Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year, but for many people it’s also the most stressful, with pressure mounting as the big day draws closer to spend, spend and overspend.
Last December, the average household spent £567 on Christmas, according to Deloitte. It’s likely to be more this year. This is a significant sum, whether you’re on a low income or not – and one that could cause many a sleepless night over Christmas and into the New Year.
It doesn’t have to be like this, as there are things you can do to soften the financial blow, without missing out on the Christmas cheer.
Work out a budget...
At this time of year advertisers and retailers go into overdrive, piling on the pressure to buy.
If you’re not careful, your spending can quickly get out of hand. So before you do anything else, sit down and work out exactly what you have to spare for Christmas, after bills, rent and the weekly shops. If you’re not sure where to start, try using our monthly spending template.
Once you know your overall Christmas budget, start allocating the money, putting a realistic sum against each person you are buying presents for and against each item, from Christmas crackers and tree lights, to turkey with all the trimmings. If possible, leave a little money aside for anything you may have forgotten.
…and stick to it
Budgets only work if you stick to them, so keep a tally of your spending, and be prepared to compromise if you find you can’t afford to get everything you’d like. If you have a large extended family, why not suggest presents are only bought for the children or turn the stress of buying presents into a bit of fun by running a Secret Santa, with an agreed gift budget.
When and where to buy
Armed with your Christmas list and budget you can start looking around for deals, but be savvy. Check for coupons in magazines, newspapers, flyers and specialist websites, such as vouchercodes.co.uk and don’t be tempted to upgrade to luxury ranges of cheeses or chocolates when you could buy what you know and love. Research has shown we can't taste the difference most of the time anyway.
Retailers tend to discount certain items, like wrapping paper and perishable foods, in the run up to Christmas Eve, but for big ticket purchases, already on your shopping list, check out Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These events see the price of thousands of present ideas slashed, with deals popping up on and around both dates. For example, last year the Amazon Fire 7 tablet was selling for £29.99, down from £49.99.
This year’s Black Friday is on 29 November, while Cyber Monday is on 2 December, so don’t rush off buying expensive presents elsewhere until you’ve checked out these bumper events.
Whatever you’re looking to buy, it’s worth using shopping comparison sites, such as Mysupermarket.co.uk and Google shopping. These resources compare the cost of all manner of items, from a turkey to a TV across numerous outlets, pointing you in the direction of the best deals. Rail fares can be extortionate around Christmas and the New Year, so shop around and book as early as you can. Check out rail comparison sites, such as Mytrainticket.co.uk, alongside your local network for deals.
##Follow the money Price tracker websites like Camelcamelcamel.com and Idealo.co.uk are also worth browsing. They show the price history of goods, so you can tell if there’s an upward or downward price trend and are useful if you have a few similar-priced items on your list, but the budget for one.
Create your own traditions
Adverts portraying the ideal Christmas Day are everywhere right now. But remember, they are only selling the retailer’s own vision of Christmas, which consists of whatever they are stocking this season.
With this in mind, don’t get too hung up on Christmas traditions. Instead, create your own. If a turkey is too expensive, have something else, or turn your hand to making decorations and homemade gifts.
Work those sales
If you’re not seeing family or friends until after Christmas Day, why not leave buying presents until the Boxing Day sales? You could even rewrap unwanted gifts and pass them on.
While you’re at it snap up discounted wrapping paper and cards for next year. Also, look for discounted meat and veg that you can freeze to help you cut back and save for January’s credit card bill.
Christmas is what you make of it, and throwing money at the festive season is no guarantee of happiness. By having the best Christmas you can afford, you will be more relaxed throughout the seasonal period and into the New Year, which can only be a good thing.