suggested some fun free activities to do with the family, like beach cricket.
"Get my fat cousin Henry to chase the ball!" Mele laughs.
This year, Mele has given the kids a spending limit of $25 for presents.
"Still, five times $25 plus me and my husband is almost $200," she says.
The family has been putting money into a Christmas fund each week, and will have enough for presents in a few more weeks.
It's quite a turnaround from last year's wipe-out:
"This Christmas we've saved for everything and we won't be in trouble afterwards," says Mele.
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.
Raewyn Fox is chief executive of the Federation of Family Budgeting Services
- © Fairfax NZ News
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