• Personal Finance Basics

Christmas and holiday food can be a sink for a lot of hard earned money – chocolate coated almonds are more expensive than gold and food trends recommend serving actual gold in meals. It’s not called the silly season for nothing, and with December holidays fast approaching, so too are the exorbitant spends on side dishes, table centrepieces and snacks.

The idea of cutting down on holiday food spending sound good in theory, but the tips and tricks are often underpinned by a fundamental change in behaviour i.e. they’re a steep mountain to climb and can become overwhelming. It’s like telling someone to start walking on their toes instead of their heels – it might be better for them, but they walk on their heels for a reason.

This guide isn’t about changing, upending or revolutionising the way you spend on food. Instead, we’re going to talk about little tweaks that work to adapt to your habits, rather than overwriting them. After all, at the end of all this, you’re still going to have the same number of mouths to feed, the same cravings, allergies, preferences and styles.


Silly season sees an increase in the specials put on by food precincts. We’re talking two-for-ones, Christmas lunches and the classic New Years Eve package deals. When we see these promotions, it’s important to remember them for what they are – marketing tactics. This isn’t to say that you should stop eating out altogether. Rather, accept that eating out is a) enjoyable, memorable and deserved and b) something to be enjoyed in moderation. An easy way to visualise this is looking at a 30-day calendar month. Let’s use June.

If your current dining out habits are twice a week, you can use a month to implement a 75/50/25 plan. The first week is normal. The second week, aim for 75% of normal. So for eating out twice a week, this will become eating out 1 ½ times. ½ times can be smaller food items e.g. a pie or a sandwich. It’s still eating out, but it’s not a full sit down meal with drinks.

When this is implemented over a month, you should see a gradual decrease in how much you’re eating out. It’s important to remember that eating out is not the enemy. Eating out more than you can afford is the problem.

Food Waste

Probably the biggest confrontation of adulthood is that fruit and vegetables seem to expire at a faster rate than when you were young. That, or the fresh produce you bought knows how much it cost and deteriorates at a proportionate rate.

Combating food wastage starts with cataloguing what you already have. Check your pantry, fridge, freezer, bedside table drawers, laundry – anywhere you might be storing food. More often than not, you will find some good pantry non-perishables (pasta, rice, canned goods), things you forgot about (see the back of your freezer) and some things that have expired. This exercise is about being mindful of what you already have, and whatever you find in your food storage areas needs to be front and centre of your mind whenever you’re about to grocery shop, plan meals or think about going out to eat.

If you don’t double buy, especially on perishable foods, you can save a lot down the line.

Know the price of convenience

We are constantly paying for convenience, in obvious and implicit ways – when we go through the drive through, when we buy pre-packaged meals, even when we buy individually portioned packets of popcorn. But the price of convenience adds up, which is why it’s important to know your what kind of convenience you want to pay for, and where you can supplement the price yourself.

Take buying chicken. Every supermarket offers broken down chicken (think thighs, breasts, tenders, drumsticks), but you can save a lot by buying the whole chicken. But it takes time to break it down yourself.

The best way to know what you’re comfortable sacrificing is to think about what you already buy and assess what sort of ‘inconvenience’ has the highest rate of return for you. You can kickstart this process by swapping out one ‘convenient’ purchase at a time. This process is always best seen as a sum of its parts – individually there is no enormous swing towards your back pocket. But over time, the changes add up.

You can implement this at Christmas by buying full potatoes instead of pre-cut and pre-seasoned or scrapping salad kits for your own take. Know where you can afford less convenient items and go forth.

This beginners guide was meant for exactly that – to begin your journey. This list is by no means exhaustive, and you might already be doing some of these techniques. What’s important is that you keep going, and your hard work will eventually turn the tide in your financial favour. But even more importantly, try not to spend the silly season with your head in your receipts. Even conscientious people need to rest, so to safeguard your progress, make sure to take a break.

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