Christmas – what do you remember?

I still have my first doll. Actually, it’s the only doll I’ve ever owned and it’s possibly stood the test of time because I didn’t play with it much. Why would you play with a doll when there was always a real live baby in the house to play with?

I got it for Christmas when I was a pre-schooler. I don’t remember actually ‘getting’ it but I know that it was a Christmas present.

When I think back through all those Christmas festivities in my life, I can’t remember too much about the gifts I received. But I do remember the games we played with the family members that visited.

As we grew older our games became a little more sophisticated and the laughter became louder.

There was no shortage of food and we always ate too much. As a kid, I always wondered why the adults always had to have a nap after dinner. As an adult, I’ve discovered the reason why.

They were happy times and my memories are filled with love and laughter. With all the emphasis that’s put onto gift buying these days, you’d think that I’d remember everything I got and who gave it to me. But I just simply don’t.

I remember the good times but I can’t remember the gifts.


Sometimes I think we’ve all forgotten that  the best Christmas memories are about people and events – the size and cost of the gifts are insignificant.


©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)

Planning your budget for Christmas

A Tip – Money Tips from the Budget Bitch


With less than a month until Christmas Day, I thought I would share an excerpt from my book – “Money Tips from the Budget Bitch”


12 .  Don’t leave your Christmas shopping till the last minute.

There are so many of us that do this… and then we find that because we’re out of time, we dash about in a frenzy and actually spend more than we intended. Sometimes we even buy things that are totally unsuitable, either as gifts or refreshments.

How many times have you finished the festive season with almost half the foodstuffs that you started with? Sure, it means you may not have to shop for a week or two but are mince pies, nuts and pretzels really something you want to eat everyday?

A little pre-Christmas planning and thought will go a long way in making sure your budget parameters are met.


Do make lists well before December.

Buy gifts to suit the tastes of a particular person rather than buying a gift to suit a monetary figure.


You can also find more great tips and hints by clicking this link


©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)


How to fit Christmas into your budget

Soon it will be Christmas – one of the most financially stressful times of the year.

We all know how important it is to not have a financial blow-out, yet every year we hear horror stories about families that suffer terribly as a result of over-spending.

Whilst we all seem to over-eat and drink too much over the holiday season, it’s the money carnage that has the biggest impact.

It’s a crazy time of year for sure. Before you get too embroiled in all the celebrations, let’s take a moment to share some thoughts about the festive season…

Christmas is just one day of the year.

If Christmas is a time for your family traditions, then now is the time to talk about changing or adding some new ones that won’t break anybody’s budget. You’ll possibly find that there are some other family members who are secretly longing for this to happen.

Perhaps your family would benefit from a ‘pre-Christmas planning’ day which will give everybody a chance to plan for the event properly. Why only get together once a year?

Christmas is a time of sharing.

Not only do we share food and drinks but we also share time with our family. Some do that willingly; some do that because it’s expected of them.

It’s not always easy to get a family of different personalities together for a day of bonding. There are bound to be some frayed and jagged nerves by the end of the day.

If you’re hosting the family Christmas party and will have a house full of guests, then hopefully they’ll contribute something or share some of the chores. Let’s face it – it’s no fun cooking for a crowd and then having to wash all the dishes as well.

If this is what usually happens at your place (or wherever you spend Christmas), then maybe it’s time to change some of your Christmas traditions. You’re probably not the only person who needs to watch their money.

Perhaps your ‘traditional dinner’ could be divided into parts that each guest could provide (eg: somebody brings the turkey / ham, somebody else provides the veggies. The pudding could be supplied by somebody else, and the custard could also be made by another guest. Are you getting the idea here?)

  • Consider keeping it simple – you could always arrange for a ‘buffet’ lunch, where everybody brings a platter.
  • If you are cooking lunch at home, delegate tasks. You don’t need to do everything yourself.
  • Share the cooking – ask guests to participate by contributing a part of the menu. Don’t forget that there are other people who would love to bring their ‘family favourite’
  • Plan your menu in advance and also use a shopping list
  • Store brands are great for side dishes and salads etc – nobody will even realise!

And of course, it’s not just the food costs that need to be calculated, liquid refreshments also need to be considered.

  • A lot of money is spent on alcohol at Christmas. Try serving guests a festive glass of punch – you can even stretch out servings with apple juice.
  • Christmas Punch goes a long way, and is less expensive (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).
  • Use lots of ice – this also helps make drinks last longer when the weather is hot

Christmas is a time of giving.

