According to new research from the Money Advice Trust, the average family is planning to spend over £800 on Christmas this year. At a time when money is tight, many families feel under pressure to spend money they don’t have at Christmas. With shops pushing festive cheer on you at every turn, it can be difficult to resist the temptation to buy All The Christmas Things, and you may find yourself overspending before the big day is upon us. But overspending at Christmas just means January is even worse than normal (and, let’s face it, it’s already pretty crap). Here are a few tips I use to avoid overspending at Christmas:
1. Start saving early
If the average Christmas costs £800, that’s a lot of spare money to find in a single paycheck. Especially when you consider that December is already an expensive month thanks to all the Christmas parties, nights out and family reunions. You might find yourself with less disposable income over Christmas, so it’s important to start saving early. We put a little bit of money aside each month so that by the time December arrives, I’ve got enough money to organise a Christmas to remember.
2. Make a budget, and stick to it
I have a set amount put aside for Christmas, and that makes it a lot easier to organise my finances. I am quite strict when it comes to budgeting, so I sat down a few weeks ago and worked out exactly how much we had to spend. I broke the budget down to cover presents, food, days out and the tree. I know I could save money by investing in a decent artificial tree, but a real tree is so synonymous with Christmas that I can’t imagine celebrating without one.
3. Start shopping early
I’ve been buying Christmas presents for months. This means I’ve been able to keep an eye out for sale prices and promotional offers. We’ve got Ebony a big tub of lego as her main gift, and I bought this when it was on sale which not only saved me money but allowed me to get a bigger tub. Because I save for Christmas throughout the year, I can use some of that money to buy presents in advance which makes things a little easier too.
4. Use discount codes
I do most of my shopping online, partly because I rarely have time without Ebony and partly because I’m not a fan of trudging through crowded shops. Whenever you buy something online, it’s worth doing a quick search on Google to see if there are any discount codes available for the store. For example, typing in JCPenney online coupons brings up a whole list of online discount codes. There have been lots of great online sales over the past few months, and I’ve taken advantage of a few of these when choosing Christmas gifts and decorations.
5. Buy second hand
I visit my local charity shops quite regularly and am always looking out for potential Christmas presents. Over the past few months, I’ve picked up quite a few dressing up outfits for Ebony (always costing less than £1) as well as some games and toys. I’ve also purchased a few bits and pieces for Laurie. I have a favourite charity shop where everything is really cheap, but you can get some really good things in there. One Romiley charity shop currently has Dream Phone in the window, remember that game? I wanted to buy it and then immediately organise a huge sleepover, but it was £40 so instead I just walked home.
6. Do an online food shop
I am terrible at food shopping, Laurie actually won’t let me go because I overspend by a lot and come out carrying a lot of coconut ice which definitely wasn’t on the list. We have an Ocado delivery booked for the 23rd, which means I’ll know exactly what I’ve spent in advance (and we won’t end up with loads of coconut ice). Planning the shop in advance means I can be strict with my budget and shuffle things around to make sure we get everything we need. I think one of the biggest risks with Christmas is overspending on food and ending up with loads of food waste at the end of the week. I have a habit of overspending on snacks so I’m going to try and be really strict with myself this year (so just, like, eight massive bags of Doritos then).
7. Look for free activities
There’s always a risk of going over budget during the school holidays, especially when the weather is bad. It’s not so easy to happily lose a day in the park when your fingers and toes have turned blue. And Christmas can be especially expensive because there are Santa’s grottos to visit, pantomimes to see and Christmas fairs to attend. There are lots of free activities happening though, so it’s worth having a look at what’s on in your local area. We’re splurging on a family trip to see a show on Christmas Eve, but will be combining it with a trip to a free light exhibition nearby.
8. Make decorations
I know some people get really into themes and buy loads of new Christmas decorations every year, but I’m much more frugal when it comes to decorations. I like to get something new each year, usually something chosen by Ebony, but other than that we don’t spend much on decorations each year. We usually create something homemade to decorate the tree. This year we’ll be making an angel to go on top of the tree, we’ve got all the materials now we just need to find the time to actually do it. There are loads of ideas for cheap yet beautiful homemade Christmas decorations online, plus it’s a great way to spend a rainy afternoon with children.
9. Remember what’s important
One of the things that helps me stick to budget is remembering that Ebony doesn’t really care about any of it. She loves Christmas, she’s really excited about Santa and she finds it all really magical, but she doesn’t care how much it costs. She doesn’t care whether her presents are second hand or bought in the sale, as long as Santa leave them under the tree for her. She doesn’t care how expensive the paper they’re wrapped in was, how much her new Christmas Eve pyjamas cost or whether we have value carrots for Christmas Dinner. None of that really matters. Christmas is about spending time with the people you love and taking the time to let them know how important they are to you, it’s not about outspending each other or getting into debt.
How will you be saving money this Christmas?