As the evenings draw in and there’s an unmistakable chill in the air, our thoughts turn to the rest of the year - fireworks, pumpkin spiced lattes and of course, Christmas. You may already be starting to panic at the thought of the average cost of Christmas as there’s so much to buy, but don’t fret! We’ve been speaking to some personal finance bloggers to hear their top money management tips for the festive season.
Set a budget
Francesca of From Pennies to Pounds spends a certain amount per person and hunts for bargains to match the amount she has set:
“I prepare myself for the Christmas season by working out a budget per person, and I don't buy for many people anyway! I buy for my daughter, my brother, my mum and my step dad. None of them want much, apart from my daughter, who believes that Santa gets everything (he gets all the glory!). In regards to buying for her, I head down to my local car boot sale. People sell brand new toys, books, bikes etc - or ones which are in excellent condition. She doesn't care that it's perhaps not in its packaging - she doesn't even notice. It enables me to get her more, and I'm really selective about what I get as well. For her birthday this year I managed to get a bunch of stuff that I knew she would adore, for £3.50.”
Christmas shopping on a budget doesn’t need to feel like a cop out - sometimes the best gifts are the ones with personal touches. If you’ve got a flair for the creative you could make your own hampers for family and friends, including homemade chutneys and soaps, even tailoring flavours and smells to each person.
Like Francesca, you could also keep an eye out for local car boot sales and Christmas markets. There’s always so many in the lead up to the festive period and you could even have your own stall to raise money to spend at Christmas. Check your local Facebook groups and community noticeboards for more detail.
To help you stick to your budget, try using a prepaid debit card. You can load it with your Christmas money and then you know you can’t end up spending more. Take a look at our prepaid card comparison table to find out more.
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Prepare throughout the year
Some find that spreading the cost of Christmas throughout the year and being smart with seasonal shopping, stops that expensive last minute dash and also leaves you with more disposable funds to spend seeing family and friends. Peter from You Could Save gives us his personal finance tip for beating the Christmas splurge on presents and food, and how to manage personal finances and save money:
“Most supermarkets offer customers “reward points “on their weekly or monthly shopping; I save all my points and cash them in for Christmas luxury foods.
When it comes to buying presents, I never rush out as soon as I see a Christmas sale sign, especially in October and November, nor do I ever have the mindset to “get it out the way” - you’ll pay double what you need to at least! Waiting until the right time, “Black Friday” for online electrical deals and for general type presents, clothes, cosmetics and standard type gifts, a few days before Christmas Eve! This can be risky, but you can grab deals of up to 80% off like I did the last three years.
If you’re in financial hardship, creativity I can assure you will be the best gift! In the UK, even the poorest seem to have smartphones, so make a homemade video for a loved one and tell them how much you love them! This will hold the most emotional value, after all, this is the spirit of giving at Christmas isn’t it!”
Preparation is the key throughout the seasonal period and will stop you from thinking ‘I need money for Christmas’. You can also beat the crowds of shoppers if you do a little bit here and there throughout the year. Summer sales often have clothes and items for the winter months, so you can buy them to store away until it’s time. Pauline from Money Stepper is also a fan of spreading the cost:
“To prepare for the Christmas season, I look for sales during the year on items that would make great gifts for my family and friends. I can get great deals and avoid the stress of last minute shopping. Having all the time in the world allows you to pick more thoughtful gifts too.
I also like to make calendars with pictures of me and my family to give to family members. They are really cheap, and make a great custom present.”
So next time you pass something that you think is the perfect gift and you have some cash to spare, snap it up then rather than leaving it all until the lead up to Christmas.
Make the most of cashback
Online shopping not only keeps you safe from crowds rushing for the last in-gift of the year, but can also help you to earn cashback that you can then use to spend on gifts, decorations or even your Christmas dinner. Angie of Dumbfunded has given us a couple of her personal finance tips and tricks:
“Cashback - If you haven't already, register for Quidco and TopCashback - the two biggest cashback sites in the UK. Then try and remember to check if they have any cashback offers on the Christmas items you're looking to purchase. This way you can get a little cashback when buying your Christmas gifts, which will be paid to you once you've reached the payment threshold for the applicable site.”
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Getting sorted for Christmas is great, but you’ll also need to think about the | new year - you don’t want to leave yourself in financial difficulty during the post-Christmas blues. Put a little money away throughout the year and you won’t need to rely on credit for the rest of the year. Esther of Money Nuggets also shares this view:
“One of the best ways to combat a financial hangover after Christmas is to think ahead – if you think ahead and plan what you are going to spend, you can start saving towards a jolly and debt free Christmas without paying for it for the rest of the year.
The earlier you start saving for Christmas, the more you’ll have available to spend. It sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed by how many people don’t | think ahead, and instead max out their credit card and overdraft facilities come December.”
If you do want to take out a loan to help with Christmas, make sure you allow for the repayments throughout the year within your budget. Do your research and make sure that you’re taking on a loan that you can afford.
Check out our loan comparison table to see which one suits you.
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