Christmas is an exciting time of the year, allowing everyone to enjoy, feel happy, and spend some quality time with their friends and families. Although Christmas is a time of giving, it can mean that you overburden yourself with debts by purchasing gifts you can’t afford.
You will feel a great temptation to buy gifts and spend money on luxuries, but doing so can cripple your finances. That’s why it is crucial to plan, budget, and stay organized to avoid getting into debt at Christmas. There’s a reason Credit Card searches spike in January every year!
Here are our top tips to have an affordable Christmas:
1. Plan Early For Christmas
As always, planning and organization is the key to a successful Christmas. Therefore, you should set yourself a budget early on and keep that money in a pot/ to one side. When calculating how much you will need, you should:
- Create a list of all the things and items you need to purchase. Remember, there is a difference between needs and wants.
- Work out the amount of money you will spend on each family member in terms of gifts. My family and I all set a budget/limit that we will spend on each other each year and then do a Secret Santa name pull.
- You should then do a head count for anyone you expect to have around over the Christmas period. Be it on the day, Christmas eve, boxing day, and even New Years. This will help you calculate potential food and drink requirements and will allow you to save money on food shopping
Once you have developed your budget, make sure you stick to it.
2. Shop Around
Shopping around allows you to compare prices and find the best price for the items you want to buy. Visit different shops and explore online shopping websites, even those that offer NHS discounts. Compare the prices and ensure you choose things that come within your budget.
I would suggest avoiding buying things from people in the street and make sure you don’t borrow money or use any Buy now Pay later schemes that you may not be able to afford. And if you do, check the interest rates as they can be quite high.
3. Do your grocery shop when supermarkets reduce their prices
Have you ever gone shopping on certain days and noticed more yellow reduced stickers than usual? This is because each supermarket reduces their prices more on certain days and times. We would recommend buying as much of your Christmas groceries on these days as possible. And, if you have the space, you can freeze anything that is due to go over it’s best by date!
This is a tip that I highly recommend following, not just on the day of your Christmas shop, but for every grocery shop. This way you can save more money on the lead-up to Christmas.
We have put together a list of the different supermarket reduction times here.
4. Pay Your Bills on Time
If you want to enjoy Christmas and avoid the hassle of putting yourself in debt, pay your bills on time. Pay your mortgage, rent, food bills, utility bills, and other existing debts. Otherwise, you will suffer the consequences. Getting your priorities right is an excellent way to achieve peace of mind even though it is Christmas.
5. Review Your Credit Agreement
Review your credit agreement to check for additional costs or hidden extras and focus on the total amount payable. In addition, ensure that the monthly instalments you will be paying come within your budget before you sign an agreement. You may find interest-free credit promising and attractive, but if you fail to pay on time, you will have to pay more.
6. Perform Credit Checks
If you want to use your credit card for shopping, make sure you do your research, shop around, and compare terms. Remember, some cards have higher interest rates. Others have higher interest rates but provide discounts and interest-free periods. It is crucial to budget for these costs and record the payment dates on a piece of paper or digital spreadsheet.
7. Stay Organised
To reiterate the first point, stay organised! Although Christmas is a time of joy, it can make you feel disorganised because you have a lot to remember at this precious moment. For example, if you have borrowed money, remember that you have to make a payment soon.
Therefore, pay on time even if you have borrowed a small amount of money. Otherwise, you will have to pay additional charges.
You can’t overlook the significance of early planning when it comes to Christmas or any other tradition or ritual. The tips given above will help you enjoy a cost-effective Christmas. Make sure you plan for next year’s Christmas by reviewing the mistakes you committed this year and developing a strategy for doing things differently next year.
James Banerjee is an Account Director who graduated from the University of Kent in 2014. He works in SEO on clients such as HSBC UK and Nestle and he has a keen interest in personal finances and money-saving advice.