Be careful of falling into the ‘grab a bargain’ trap at this Christmas time of year.

Christmas shopping time is upon us and we all need a timely reminder to be careful of falling into the ‘grab a bargain’ trap.

As a working carer you will be balancing a very tight budget and this is the time of year when finances can get out of hand if you are not very mindful of your spending decisions.

Just opening your letter box in the weeks leading up to Christmas can put you in a perilous position. Catalogue after catalogue after catalogue exhorts us to ‘buy, buy, buy!’ You don’t even have to leave the family home to be tempted by so-called bargains.

But you won’t want what you don’t see. The best thing you can do is to throw out the catalogues immediately. Do not even glance at them. Pop them in the bin and don’t even let them come into the house. You will feel a sense of relief the minute you throw them out. “Phew, I won’t have to be tempted by THAT anymore.”

It also means your kids and other family members don’t have to be tempted, either. Ignorance is bliss in this regard.

In a similar vein, cancel your subscriptions to email newsletters from online stores. They just tempt you with ‘specials’ you don’t really need.

Really stop and think about the difference between a want, a need and a must-have.

So often we buy an item for all the wrong reasons, such as that it is ‘on sale’ or it is cheap, or we are bored, sad, depressed or just looking for a dopamine feel-good hit to make us temporarily happy. We just feel like we want it.

Our savings partner website Simple Savings offers this advice about buying for the wrong reasons: one of the main reasons people buy things they don't need is because they have so much stuff already, they can't see what they already have.

Before you spend another cent on what seems like a good bargain, do a thorough sort of everything you own – food, clothes, shoes, bags, stationery, tools, kitchen utensils and gadgets – everything. When all your things are organised and accounted for, it is super easy to check what you already have before spending money the next time you think you ‘need’ something. It doesn't matter how cheap something is, if you don't need it, don't buy another!

Bargain shopping is no more valuable or productive than any other kind of shopping if you are still buying that item without a purpose. If you can't come up with anything better than a vague reason why you should spend your money on it, (such as ‘it’s cute’ or ‘the one I have is old even though it still works perfectly fine’ or ‘I might have an office party to go to one day’) put it back and save your money.

Before you let yourself buy something, see if it passes the ‘use it test’. Imagine buying it, taking it home and taking it out of the packaging. Think about where you are going to put it and what you are going to do with it. How will you use it? Then I imagine if you will still be using it in a few weeks, months or years. If you find this hard you probably don't need it as much as you think you do!

And remember, there is an old saying that goes ‘it’s only a bargain if you were always going to buy it in the first place.' If you didn’t need the thing when it was at full price, you don’t need it when the price has been reduced. Right?

If you have an impulse buying habit, a cheaper way of dealing with it is by visiting an op shop in your area. You will be amazed at the amount of beautiful stuff that comes up for sale, often for just a few dollars – crystal glassware, ceramic bowls, stainless steel saucepans, bed linen, blankets, vases, shoes, dresses, coats, hats, books, tableware, paintings, silverware, ornaments and crockery are just some of the things that you will find in most op shops.

Nicely wrapped in Christmas paper, these purchases can make sensational Christmas presents at a fraction of the cost you would pay in a shop.