Christmas shows up at the same time every year, but most don’t give it much serious thought until December comes around. As such, we end up covering the cost of the festive period with December’s paycheque, starting off the New Year on a financial back foot.
In previous years, surveys have suggested that we as a nation spend a formidable £22 billion on Christmas. That works out as a massive £820 per average household, with a quarter of that sum going on presents. So, what can we do to keep the cost of Christmas down whilst still retaining the seasonal magic? How do we cut out unnecessary costs and still give our families a festive period to remember? We think the answer lies in those impulse buys and last-minute gifts and preparations that lead us to spend more than we mean to and probably more than we can really afford.
Here are our top tips for making sure Christmas is a time to look forward to rather than something to worry about.
Start Saving Early
Even a few pounds a month really starts to add up and helps spread the cost of Christmas over the whole year, not just a few weeks. Try think of small ways to cut back in your everyday routine and instead, pocket the money in a Christmas savings fund. The cash you’d otherwise have spent on that Monday morning coffee; impulse-bought pair of shoes you’ll never wear or that convenience-bought lunch can instead contribute to your big family celebration. Knowing that these funds are going towards something so exciting definitely makes saving much more appealing.
Budget... and stick to it!
Work out realistically how much you want to spend on things like presents, food and drink, going out, etc. Agree with your family and friends a limit on what you’ll spend on each other and don’t break the agreement. Or, even better, make that budget stretch further by agreeing to buy each other your big presents in the January sales.
It Really is the Thought That Counts
Remember, presents don’t have to be expensive to be valued. One way of making sure your time and money doesn’t go to waste is to buy things your loved ones really need. If you are going to make a big purchase, it’s a good idea to buy things that they’d otherwise have to buy for themselves, saving them the trouble and the money. Obvious ones like toiletries, socks and boxers might be a bit cliché, but why not get a bit more creative and pick them up some vouchers for a haircut at their favourite salon? Or vouchers towards some home improvements that they’ve been going on about? Do some detective work and try and find out what they really need rather than showering them with impulse buys that they might not even really want.
Were you given gifts last year that have gone unused such as toys, games, DVDs, books or clothes? Why not pass them on to a better home - perhaps you have got someone in mind who might appreciate them under the tree this year? Or alternatively, sell them on a selling site like eBay, Gumtree or Depop to free up a bit of cash to spend on gifts this year.
Shop Around for Presents, Food and Drink
A few minutes researching online can help you find some great deals to save you money. Don’t be afraid to buy different items from different stores to capitalise on different deals and offers. And remember; budget doesn’t necessarily mean bad when it comes to food.
Don’t be Wasteful
There’s always a huge temptation to buy far more than we need. Last year it was estimated that in the UK we threw away the equivalent of more than 4 million Christmas dinners. This amounts to at least £60m thrown straight into the bin! Try and be a bit more mindful when buying your ingredients to make sure you’re not wasting your food or your money. Or alternatively, make sure you’re using up those leftovers!
Decorations Don't Need to Break the Bank
Christmas decorations can really make your home look beautiful and help get the family feeling festive. But you don't need to spend buckets to set the scene. For tips and tricks, read our blog post on how to save money on Christmas decorations.
Save money and the environment this year by avoiding traditional Christmas cards. Instead, send heartfelt e-cards instead. Not only are Christmas cards expensive, the cost of postage can really add up, so think of how that money could be better spent elsewhere. Don’t think of it as a cop out, though. Take the time to personalise your message and you could even include family photos and let everyone know what you’ve been up to in the past year.
Don’t Spend all your Money
Don’t forget, you still have to live after the 25th December. There will be bills to pay and the month’s ordinary everyday shopping to do, so make sure you keep enough money in the pot to meet your usual budget and financial commitments. And remember, if you need some help in balancing the books during the festive period, MYJAR are always here when you need it.
Warning: Late repayment can cause you serious money problems. For help, go to moneyadviceservice.org.uk