Christmas is round the corner, and is a time of the year people enjoy getting together with friends and family to enjoy the festivities.
However much you look forward to Christmas, the expense of it can leave you with a sense of anxiety too. But with a little forward planning you can keep your costs under control and also save some money.
The instinct may be to treat the family even more than usual this Christmas to make up for the year we’ve all had. But what you don’t want is to start 2021 in the red. Planning, budgeting and tracking your spend is the best way to have a brilliant time without giving yourself a financial hangover.
If you’re on a tight budget but more determined than ever to make the most of Christmas, here are some tips to help you avoid starting the new year with a financial hangover.
Think differently this year
The coronavirus pandemic has shown people the huge importance of friends and family, and, in full lockdown, many people have missed social contact more than material possessions or habits such as going to the gym.
So, don’t forget this and think about Christmas presents differently this year. Could you plan a winter walk to a day out with a friend, restrictions allowing, rather than exchanging gifts?
Or perhaps you were one of the many people who brushed up on their baking skills during lockdown? If so, could you whip up homemade tasty treats for friends and family for Christmas, rather than buying an impersonal present?
Plan before you spend!
Make a list of everyone you are buying for and how much you can afford to spend on each based on available income – after all the bills and essentials are covered.
It’s easy to get carried away when it comes to Christmas, but nobody wants to put themselves in debt. Before you start preparing for the holidays, try to work out a budget. Once you have this, it’s easier to plan ahead, rather than planning first and then worrying about how you’ll pay for everything.
Stick to your budget
Once you’ve set a budget, keep track of your spending and you’re less likely to overspend. Whether it’s by using a notebook, an app on your phone or an excel spreadsheet on your laptop, choose a system that works for you.
Keeping track of everything you need to get, and everything you already have, can make the shopping process much smoother and less stressful.
Do ‘family gifts’ or a Secret Santa
If you’ve got a lot of people to buy for, extended family and friend groups – this is a great way to keep the costs down. A large box of chocs, tin of biscuits or sweets or a board game can be a great family gift. Secret Santa is a simple and fun way to cut back on the number of presents you have to buy. If you’ve got a big family, or a big group of friends, suggest drawing names out of a hat, setting a spending limit and then surprising each other with your gifts.
Watch your bank account and credit card carefully
If your bank offers you alerts for when your current account dips below a set amount, opt in. While it may be an extra step, it allows you to spot problems with your account and it can prevent you from overdrawing.
Avoid buy now pay later offers
Tempting as they are, try to avoid this offer from retailers unless you have a plan in place for repaying the loan amount within the interest free period. Otherwise, after the 0% phase ends, you’ll be charged an aggressive interest rate and that new sofa, kitchen, TV could end up costing you far more. And it will have a negative impact on your credit score.
Be smart about delivery
Paying delivery fees can really add up. A delivery pass, where you can pay an upfront fee, for deliveries from your favourite supermarket or even signing up to Amazon Prime just for a month over Christmas, may work our cheaper (just remember to cancel it before the 30 days are up!).
Cut back on some little luxuries
You may not have managed to save up for Christmas this year as much as normal, but who has! If saving doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t worry. Take a look at what you spend on a weekly basis and have a think about what you could cut out. It might be your morning coffee or lunchtime meal deal – skipping these little luxuries can help boost your festive savings.
Add discounts automatically
Use the VoucherCodes ‘DealFinder’ plug-in on Chrome to be instantly alerted to deals when shopping online. A discount or voucher code is simply a combination of numbers and letters, which usually partially describe the offer or discount in some way. Particular brands will enjoy a set discount for a period of time, and so the voucher can be used to obtain this money off. They are applied at the end of your purchase to give you a reduced price on your desired product.
Don’t lose your head over sales!
Do you feel like some stores are always having sales? It all sounds great, but those big sales at big retailers are more marketing tricks than customer benefits. It’s about recognising that buying something at a lower price isn’t ‘saving money’ unless it’s something we otherwise would have purchased at full price. It’s about thinking twice whether or not we really need something or will really love something as is, not just because it’s on sale.
Plan every meal
Don’t be tricked into buying more food, etc, than you need. If a ‘buy one, get one half price’ offer is genuinely good value for you, go for it, but if you don’t actually need two of the items, avoid! At Christmas, everyone tends to over cater on the food front.
But also, don’t leave your food shopping till the last minute. Not only will things cost more, stocks might be lower too – and you don’t want to miss out! Start picking up your favourite festive treats earlier in the year and stock up your freezer, or buy long-life products like mince pies, chocolate and Christmas pudding and store it in your cupboards.
Use cashback sites
If you like shopping online, sign up to one of the various cashback sites, and start earning some money on the things you buy in the run up to Christmas. Cashback websites pay you when you through them to spend with retailers or providers. Websites such as Quidco and TopCashback offer cashback on a variety of goods and services.
Join the club
Signing up to a retailer’s newsletter can bag you an immediate discount, such as 10% off your next purchase. You’ll also be the first to hear about Christmas discount events. Other newsletter benefits include freebies on your birthday, finding out about flash sales first or invites to exclusive events. It’s well worth signing up to get these deals and offers. But don’t just jump in and sign up for every newsletter.
Deploy trolley strategies
Load up your online trolley but don’t check out immediately. If stores spot items sitting in your basket, they’ll ask if you forgot to check out and sometimes, they’ll even send you a discount code to encourage you to buy the goods. You’ll need to have entered your email address, so that they can get in touch.
Make some cash
There is still some time to raise some extra funds and use the money to put towards essentials for Christmas. You could sell things on online marketplaces like eBay or Facebook Marketplace. If you like to declutter your house ahead of Christmas, take a look around for items that you haven’t used since last year, clothes you’ve never worn or even unwanted gifts.
Save the change
Saving the change is a really easy way to boost your savings without even realising. If you go out and spend cash, take whatever change you have and pop it in a jar until Christmas. Or if you tend not to use cash, certain bank accounts offer a save the change option which does the same thing.
Try your hand at DIY gifts
Why not let your creative-side loose and try making your own gifts this Christmas? This could be anything from personalised artwork to tasty edible treats. Homemade gifts are a really thoughtful way to show how well you know somebody too.