A budget is for life, not just for Christmas

Christmas can be a very expensive time of year that can mean many people creating a debt that takes much of the year to pay off. What if there were ways to survive the festive season without breaking the bank?

Start early – spread the cost of Christmas over longer to reduce the need to rely on costly credit for last minute spending.

Shop online through cashback sites, generating money to spend on other presents.

Consider what is important – take a leaf out of the Danes’ book – focus on the value of spending time with friends and family rather than expensive gifts, plan experiences rather than things, perhaps agreeing to get only one thoughtful gift for each other. For example a relatively inexpensive idea for grandparents could be a few of their favourite prints of the little ones in a photo book (or photo album you have put together, with prints that can be obtained very cheaply online) that they can keep and look at to give them a warm glow.

Can you wait until the sales? If you are not due to see a relative until after Christmas consider buying their gift in the sales, especially if it is electrical as many stores reduce prices drastically on Boxing Day.

Children’s markets – instead of spending a stressful afternoon scouring the toy superstore for overpriced plastic items, attend a kids market (or similar event) where you can buy good quality second hand toys for a snip of the price and if you wrap them creatively  the kids will never know.

Re-gifting – eBay does not only sell used items, often people sell brand new in the box items at a price lower than buying from the shops. In turn, if you have unwanted gifts turn them into cash.

The Money Saving Expert website (www.moneysavingexpert.com ) has many tips from the highest interest saving account to reclaiming PPI. Check it out over the seasonal period, for its list of latest deals.

For parents the fear that you have not done enough, that there will not be enough presents to last past 9am on Christmas morning, is enough to warrant unfettered spending. How about keeping some gifts to the side should you feel the need for them, if not keeping the receipts so they can be taken back?

Focus on gratitude – many sources of research confirm that those who feel more grateful for the little things rely less on buying for their happiness. Encourage your family to talk about what they are grateful for, to appreciate what they have, taking less for granted and desiring less material things leading you to save money in general.

For those celebrating Christmas on their own, how about reaching out to a local charity or community organisation to volunteer your time, in turn feeling warm and fuzzy at a potentially lonely time.

Can you avoid the deluge of adverts at Christmas time? Perhaps by restricting the kids watching to on-demand or through sources like Netflix you can avoid the numerous adverts for toys, gadgets and cosmetics. There may be the odd ‘app’ that still requires you to watch two to three ads before you can view but this still is far less than you would have to watch when viewing terrestrial TV and will cut down on the nagging and three page letters to Santa. It’s also an alternative to a costly Sky package.

If you couldn’t possibly consider Christmas without Marks and Spencer’s mince pies, then don’t compromise on those. However, consider doing the rest of your shop at a cheaper supermarket where quality isn’t compromised by price, some of which also do a selection of miscellaneous yet quality items possibly good for the odd stocking filler.

In terms of money saving on your Christmas dinner, the BBC’s Good Food site have put together some tips, such as choosing your cheese and whether it’s better to have a bigger or smaller bird.

Think about how you could do it differently next year – putting a small amount aside every month with the credit union, through a pay deduction savings scheme for those employed would mean saving without having to consciously put money aside. Credit unions also offer credit at a lower interest than most high street lenders to their members.

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