How to get ready for Christmas without breaking the bank
If you get stuck into some Christmas prep now you can save a bundle come the big day – and wake up less stressed too.
If you don’t want to suffer from a Christmas debt hangover, check out our simple tips on how to keep costs in check and get the most for your money.
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Build a budget
Start by thinking about how much you can afford to spend.
This helps focus your mind on what’s actually possible, which may not be an all-expenses-paid trip to Lapland. Check how much you’ve got in savings and how much more you can afford to set aside before Christmas. Remember that sadly normal bills don’t disappear in December, so you’ll still need to fork out for everything from rent or mortgage to water, phone and heating bills.
Christmas ads are designed to encourage us to spend, spend, spend
Work out what your budget needs to cover
Now consider how far your Christmas spending needs to stretch.
Include not just presents and festive food, but other expenses such as decorations, wrapping paper, travel, and socialising.
Make a distinction between the real essentials, and any extras that would just be nice to have.
Set spending limits
Once you have an idea of your budget and what it needs to buy, tot up how much you can spare for the different categories.
Break it down into how much you can spend per present - you might want to spend a bit more on the kids and rather less on other people, for example.
Consider a Secret Santa
If your present list has spiraled out of control, consider cutting down on presents for wider family and friends.
If you’re preparing well ahead, you’ve got time to let people know, so they don’t rock up with something mega-expensive come Christmas Day.
For example, agree just to buy for the children, focus on family gifts such as board games or set a present limit of a fiver or a tenner per head.
For close family, consider a Secret Santa, where all the names go into a hat and everyone buys for one other person.
If money is tight you can always offer to drop presents completely with an understanding family member for a year and swap nice cards instead or swap a special festive dish if you’re visiting each other's houses.
Christmas costs will be less painful if they don’t all have to come out of your December paycheque.
Move some money into a savings account each month, far from the temptation of your current account, or set up a specific savings account labeled ‘Christmas’. You’re less likely to dip into it if it’s got a named reason to be there.
Spread your spending
Try not to leave all your Christmas spending to a panic on Christmas Eve.
Buying presents and non-perishable food early gives you the time to search for good deals, snap up stuff in sales and avoid express delivery charges.
You might also be glad of that turkey at the back of the freezer if we face any supply shortages nearer the time.
Just beware of buying festive food too early, if you might be tempted to scoff Christmas treats and then have to buy them all over again.
Cut out waste
Food often eats up the most Christmas cash after presents.
Work out how many people you’ll be feeding when, so you can plan how much food to buy without loads of leftovers.
Nowadays, the shops only shut for a day or so, so you don’t need to lay in loads of extra supplies.
If you’re planning ahead you could also ask different people to bring different things, such as a pudding for Christmas Day, a veggie main, some booze or the crackers.
Beware of advertising
Christmas ads are designed to encourage us to spend, spend, spend.
Stay savvy, rather than believing every home has a heap of presents bigger than a toy shop.
Christmas can still be special even if you don’t buy every single item in the festive ranges.
Help your children have realistic expectations of what they’re likely to receive come Christmas morning.
If the latest high tech toy or gadget just isn’t possible, warn them in good time before Christmas starts. If they are likely to be given any money for Christmas it’s a good time to talk about saving up for special items that can be bought in January sales.
Stretch your budget
If you need to make your spend go further, check if there’s anything you can use instead of money.
Think supermarket loyalty points, cashback earned from sites like TopCashback and Quidco, selling stuff on eBay, regifting or gift vouchers.
Could you give time, for example as vouchers for babysitting, gardening, cooking or a manicure?
Cut borrowing costs
Ideal world, no-one wants to drown in debt for the sake of one day.
But if you do need to borrow a bit, look for ways to cut the cost, such as using an interest-free purchase credit card rather than an expensive overdraft.
Focus on making memories
You can also think of ways to celebrate Christmas that don’t cost a bomb such as baking Christmas cookies, watching special Christmas movies and heading out to see Christmas lights after dark.
Spending time together with family and friends trumps any toy that could be broken by Boxing Day.
3 things to do right now...
Work out how much you can afford and then think about what you really need to buy.
Start setting aside money each month in a savings account, so the Christmas costs don’t all have to come out of your December pay cheque.
Stretch your budget by using things like supermarket loyalty points, earnings from cashback websites, gift vouchers and the proceeds from selling stuff online.
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Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.