When it comes to gifts, many of us tend to go overboard in that department. How many times have we heard people tell us that Christmas has become too commercial? Or – ‘it’s the thought that counts’ when it comes to gift giving.

Have you ever wondered why so many people seem to place such great importance on the price of the gifts from family members that they only just tolerate and hardly see throughout the year?

We’ve all heard many times, the complaint – “the stingy so and so only bought me a measly ….”

Of course, for those whom we love unconditionally, we’d accept the button off their shirt as a gift – if we knew that was all they could afford.

Maybe this Christmas we could give an extra gift of tolerance and understanding to those relatives who we find hard to love. It won’t cost anything and you may be surprised by the results.

When it comes to buying presents, the first thing to do is to make a list of everybody that you need to buy a Christmas gift for and stick to the list! Then –

  • Work out how much you can comfortably afford to spend on each gift, and do not overspend.
  • Consider a Kris Kringle (Secret Santa) for large family gift-giving events; where everyone draws a name out of a hat and buys a present only for that person. (You’re not the only one on a budget)
  • Choose a theme for your gifts – Calendars, books, chocolates, home-made treats, socks, pens, glasses, pillows, etc. This works really well with a Kris Kringle because the focus is then placed on getting the most suitable gift to for each recipient.
  • Give vouchers – lawn mowing; painting; baby-sitting; house cleaning etc. Nowadays people are time poor, not possession poor.
  • Spending time with loved ones is the best gift of all. Consider a family day pass to the zoo or theme park. Movie tickets for a family outing will also be appreciated

If you are one of those people that just love to decorate the house to celebrate the season, then you may also need to keep an eye on those costs.

  • Don’t over-spend on decorations. Recycle the ones from last year or just add one or two new pieces
  • Wrap gifts in bright and glossy junk mail—it all ends up in the same place in the end!
  • If you must have Christmas lights all over the place – get solar-powered ones and at least cut down on your electricity usage
  • Buy inexpensive candles and decorate them yourself with a Christmas theme. Use tinsel, glitter and ribbons to decorate and save money instead of buying pre-packaged Christmas ones.
  • When decorating the dinner table: Buy inexpensive glasses and paint each guests name on the side, or attach a tag with each name to a glass stem. As an extra gift for everyone this also helps with having heaps of glasses to wash. (each guest takes their gift-glass home)

 For lots of people, spending time with family and loved ones is the best part of Christmas and it’s important to remember that the best Christmas memories are about people and events. The size and cost of the gifts are insignificant.

If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to start your Christmas planning now. Doing this will avoid a major ‘money melt-down’ due to lack of preparation.

Did you know that people who leave everything to the last minute will spend more money because they’ve run out of time?

So it doesn’t matter how much money you do or don’t have, you can fit Christmas into your budget. If you spend more time on the planning, you can make sure you spend less money on the event.


© Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)

Christmas is coming

Christmas is Coming

How many times do you think you’ll hear that between now and December?

Well whether we like it or not, Christmas is just around the corner and now is the perfect time to start planning and get ready.

No matter whether you have a whopping big family get-together or just a small one, it’s wise to do some pre-planning for the big day (or days if it extends into Boxing Day).

Prepare a menu and if your whole family is coming – split it into manageable bits to share the workload around. If everyone helps, it’s going to be a whole lot easier; particularly on your wallet. Start stocking up now and look out for those specials at the supermarket, liquor shop or wherever. There are heaps of opportunities now to buy the things you need, at the price you want.

When it comes to gifts – start with a list of everybody that you have to buy for and then keep it handy every time you go shopping. Look out for bargains, cross them off the list and put them away for Christmas. It makes heaps of sense to do this gradually now rather than running around like a head-less chook a few days before Christmas.

It’s even better if you can spread the shopping over the next 2 months– that way you can pay for it more easily rather than leaving it to the last minute. Nobody likes getting that terrible credit card bill in January; it certainly takes the gloss off a wonderful event.

So get on your skates, get your list out and go for it. 

And by the way – it’s less than 90 days to Christmas.




©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)

How to buy less at the supermarket

How often have you gone to the supermarket for just a few things, and ended up with a huge trolley full?

It’s a common complaint and one way to completely blow your food budget out of the water. Why do we do this?

Well, perhaps one reason is that you’ve gone to the shops without a list of what you need. Once there, it’s very hard to wrack your brain to remember, particularly when the shop is busy and full of bright advertising with great ideas on what to buy. You grab a trolley and start to wander the aisles, hoping you’ll remember and looking for inspiration.

