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From rebranding Christmas cake to revising your budget - we've found the best cash saving tips this festive season

Having the silly season well and truly upon us means food, food and more food! The average household spends a whopping $400 towards the Christmas meal – including the ham, drinks, seafood, puddings and all the naughty extras such as sugar coated peanuts and cashews. That is an incredible amount of money just for one meal! If you include the cost of presents, extra activities and travel to that, the cost of an average Aussie Christmas can go well beyond $1000.

To help you get the most out of your Christmas budget (and hopefully have a little bit left over to celebrate the New Year), we caught up with Jody Allen from the popular Stay at Home Mum blog and Richard Herbst, Head of Wealth Management at Heritage Bank for their top tips to save money this festive season.

First up, we spoke to Jody, who gave us a bunch of nifty suggestions for the use of leftovers over the festive season.

Jody's tips for re-branding Christmas lunch

Christmas Ham

The Christmas Ham can be used in so many versatile ways, in fried rice, ham fritters, on the barbecue for breakfast in the morning. But did you know it also freezes really well? Provided it hasn't been pre-frozen, chop into slices and double wrap in plastic wrap or a clip seal bag and it will freeze for up to six months! Perfect for school lunches with some cheese and pickles!

Christmas Pudding or Cake

Most kids aren't huge fans of the Christmas cake – so if you have lots left over – you just need to re-brand it. Try crumbling some into a tall glass with custard and ice cream for a Christmas Cake Parfait. Or crumble the cake into a bowl, add enough orange juice to moisten it, roll it into balls and cover in chocolate for Christmas Cake Pops!

For a more adults-only Fried Christmas Cake

· Cut 1cm slices of the pudding or cake

· Fry it in a little butter on both sides so it forms a 'crust'

· Add a tablespoon of rum or brandy to the pan whilst it is still hot

· Serve it with Brandy Custard... YUM!

Vegetables

If you baked way too many roast vegetables, don't throw them out! Use them for simple meals like Bubble & Squeak for breakfast, or mash them up slightly, add a few scrambled eggs and a handful of cheese to make a vegetable frittata which makes for a light lunch with some leftover salad! Re-bake the vegetables the next night and serve with cold ham for a simple dinner!

Leftovers need never be boring! In fact they can often be tastier than the main Christmas meal itself – be creative and use that food rather than throwing money down the drain.

With the leftovers sorted, we tracked down Richard Herbst, Head of Wealth Management at Heritage Bank , who shared some of his top tips for starting 2013 without a Christmas debt.

Richard's tips for Christmas budgeting

The key goal should be to not start the new year with new debt. You’ve got to realise during the Christmas period you will be spending more so revise your budget to reflect this and stick to it.

A great way to ensure you are prepared for the extra spend is by opening a dedicated savings account, such as the Heritage Christmas Club account, where you can put small amounts away during the year with no account fees.

The idea behind an account like this is that you will not miss the small amounts being put away during the year so you will have a bit more to play with once the lead up to Christmas heats up. For example, if you put $10 away each week into a separate account, you will have $520 worth of extra spending money available to you in the lead up to Christmas. Double that amount each week and you’ll have $1040 – this can cover costs such as food, presents and family activities.

We’ve had great feedback from our customers in relation to this account and it’s a safe way to ensure you are saving money throughout the year without it costing you any money to do so.

I would also warn against the trap of paying for everything on the credit card unless you plan to pay it off that month. This will ensure you don’t get caught up in spending now and worrying about it later – that is definitely not a good way to start the new year!

How do you keep costs down over the festive season? Some of our cash-savvy customers offered these bits of advice:

1. Make your own gifts, particularly for children – check out Pinterest for some great ideas .

2. Give “promissory notes” with things like two hours gardening, one specially home cooked dinner or one night babysitting.

3. Shop online for bargains – have a look at discounted department stores such as Peters of Kensington or online auction sites such as Grays Online. If you want to shop online but don’t like using credit, have a look at Heritage’s Visa Debit Card as it gives you the convenience of a credit card while using your own money.

4. Making a list of people you need to buy gifts for at the start of the year, and purchase during the year when sales are on.

5. Start shopping early and use layby, that way you can pay off the amount over a period of time, without paying interest.

6. Shopping by yourself, without distraction.

7. Put money away on a weekly or fortnightly basis during the year using a Christmas Club account and taking that money out to spend over the festive season.

8. Research, research, research – when you know what you want to buy, research as much as possible online and in store to get the best price.

9. Budget for each person (and pet) and stick to it.

10. Only spend on credit what you can pay off at the end of that month.

Please consider the Guide to Heritage Deposit Products (available in branch) by phoning 13 14 22 or at www.heritage.com.au) before you decide whether this product is right for you. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this you should, before acting on this information, consider its appropriateness having regard to your objectives, financial situation or needs.

Please consider the Guide to Heritage Deposit Products (available in branch) by phoning 13 14 22 or at www.heritage.com.au) before you decide whether this product is right for you. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this you should, before acting on this information, consider its appropriateness having regard to your objectives, financial situation or needs.

* Based on a $150,000 loan over 25 years. WARNING: This comparison rate is true only for the examples given and may not include all fees and charges. Different terms, fees or other loan amounts might result in a different comparison rate.