Every year, hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders struggle to pay off debt accumulated over the Christmas period. But now the new hampsta savings product is helping to take the ‘debt stress’ out of the festive season.
The new hampsta multi-retailer Christmas savings card offers an easy, secure way for people to save up and really enjoy the festive season. It is a debit card that allows people to save regular small amounts and then spend it as they wish at a range of retailers over December and January.
“You can use your hampsta card on products of your own choice, unlike a Christmas hamper scheme where you have to take what you get,” says Gary Alway, General Manager of hampsta NZ Limited.
“With hampsta, you’ll be able to enjoy Christmas without the subsequent burden of debt you suffer when using a credit card.”
Christmas, with its greater pressure to purchase gifts and entertain family and friends, leaves many New Zealanders deeply in debt afterwards. According to MasterCard, credit card debt in New Zealand increased by $190 million over Christmas 2007.
The New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services says every year after Christmas they get an influx of people requesting budgeting advice. “We recommend that people save throughout the year for Christmas,” says CEO Raewyn Fox.
One of the traditional ways to save for Christmas is through hampers, but Consumer NZ advises people to find better alternatives. “If you want to save for your Christmas fare, supermarket vouchers are a good deal. Hampers aren't,” says the organisation on its website.
An independent report into Christmas hampers undertaken by the UK Treasury last year, after the collapse of the Farepak hamper scheme and the loss of GBP£40 million, came to a similar conclusion. The Pomeroy Report says, “The major disadvantage of hamper schemes is the lack of security they offer over customers’ prepayments, as shown by Farepak’s collapse. The position is made more acute by the fact that people who use hamper schemes are among those in society that can least afford to suffer losses. It is therefore essential that money pre-paid under hamper schemes should be protected.”
Unlike hamper schemes, the hampsta Christmas savings card offers participants the security that all money is kept safe by the Crown-owned Public Trust until it is used. hampsta is the only Christmas savings plan in New Zealand that offers this security.
Two major retailers, The Mad Butcher and Liquorland, have already thrown their weight behind the hampsta Christmas savings plan. This means that from this year, participants will be able to buy two of the major Christmas items – meat and beverages on their hampsta card.
Beer, wine and spirits are some of the most popular Christmas purchases and can be a major expense for consumers over the festive season.
“Our sales in December are usually twice as high as in the next highest month,” says Liquorland general manager Brett Wilson. “Our experience suggests that people commit almost a quarter of their annual expenditure on liquor in just those two months.”
Purchases of meat follow a similar pattern, with The Mad Butcher finding its turnover lifts by almost 60% in December, compared to other months.
Founder Peter Leitch says he often sees the financial stress his customers face at Christmas. “Christmas can be a very stressful time for people and the hampsta card helps you be better prepared for the increase in spending. If you start now, saving just $15 per week, you’ll have over $240 to spend by 1 December. It doesn’t matter when you decide to start saving, every little bit helps to make Christmas more special.”
By next year, hampsta aims to have one retailer in every major retail sector aligned to the hampsta Christmas savings card programme.