Christmas is a time of good cheer and bad money management for most of us, with an average overspend of £150 each year. A little planning and some self-discipline, though, can pave the way for a debt-free New Year
On average, Christmas costs us a reported £538 per year, taking presents, food, drink and get-togethers into account. What’s more, this means we’re overspending by £152 beyond what we can really afford. It appears women spend more and men slightly less than the average. So how exactly can we keep the reins on our festive finances?
With all the build-up, the hard-selling and the stress, it’s easy to forget that Christmas isn’t all about blowing money. Spending a bit of quality time with family and friends is worth more than any flashy gift or luxury turkey dinner. Have a look at the Quids in! 12 Saves of Christmas and help make the holidays about more than just money:
- The Borrowers
Each of us borrows an average of £300 at Christmas. Those of us with the least tend to borrow the most and the debt can really add to the January blues. With a bit of planning – and the will to say ‘No’ sometimes – we can try to avoid putting it all on a credit card or short-term loan
- Super Savers
Instead of having to buy everything for Christmas out of one pay cheque, try saving a little each week. Spreading the cost throughout the whole year is a great way of taking the stress out of the festive season
- Points Mean Prizes
Christmas is the perfect time to cash in on any loyalty schemes, like points on a supermarket card or discounts through a credit or debit card. Treat these as a savings plan through the year. Better still, join a Christmas Savings club in the New Year, just make sure the loot is secure. (See which are the best loyalty card schemes, according to savvy shoppers at Save the Student)
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, shops bump up their prices, knowing full well they have us over a barrel. But we can beat the Christmas premiums by getting our gifts in early. If we’ve built a little savings fund throughout the year, we can get the bulk of our gifts in before the December stampede starts
- The Budgeters
It’s very easy for Christmas spending to quickly spin out of control. If we set ourselves a budget before we’ve spent a penny, we’re much more likely to stay within our means. Work out the basic costs of food, gifts and anything else, add 10 per cent as a buffer, and take back control of the season’s spend
- Secret Santas
Buying a gift for every family member can break the bank. It can be overkill, too. Why not agree on doing a Secret Santa for a year? Everybody gets one gift for one person, with a cap (of say £10) on how much each spends. It’s fun, fair and frugal!
- Nifty Gift-Getters
Giving gifts we’ve made ourselves is a lovely Xmas touch. It can save us a small fortune, too. Whether we make our own cards or give out jars of homemade jam, a little time spent making gifts can save us a bundle. Kids love craft too, so get them involved for a double win.
- Cashing In
One way of pulling in a bit more cash for Christmas is to sell old, unwanted presents. Great Aunt Edna meant well by giving us that seasonal gnome last xmas. But if it’s spent a year in the cupboard, why not put it on eBay and make a gnome collector’s day, (while also bringing in a crucial few quid)? Or re-gift it to someone you were planning to buy for… just not back to Aunt Edna.
- DIY Decorators
Just like with homemade gifts, homemade decorations add a unique, homely touch to Christmas. With a few basic materials and a couple of hours, we can knock up an advent calendar or decorations for the tree. Check out this guide for DIY decorations for inspiration.
- Feast for days
Almost all of us get too much food in during the festive period. Instead of chucking out the leftovers, we can stretch them out and make delicious meals for the next few days. It doesn’t have to be just turkey curry either! Check out these 64 xmas leftover recipes, or invent your own! If we’ve room in the freezer, make room for dinners that could come in very handy later on.
- Beat the system
The unsold boxes of crackers and Christmas puds on the supermarket shelves make for a sad sight a couple of days after the big day. Buying crackers on the 28th December might seem, ahem, crackers but the prices go down to next to nothing. So a couple of quid spent now on wrapping, cards and decorations can save £££ for next year.
- Digital Does It
The price of postage makes sending cards costly these days. It’s lovely to stay in touch, if only once a year, but emails or Facebook messages can achieve this too. We could even a record a little video on a smartphone or laptop webcam. Put some thought into it, though, and make it personal and heartfelt. Hand-writing cards means we only have time to make the gesture, so this could even mean more.
More to Inspire
- Free and cheap ways to spread some seasonal cheer (Money Saving Expert)
- Get decorating – do-it-yourself style (Readers Digest)
- Ideas for meals from the leftovers (BBC Good Food)