Real Life

Consumer: saving for Christmas

Sue Chetwin
Sue Chetwin

We’re just a quarter of the way through 2014 and it’s a bit odd to be thinking about Christmas. But if the last one left your bank balance looking smaller than you’d hoped, now’s the time to be thinking about making the next season of good cheer easier on your wallet.

Christmas savings schemes can be a handy way to put money aside for the festive season, but not all schemes are created equal. We found big differences between the best ones and the turkeys.

Christmas hamper schemes brought the least joy. We’ve consistently found that these deals are an expensive way to buy groceries. There are two main providers, Chrisco and the Christmas Catalogue Company. You select a hamper from their catalogue and arrange regular payments through direct debit or automatic payment. But you don’t get to select the goods. Hampers are delivered through November and December.

Last year, Chrisco’s Traditional Festive Food Hamper cost $465 but we found an equivalent basket of goods from Countdown’s online shopping website for $386, including delivery – that’s a 17% saving.

The Christmas Catalogue Company’s Mega Xmas Hamper cost $990, but we found the same or equivalent goods online for $606, including delivery – a 39% saving.

Supermarket-based Christmas clubs are probably the best way to go. They offer the discipline of regular automatic payments and the flexibility of paying a bit more each week when you shop, or buying vouchers when you can.

Unlike the hampers, you are allowed to buy what you like. In the Countdown and New World schemes, you can also collect Onecard and Fly Buys points. And some stores have club events with promotional offers. You have to spend your savings between December 1 and the end of January – but that’s probably what you want to do anyway.

For card schemes, such as The Warehouse and Hampsta, you make payments during the year. You don’t earn any interest but The Warehouse gives you a five percent discount, even on already reduced items. It also offers prize draws each month for cardholders who have topped up.

The Warehouse has no fees, but Hampsta charged a $39 maintenance fee last year and a $40 cancellation fee. With Hampsta, you can only use your card at a partner store, which can be an issue when retailers pull out, as in 2013 when Countdown ceased being a partner.

A savings account which offers you access to your money in an emergency, but otherwise rewards you for not dipping in, is another option. Look for one which pays a bonus interest rate each month.

Sue Chetwin


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