Along the way you see items that look good, or are new and you’d love to give them a try. You see ‘great deals’ like the two-for-one sale that not only puts extra in your cupboard but also on your hips.

Another reason for exiting the supermarket with a full trolley is that you’re a sucker for all the ‘best buys’ and ‘super sales’ that they have. You feel that if you don’t get it now, then you’ll be paying much more next time. You tell yourself that its best to stock up now, while you can.

But have you ever noticed that there is always a good sale in the supermarket? Every week the catalogues announce all the special prices and invariably there’s not a week that goes by when you can’t find something that you need.

How to avoid over-spending at the supermarket? Well the obvious way is to always take a list and stick to what is written down. Do not buy anything that is not on the list.

Or – if you are only popping in for a few items, then make sure you only use a small basket to put them in. Once the basket gets heavy, you’ll soon stop putting things into it.



©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)


Budgeting for wedding flowers




It is believed that carrying flowers by the bride began in ancient times. Strong smelling herbs and spices were thought to ward off and drive away evil spirits, bad luck and ill health. During Roman times, this tradition was extended, with the bride and groom wearing floral garlands signifying new life and hope for fertility.

Brides of today don’t necessarily carry herbs and spices but they do spend a lot of time arranging for the floral pieces to be worn or carried by the bridal party.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to have beautiful flowers for your wedding. All you need to do is plan carefully, order well in advance and not be too fussy by wanting flowers that are out of season.



  • Order bouquets without saying it’s for a wedding and you’ll keep the costs down. You can add the wedding ribbons etc at home (much more cheaply than a florist can)
  • Contact a local floral design school and hire them to provide your flowers. I am sure they would love to have a project such as your wedding to work on.
  • Using beautifully toned foliage for a lot of your displays, maybe with just a few accent flowers, can be magnificent. These can easily be obtained from trees and bushes of friends and family for little or no cost.
  • Tossing the bouquet is a tradition that stems from England. Apparently the women at the wedding used to try to rip pieces of the bride’s dress and flowers in order to obtain some of her good luck. To escape from the crowd the bride would toss her bouquet and run away. Unless your plan is to keep your bouquet on display in your home, don’t bother with a duplicate to toss.
  • Instead of tossing your whole bouquet, just pick one flower to throw. We all know what condition the bride’s bouquet is in after a horde of women start clawing at it.
  • Common sense tells us that having smaller bouquets will mean having a smaller florist bill.
  • Choosing flowers that are in season will keep your costs lower. It can be hideously expensive to buy flowers that are out of season. In many cases, after a few years most brides don’t remember what flowers were in their bouquet.
  • Silk flowers save you a lot of money and they’re already preserved. The Bride could have fresh flowers, but there really isn’t any need for everyone else to have them.
  • When decorating the church or reception venue consider using silk flowers. Once again, these can be purchased inexpensively at large department stores or via the internet.
  • Buy flowers at wholesale prices from the local market for your decoration needs. You’ll need to be up early for this activity so perhaps you could ask a friend to cover this task for you.
  • Check with your florist or garden centre to see if you can rent plants to decorate the church or venue. Offer to place business cards on the arrangements and mention the benefits of free marketing.

A bride will always look beautiful on her wedding day. Flowers are only meant to be an enhancement not a focal point.

It certainly pays to remember that when choosing them for your wedding.



©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)


Is there a cheaper way to have a wedding party?

So, you’re getting married and you want to have a party! Of course, you want to ask everybody that you know, to help celebrate this special day but how big is your budget when it comes to food and drink? The total cost for the ‘wedding reception’  will depend on where you hold the party, who does the catering and how many people you invite.

There’s much to think about –so it will pay you to give some thought to the many options available before you make a final decision. Here’s some help with your decision of what to do –

Most of the large formal wedding reception places will have a caterer / chef in residence. Often you’ll find there is a choice in menus to accommodate various budgets. But food is not the only thing to consider – liquid refreshments are also a large part of the catering account.

If you’re able to, and you decide to organise the catering company yourself, you will need to get several quotes from several companies. Ask your friends for recommendations, and if it’s possible, visit the caterers whilst they are working a function. See what they do, and how they do it whilst they are working. Don’t be afraid to ask many questions about the type of food and how it is prepared. A good catering company will also have photos of previous functions and customer testimonials for you to look at.

