This year has been a little different to most, and life tends to toss us money curve balls at the best of times. For many of us, this year has been harder than usual. Learning to control your daily spending is the essential foundation upon which your financial wellbeing is built - if you can’t, you’ll find it much harder to get on top of your money.
While budgeting may not be something you want to think about with all of the festivities coming up, it’s particularly important at this time of year to make sure we have a plan to enjoy ourselves (and not fall prey to the Black Friday sales)! According to the Money Advice Service, the average UK family planned to spend over £800 on Christmas last year - imagine being able to cut that down by 10% and having an extra £80 to pocket!
Research* shows that most people know that they should have a budget, but it also finds that lots of us find it really hard to stick to one. Right now there’s more pressure to splurge, and we all want to be able to bring a little more joy into a difficult year. If you want to be able to manage the festivities without the financial hangover, pay off debt and build up your savings to provide you and your loved ones with more financial flexibility, read on.
So, there are two questions that are probably on your mind -
HOW CAN WE CELEBRATE?
SHOULD I BE SAVING?
To ensure plenty of festive cheer without creating a debt mountain, we’re here to help you to get organised now and teach you the secrets to having a Christmas that doesn't break the bank.
Let's cover the main expense areas this year. Socialising and travel are less likely to cost you as much this year, so your two main outgoings are likely to be presents, and food & drink. Here’s a handy Christmas budget planner to help you write something down and stick to it!
The spirit of 'giving' is great but not if it breaks the bank. Instead of just going out and shopping, divide the number of presents you need to buy by your total budget. Or if you don’t want to divide your budget equally, put a cost next to each name and add it up to make sure you stay within your total budget.
A great way to stock up on the presents is to plan ahead and purchase on Black Friday and Cyber Monday! You can get fantastic deals on these days, 27 & 30 November, this year. However to benefit you need to make sure you’ve finalised your gift list ahead of these days and know what you want to buy - and only buy it if it’s on a discount and still within your budget!
Forward planning here could reap serious savings and cut some of your Christmas costs. Typically electronics and beauty products have big discounts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So, if you have items on your list that you can get at a bargain price, then it's worth trying to get them on these days. Focus on the retailers that sell those products so you don't get carried away and get distracted by deals that weren't on your list. You want to make magical memories, not fall into debt!
Plus, DIY has been a huge theme this year. Why not create some cards and home-made wrapping paper as a fun family or housemate activity instead of buying them from the shops this year. Another top tip is to visit charity shops - they usually offer reasonably priced cards, wrapping paper and pre-loved presents as an alternative, which means you can give sustainably and support causes you care about!
Food & Drink:
Plan ahead - it might be difficult to head to the pub spontaneously this year, so you can make it a game and a special treat to research where you want to go if you plan to eat out! This way, you can figure out what it might cost, and budget accordingly.
Your largest spend is likely to be on the Christmas day meal, so make sure you’ve budgeted a little extra, and planned the meal ahead.
- Shop in advance for the extras - if you spot a sale on crackers, or know that something will keep, you can spread the costs out over several weeks. Plus, it will help you avoid the inevitable treasure hunt if your local grocery store is all sold out of brussel sprouts on Christmas Eve!
- Frozen or fresh? Frozen goods are often just as good (and perhaps even more so) than what you get fresh in store, and can be much more budget-friendly. If you go for a frozen turkey, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you grabbed a bargain and don’t have to worry about the queues (just make sure you defrost it in time for the big day!)
- Store cards and extra discounts - if you have a store card and have saved up loyalty points, now might be the time to use them! If you have an employee discounts provider, take a look to see if you get an exclusive deal, or look online for coupons and sales through Quidco and other cashback sites.
If you’re cooking for yourself and your loved ones, those last minute runs to the grocery store can cost big-time - think longer-term when it comes to your shopping list to cover Christmas Eve, the full Christmas dinner, drinks and possibly for Boxing Day to New Year too. If you’re lucky enough to have some leftovers, factor that into your planning, too!
Now that you’ve read this article, set yourself a small, actionable goal for the next week. Whether that’s building your festive budget, or beginning your present planning, make sure you do something, and don’t forget to recognise that you’ve taken action, and that’s something to be proud of!
It might take a little time and effort, but in return you could be less stressed and have greater financial security. Have a very merry festive season, then set yourself up to stay financially-stress free going forwards, too!
*Salary Finance’s Guide to Financial Wellbeing 2020-21
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