Christmas spending warning: If you can’t pay for it upfront, you can’t afford it


Within our New Zealand bubble things appear to be going exceptionally well, despite Covid-19 still strongly dictating global society and decision making.

But could we be playing a game of two halves, where the first half has made us far too complacent, and we should be feeling more nervous than we are about the second half?

This year has been difficult but as a country, we have had great success surviving the initial health crisis of Covid-19, with many businesses reporting higher profits than 12 months ago.

The wage subsidy gave businesses the $13 billion lifeline they needed during the level 4 lockdown to provide stability.

Domestic tourism has thrived. Tourism New Zealand estimated we spent $6 billion more in New Zealand that we usually take overseas to Rarotonga or Italy over the 2020 winter months.

A construction boom is currently happening. An estimated $4b is being spent on upsizing or renovating in the second half of this year, and skyrocketing house prices are the main topic around every barbecue.

The fear is that our buffer has now gone, and the second half is showing some worrying storm clouds. We gain around $18b, or 6 per cent, of our annual income in overseas tourist dollars.

The majority comes in over our summer months from December through the Chinese New Year to the end of March.

If even half this money comes in over the summer months, and Kiwis finish spending their overseas holiday funds as we head to our great beaches, then that’s $9b that won’t arrive into our country coffers by March.

Places like Gisborne and Masterton are not going to be hurt as much by this trend as they don’t get large numbers of international visitors, but Rotorua, Queenstown and probably Auckland are going to really feel the pinch of this shortfall come April.

Compounding the overseas tourist dilemma are significant supply issues that New Zealand retailers are facing with Christmas on our doorstep.

Businesses are finding there are huge stock delays from overseas because of freight issues. There has been a massive reduction in air traffic, pushing up the cost of air freight, which would usually take a large chunk of international exports around the world.

Importers and exporters have therefore turned more to sea freight, overloading major ports in the US and Europe that cannot cope with the large volume of container ships, resulting in long delays.

The logistics of this situation is about to bite as we hear many clients will be limited in items they can sell. They are encouraging customers to buy now, which will mean an uncertain summer for these same retailers once the Christmas and New Year rush ends.

With a potential cash crunch looming, we really need to be focusing on ourselves, our communities, and what we can do to help our own situations.

Before we buy a new spa pool, the car we always wanted, or renovate the tired kitchen because of cheap interest rates, we need to tick off the basics first.

Get rid of consumer debt by paying off your credit card or personal finance, build up a rainy day savings fund for unexpected events, and be mindful about your Christmas spending, not borrowing money to fund your family’s Christmas.

The same rule always applies; if you cannot pay for it up front, then you cannot afford it.

A global pandemic is something that global citizens and the global economy have never experienced before.

There is no playbook for how this will all map out in coming years, and while any economic pain will hopefully be short-lived, the worst thing we can do is become individually complacent for our households.

Now is as good a time as any in history to act your wage.

Tim Fairbrother is a certified financial planner at personal financial advice firm, RIVAL Wealth. His disclosure statement is available on request and free of charge.

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