The festive season might be the most wonderful time of the year, but it tends to be the most expensive too. It’s easy to spend more than you expected to on gifts, social events, travel, food and more, so it helps to set and stick to a budget. You can still have lots of fun but hopefully without a New Year financial hangover to deal with afterwards.
1) Setting a budget that works
Be realistic: how much can you sensibly afford to spend this Christmas? Will you be staying at home or travelling, and have you made any other commitments? Set an amount for your budget and prioritise your favourite or most important things.
It’s also a good idea to check in with friends and family before you start spending. You might choose to prioritise gifts just for the children in your family, or agree a price cap on what adult relatives spend on one another. You could also try having a ‘secret Santa’ with friends so each person gets one present to open and you don’t have to purchase multiple gifts.
2) Making a list, and checking it twice
Use lists to organise your spending and make sure you don’t forget anything important. That could include event tickets, party clothes, food and drink to serve at home, decorating, gifts, cards and wrapping paper, travel bookings or anything else you want or need. If you’re buying for kids, get them to draw up their wish lists for Santa too, asking them to put their most wanted items at the top of the list.
3) Getting an early start
If you plan ahead it’s easier to spread the cost over a few weeks or months, and you’re more able to shop around and find the best deals. For example, if you’re buying train tickets they’re far cheaper when bought in advance, and you can also save by splitting tickets or buying two single tickets instead of a return. The Trainline and RailEasy are both worth a look.
4) Shopping around saves more
A small amount of research can save a lot of cash. Shop around to find the best deals, but stick to well-known retailers as some offers are too good to be true. If time is on your side, use price trackers such as CamelCamelCamel and PriceSpy to be alerted when prices drop, such as sales. Check voucher sites such as Vouchercodes.co.uk and MyVoucherCodes.co.uk to get extra discounts before making a purchase, and check email newsletters from your favourite stores for exclusive codes, sales and multi-buy offers.
Hosting a party? Try comparing grocery prices with MySupermarket to lower the cost of your festive food and drink.
5) If you’ve left it a little late…
Whatever happens, try not to panic buy right at the last minute. If you do have to hit the shops late in the day, make a list and try to stick to it. You can also buy online to take advantage of last minute offers, then arrange to pick up your shopping in person with click & collect services. Alternatively, some people might prefer a cash gift so they can buy what they want in the sales. If you’re buying on credit, keep track of your spending and make a specific plan for how you’re going to pay it off.
Enjoy Christmas on a budget, and your finances will be in better shape for the New Year.
Penny Golightly is a journalist and author who set up her site to share bargain-hunting tips and information. After living below the poverty line as a child, she decided to avoid running up unnecessary debts as an adult and now lives happily and creatively within her means, and loves finding all the nicer things in life for less. She has written for titles including the Huff Post, The Times, The Guardian and Independent.