Between the parties, family feast and wrapped presents under the tree, the festive period can get expensive.
The key to success is forward planning; sitting down well ahead of time to understand your expenses and set a budget will help prevent the holiday hangover that inevitably comes in January if you spent too much.
It’s possible to get through the Christmas period on a budget – here’s what you can do right now to help budget ahead for the festive season.
Be honest about your budget
Thinking about your budget well in advance will help you be prepared as expenses start to add up. Be honest and realistic about how much you have to spend; with a figure in mind you’re free to get creative about ways you can stretch each pound as far as it will go. Look at your spending now and see if there is opportunity to reallocate your budget – while you can’t change fixed expenses like household bills, you might be able to free up some extra cash by cutting back on discretionary items and non-essentials temporarily.
Make a list
Sit down with your calendar and make a list. Start by noting down any special events like Christmas parties, along with a list of people you want to buy gifts for this year. Don’t forget incidentals like new decorations, gift wrap and festive food. If you travel to visit relatives during Christmas, make a note of any travel expenses you might incur as well. This will give you a clear picture of everything your money needs to cover in December.
Take inventory of your wardrobe
Having nothing to wear often sends us out on a last-minute shopping spree before a big party or family gathering. When we’re rushed, we spend rather than save. Look at your social calendar and then open up your wardrobe. Do you have something to wear that makes you feel good to each event? Look for ways you can reinvent well-worn pieces; for example, a new necklace or different pair of shoes can make an outfit feel brand new. Knowing what to wear not only makes life easier but saves you making a last-minute and costly dash to the shops.
Plan to hit the sales
Plenty of retailers do promotional sales in November to entice shoppers into stores before the Christmas season begins in earnest. Now is a great time to start scouting out sales and bargains. Don’t forget about online sales, too; UK retailers are starting to offer ‘Black Friday’ promotions that have been famous in the States for years.
Use up your rewards
Do you collect Nectar points or use a Boots Advantage card? Now is the time to cash in on all those reward points. Voucher services like Groupon can also be useful – you can find gifts and vouchers for a fraction of the price they’d normally cost.
Look beyond brand names
Sometimes we end up paying for the brand rather than the product, so be sure to look beyond brand names and instead look for more important markers like value and quality. This is especially true when shopping for the food you’ll need to entertain over the holidays. While Waitrose and M&S are renowned for their Christmas foods, cheaper brands like Aldi, Lidl and Iceland have really upped their game and now offer foods of the same quality for a much cheaper price. The big supermarkets compete hard with one another during this season to offer the lowest prices and win your custom, so shop around and take advantage of all the deals to be had.
Break it down
According to Moneysupermarket, the average adult in the UK spent a total of £530 on Christmas expenses. To help understand where the money is going and create a more detailed budget, they offer an easy-to-use Christmas Money Planner to help you work out how much you have and how much you can reasonably save before Christmas.
The larger the family, the more expensive Christmas can get. If you’re struggling to keep on top of all the expenses that come with buying for an extended family of children, grandchildren, spouses, nieces and nephews, you’re probably not alone. Why not initiate a potluck to help share some of the expenses of the Christmas meal, or host a Secret Santa rather than buying gifts for each person. Setting a spending limit for each person with your family in advance is also a simple way to make sure everyone gets gifts of equal value.
How do you budget ahead for the festive season?