According to research from the experts at the Money Advice Service, almost one in three (30%) of us feel pressured to spend more than we can afford over the festive period. But with a little planning and by using the Service’s Christmas Money Planner to help get your finances in shape for Christmas, it can be relatively straightforward to avoid feeling the pinch in January.
Set a budget – then stick to it
It’s not how much you spend on Christmas. The important part is deciding on an amount you’re comfortable with and sticking to it. Start by just choosing a figure that will work (factoring in your normal bills), then split it into the different areas you need to cover (see our budget breakdown below).
Once the festive mood takes hold, it’s far too easy to hit the shops, think ‘Oh, but it’s Christmas,’ and spend another £20 on things we don’t really need. This can add up to hundreds of pounds, so it’s important to take control. A budget will help you be more aware, so you can weigh up the buzz of Christmas spending versus the achievement of doing it your way (a way you can afford).
Christmas budget breakdown
It’s easy to go overboard at Christmas by forgetting just how much there is to do. Make sure you include all of these areas in your budget.
- Presents and wrapping
- Cards and postage
- Food and drink
- Going out
- Party clothes
✓ Stick to your budget.
✓ Get guests and family to pitch in.
✓ Shop around for the best deals.
✓ Buy with cash or debit card
✓ Factor in a little treat for yourself (you deserve it).
✘ Take on debt you can’t afford (including loans, overdrafts, credit cards, credit agreements and store cards).
✘ Forget to pay your everyday bills.
✘ Buy on impulse.
✘ Turn to unauthorised sellers for cut-price or knock-off items. They might be fake, stolen or unsafe.
✘ Feel guilty about doing the sensible thing.
✘ Try to avoid doing everything at once
Life is hectic as it is. Throw in a three-week sprint of festive shopping, catering and card-writing, plus house guests and visiting, and it’s a miracle that Christmas happens at all. Although these tips may be too late for some of us this year, try to factor some of them in for 2018.
One way to dilute the Christmas rush is to tick some boxes in the weeks, or even months, before. It’s a great way to spread out costs too.
Shopping: shop for presents throughout the year. This is also a way to grab best deals. Just keep track of what you buy so you don’t overspend.
Frozen assets: you can buy or cook-and-freeze all kinds of Christmas foods, from stuffing and veg to canapés and cheeses. Start now and you’ll be well ahead come Christmas day.
Decorations: the best time to buy Christmas decorations is – of course – the January sales. If you’re not in the habit already, start doing it this January and next year you’ll have that box ticked already.
The experts at Money Advice Service have pulled together their top five tips on how to keep your finances in check over the festive period.
1. Set a budget
Work out how much you can afford to spend in total over Christmas. The Money Advice Service’s Christmas Money Planner is great for creating your own budget and see how much you can save in time for Christmas Day.
Think about how much you’ll need for food, socialising, presents, decorations and any other related things. Here you can prioritise on spending more on the most important aspects.
2. Keep track
Make a note of what you’re spending – whether this is by keeping receipts or just making a note on your phone or in a notebook. This will mean you’re more likely to stick to your budget plan. You can also simply take out a certain amount of cash each week or day so you know how much you have to spend.
You can free up more money by thinking about whether there are any costs you can either reduce or cut out altogether. Money Advice Service’s Quick Cash Finder helps you to work out where and how you could easily save on your regular spend.
See if you could save a few pounds by switching to your supermarket’s own brand on regular purchases (e.g. such as cereal or ketchup), or by doing your food shop at a different supermarket altogether.
Having a clear out ahead of Christmas can save space and help to free up some extra cash. If you have any old and unwanted items, look into selling these on a site such as eBay.
Make it fun, not perfect
Often, the idea of a ‘perfect’ Christmas is something only mums can see. We feel we’re letting people down if things aren’t special enough, but actually, they’re just happy it’s Christmas. Ultimately, it’s about what brings you joy. If being the Christmas maker and scene-setter is what you love best, then embrace it and be proud. If not, then maybe we’re missing out on one of the most important things about Christmas, which is that it’s there to be enjoyed. When else do you get to eat chocolate before breakfast, wear a silly paper hat and set fire to your dessert?
It’s Christmas. So have some fun with it!