And don’t forget to ask these sorts of things:

  • How much does each course cost?
  • How many staff do you have? Waiters etc
  • Who is to provide the table arrangements / decorations?
  • Who is to provide the napkins etc
  • How do you expect to be paid?
  • Can you cater for special diets eg: vegetarians etc?
  • Will you clean up after yourself?
  • Can we have a choice of menu?
  • Do you need a deposit? If so, how much?
  • How long before the day, do you need to have numbers confirmed?
  • Do you cater for outside parties?
  • Do you have the correct liquor licences?
  • Do you provide the bar staff?
  • Can you organise the drinks? Champagne?

When it comes to the drinks / alcohol account, once again, it pays to discuss this before the wedding day. Many couples divide the catering bill into two – food and beverages. This can be a reasonable way of sharing the costs between families. There’s no easy answer to the drinks bill – there will always be complaints that some people drank more than was budgeted for.

It can be quite embarrassing if the ‘bar tab’ runs out before the reception is over. If you’re paying for all the drinks yourself then it’s a much more cost effective plan to stick to some basic drinks, (beer, wine, soft drink) and let the guests know that if they desire anything else, they will have to pay for it themselves.

With some planning and a little forethought you can make your wedding day party one to remember – and it needn’t cost a fortune to do so!




©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)


Can you afford a helicopter?

Often these days we hear the term ‘Helicopter parents’ which is a term used for parents who tend to ‘hover around their children’. But have you heard of the dilemma surrounding Helicopter kids?

“Helicopter Kids” is a term used to describe young and not-so-young adults who live with their parents. Bernard Salt, one of Australia’s leading demographic commentators, coined the term in his book, The Big Picture, as a name for the off-spring who “hover around the family home refusing to fully move out and establish their own household”. (1)

Some family therapists are of the opinion that if you treat your 22 year old like 12 year olds by doing their washing and cooking for them and also paying their bills, then you are depriving them of the opportunity to learn crucial skills for living independently.

Of course, money is an area that can become a stumbling block for parental pride. While most would agree that it’s wonderful knowing your kids want to live with you, admitting that it puts a large financial strain on the household is a real challenge.

Most parents want to give their kids a financial start. By allowing them to live in the family home it means that a HECS debt can be repaid, a rental bond or home deposit can be saved. Let’s face it – the way things are looking, this might be the only financial assistance we’ll be able to give them.

But while giving them reduced rent (or no rent) is one thing, living costs are another issue. I vividly remember the family who rang me in desperation after one of their adult sons had once again eaten a whole chicken from the fridge as a snack. Little did he realise that the cooked chook was to have been part of the family dinner  for that evening.

Families can alleviate the stress that surrounds this complex issue by sitting down and openly discussing the costs of running a household which is now full of adults. All parties need the opportunity to negotiate a reasonable board that honestly reflects the full costs of additional food and utility bills.

If you can no longer afford the cost of a helicopter, and the whole subject is too daunting to organise, maybe it’s time to ask an independent person to help your family plan a strategy that will work for your individual family.

Remember! Your kids are now adults, and they need to learn this valuable lesson – before they leave home!




©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)  

(1)  Bernard Salt, The Big Picture , Hardie Grant Books, Prahran, Victoria 2006

How to stop worrying about your mortgage

In 2016 the mortgage brokers, Mortgage Choice, published survey results that showed that the biggest concern for a First Home Buyer (FHB) is repaying the debt. The survey quoted that 29.2% had said that they worried about how they could afford the repayments.

As we all know, buying a property is possibly the biggest expense that most people will ever have in a lifetime. Unless you have won the lotto, it’s necessary to borrow money for this purchase. And that means making a commitment to the repayments.

In a world where commitment is not taken as seriously as it once was, it’s important for anybody who has a mortgage to know how they will make the repayments. This concern is not exclusive to FHBs.

Some years ago when I worked as a real estate agent, I learned that the ‘buying process’ took one hundred days. This started from the first day when you think ‘let’s buy a house’ to the actual day when you sign the contract.

I would suggest that it takes longer.

Before you purchase a property, you need to have a deposit. You also need to be able to show The Lender that you are able to make regular and consistent payments. Therefore, just getting a deposit will require a commitment to putting money aside into an account on a regular basis.

With the rising costs of housing these days, this could take a little time.

Your ability to prove to yourself and The Lender that you are responsible with money must start with your budget. If you don’t know how much it costs you to live each week, then how will you know how much you can either save or put towards a mortgage on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

A good working budget will allow you to make these payments without too much worry. A worry-free budget will cover all your current expenses and will have a contingency plan for extra-ordinary expenses.

Once you have a mortgage, then it’s important that you review it each year to ensure you are still able to make the repayments. Of course, this will be done with your annual budgeting review.




©   Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions; you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)



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