Christmas can be an expensive time of year. From the arm-length list of ingredients you need to buy for Christmas dinner, to the yearly stash of chocolate baubles that only make it onto the tree for a day or two before they’re snaffled by the kids, there’s lots of bits and bobs that need buying. When everything is added together, it makes for one costly season! What’s more, that’s without even thinking out the money you’re expected to fork out on gifts – it’s the season of giving, after all.
Luckily, there are measures that can be taken to keep gift spending to a minimum. So, if you’re looking to make it through the festive period without breaking the bank, here are five handy tips for staying on budget this Christmas.
- Shop with a plan.
Before you even step foot in a store or start adding items to your online basket, begin by making a list of everything that you need to purchase. At first, this can just be a list of people who you’re buying presents for. If you know what you’re going to be giving everyone, then you can add that to the list too. Alternatively, if you like to browse for inspiration before picking the perfect gift, then that’s fine too. As long as you update your plan with details of what you’ve bought for each person. Not only will this ensure you don’t accidentally miss someone out, it will help you keep track of how much you’ve spent on each person. That way, you won’t have to worry about spending an arm on a leg on your niece, before panic-buying stuff for your nephew to equal out the costs.
Make sure to take the plan with you when you go shopping, so you’re not tempted to buy any unnecessary extras. For the super organised gift-giver, you can even add the shop you’re heading to onto your plan. All in all, sticking to a plan is an excellent way to avoid unnecessary purchases and stay on budget at Christmas.
- Use coupons.
This method takes quite a bit of preparation, but can really pay off. Throughout the year, most companies will offer vouchers and discount codes to customers, to drive sales during otherwise quiet periods. To stay on budget this Christmas, you can make use of these coupons to make your money go further. It takes quite a bit more planning throughout the year, but even luxury brands will have a sale period where you can grab your expensive gifts for a cheaper price than if you leave present buying until the last minute. Black Friday is only a few weeks before the big day, so is a great occasion to get lots of your shopping completed. Some online discount codes will remain valid for a couple of weeks after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so don’t worry if you think you’ve already missed out.
If you’re the type of shopper who prefers to buy their items in store, make sure to have a quick check online first to see whether you can get a gift card for less than its face value. The likes of reward points can also be a massive help at Christmas.
- Spread the cost.
For many people, purchasing every Christmas gift from one pay-check is an impossibility. Under the ruse of being ‘organised’ some even start buying their gifts in September. The extremely organised will have everything sorted by the end of the January sales. While this approach is definitely a great way to stay on budget at Christmas, it makes it difficult to buy someone a gift they want. It’s also a bit dangerous, as the person may purchase the item for themselves over the course of the year, or it may even become something that they no longer want or need.
But fear not, there’s an alternative. Instead of giving your bank balance a bit of a battering (or spending the entire year in ‘Christmas mode), who not consider buying gifts on credit?
That way, you’re still able to buy the items on your loved one’s Christmas list, and can then split the cost over the next few months. There are even options that offer 0% finance. If your credit score isn’t the greatest, don’t worry about missing out as there are plenty of no credit check catalogues.
- Do Secret Santa.
Large families and big friendship groups are the enemy of the budget Christmas dream. How can you possibly keep costs down when you’re buying presents for so many people? Don’t worry, you’re probably not the only person in the family or friendship that feels this way. Therefore, suggesting that everyone participates in Secret Santa is a great idea, and will probably go down well. It can cater for small budgets and large budgets alike depending on the budget you set. Or, it can even encourage everyone to get in touch with their creative side by incorporating a theme, like ‘homemade gifts’ or ‘baked goods only’. That way, you’re also more likely to get a gift from the heart, as your loved one spends their time making a scrapbook or knitting you a beautiful scarf, rather than scouring the web in a panic before buying you yet another shower gel gift set.
- Cut down on the extras.
Sometimes, people are so focussed on what money they’re spending on Christmas gifts that they forget to apply their budget to the rest of their life. A great way to cut down costs during the Christmas period is to take a long, hard look at all those little luxuries that you afford yourself and seeing whether you’re able to give them up for a couple of weeks. For example, could you cut down on the number of gingerbread lattes you buy each week from Starbucks? Can you take a packed lunch to work instead of eating at a café every day? Is it really urgent that you go to see this film at the cinema, or will it be just as good on DVD in a few months? It may seem like you’re sapping all of the fun out of your own life, but these changes are only small and they don’t have to be permanent.