There is no doubt that excitement is building as Christmas approaches. I can’t quite believe it’s just over a month away, but as the lights go up, the decorations litter our supermarkets and the nights turn chilly, that fuzzy feeling of the festive season approaching is one to savour; and is my favourite of the year. No doubt if you have a family of your own, the excitement among your kids will be starting to bubble over.
But let’s be honest, it’s also that time of year when the bank balance can take a bit of a knock. It isn’t due to recklessness, but invariably with everything that comes with presents, food, drink and travel during the holiday period, a bit of a hole can be blown into one’s finances. November in particular is a dangerous month for this, and research shows that that Brits borrowed over £1.5 billion to fund the Christmas splurge this time last year.
There certainly is nothing wrong with taking out loans, or delving into the credit card. In fact, when done cleverly, it can actually be very beneficial (as explained below). However, there are some ways you can cut back on your Christmas spending without cutting down on any of the fun.
1. No, it doesn’t always have to be the best
So often the mentality, especially when you’re trying to impress, or are short of ideas, is to throw money at the problem. Don’t! Whether it’s buying a turkey, Christmas dinner items, wine or gift shopping, you don’t need to be a retail snob. There are so many deals around, and you don’t need to hit Waitrose or Harrods to find quality. Set limits and budgets for everything you buy at Christmas time, and then challenge yourself to stay within that. Besides, kids aren’t retail snobs anyway!
2. Be a savvy credit card spender
It seems a slightly worrying trend that credit card spending is on the rise at Christmas time over the last couple of years. But there is much to be said for using your plastic. Some customer schemes offer handsome cash back rewards, with temporary deals of up to 5 per cent on all that you spend. What’s important is to clear your balance each month though. Fail to do that, and you’ll get stung by high rates of interest – unless you opt for a specialty 0 per cent card.
3. Secret Santa fun
It’s a lifesaver for strained wallets! So get involved. Whether it’s with family, friends, or colleagues at work, Secret Santa means only buying (and receiving) one gift, but still having a lot of fun doing it. It’s as simple as setting a budget and drawing names from a hat. After that, it’s time to get creative!
4. Play Amazon like a fiddle
Being the giant it is, Amazon operates on paper-thin margins for each sale. And there are the occasional loss leaders too. To find them across any and all departments, and discover discounts of up to 80 per cent, this handy tool will be of great help. Remember though, just because something is heavily discounted and the numbers flash in front of your face so glaringly, it doesn’t mean it is necessarily good value. Be sure to use the ‘CamelCamelCamel’ link within the tool to check the product’s price history first.
5. Put together a Christmas cupboard
Here’s a fun, out-the-box exercise for you. Make a list of everything you think you’ll need for Christmas now, and keep it on you for the next month. Then every time you stumble across something for a bargain price when you’re out and about (even if by accident), pick it up and pop it into your Xmas cupboard when you get home. So many people do their Christmas shopping on one day, or two at most. That inevitably means going to as few stores as possible, and paying over the odds for items as a result (not to mention having a day to dread). Spreading this out across a month will not only reduce the stress of Christmas shopping, but also give you an excellent chance of saving significant amounts of money.
*This is a collaborative post.