Seasonal Expenses? Top 10 Money Saving Tips for Christmas!

How to manage the seasonal expenses this Christmas…

Christmas is nearly here but for many people the fun and festivities are marred by stressing about money. Christmas can be such an expensive time and we fear what January will bring! It always seems to be such a long month and the money runs out part way through… and we are terrified to open our credit card bills to see the result of all that last-minute panic buying!

But things can be different. Ideally we should save money throughout the year in preparation for Christmas. We all know that but very few people do it: maybe 2017 is the year we will actually start? If you commit to saving a small amount each month, and treat it as you would an essential bill rather than an optional extra then this time next year you should be in a stronger financial position as the festive season approaches.

But it is still not too late to rescue our Christmas finances for 2016! Don’t be left scrabbling around looking for emergency cash; here are our Top Ten Tips on how to manage seasonal expenses this Christmas:

1. Set a budget up front
Sit down and make a list of everything you need to buy this Christmas. Be realistic. Remember to include not just presents but food and drink, decorations, travel and anything else you need to spend. It is not easy looking at numbers in black and white but better to be aware upfront – when you have a chance to change things – rather than be shocked by those credit card bills in January!

2. Ask the family
A major part of your budget is likely to be presents for family and friends and this is an opportunity to cut your costs. At Christmas we all feel under pressure to please others – particularly children. But a major lesson in life is that love is not measured by the amount of money we spend.

Why not agree with adult family and friends either not to do presents this year, or to limit them to very small amounts, or to do a Secret Santa between you? If you have children and they are after something special then perhaps several family members can contribute to this as their main present and it can then be supplemented with several of smaller gifts.

3. Shop around
Once you have decided the kind of presents you want and the amount you have to spend then make the numbers add up! Major supermarkets will be competing against each other at this time of year so be prepared to shop around to get the best deals from each. Don’t forget that there are also many outlet and clearance stores around where you can buy big name products at a lot less than the normal retail price.

4. Voucher Power!
Many of us have additional spending power that we don’t make use of. Are there any gift vouchers around your home? According to the Gift Cards & Vouchers Association, 6% of all gift vouchers are not used – a value of around £300 million a year! Also don’t forget any reward points on supermarket and store loyalty cards. If you shop online there are various cashback schemes such as Quidco where you can receive a percentage of the value of your shopping paid directly into your account.

5. eBay
Talking of shopping online don’t forget the world’s online marketplace – eBay! This can be invaluable two ways at Christmas. Firstly it’s a great place to search for gifts at bargain prices. Secondly you could make a bit of extra money in the run up to Christmas by having a pre-Christmas clear out and selling items on eBay. It’s amazing what people will buy – they may be searching for exactly what you are desperate to get rid of! Just think: even if you only sell one item every day between now and Christmas at an average value of £5 that would be a very welcome help with your seasonal expenses.

6. DIY Gifts
Instead of buying some of your gifts, how about making them? Handmade gifts are often much more appreciated than something off the shelf, and many of us have hidden talents that can be put to good use. If you are not sure how to get started then why not join the popular trend of upcycling? Find existing items – such as wooden boxes or small items of furniture – at car boot sales or charity shops and give them a special makeover for a gift with a truly personal touch. Sites like Pinterest will provide you with all the inspiration you need!

7. Gifts for Free!
We’ve all heard the phrase about there being no such thing as a free lunch, but you can be creative and obtain free gifts! Take a look at your local freecycle site to see what people are giving away and you may be surprised – particularly if you are prepared to do a bit of upcycling as well.

Another idea is to swap things with friends. Perhaps they have a child’s trampoline they no longer need but would love that antique vase you never use. Another variant on this is to create a gift voucher system between a few of you with different skills. If one of you is a trained hairdresser, another a skilled knitter, and another an aspiring candidate for MasterChef you could each agree to provide that service as a gift for someone on each other’s list.

8. Save on Postage
In today’s digital age, many of your friends would be happy for you to email Christmas cards rather than post them and this can save you a lot on postage. There are various websites on which you can create your own cards, using family photos and videos if you wish. If you do need to send a parcel, discount couriers can be cheaper than Royal Mail, and will usually collect from your home.

9. Don’t buy too much food
We all do it! Panic buy too much food at the last minute – “just in case” there is not enough – then end up with a lot of waste afterwards. Plan your menu carefully including thinking about portion sizes. Check out the wonderful website Love Food, Hate Waste for guidance on this. Make sure everyone has a lovely time but you can probably buy about half of what you did last year!

10. Watch your drinks
Just as with food, we feel obliged to spend far too much money on drinks over Christmas, trying to cater for every possible combination of what people might like. This year make sure to share the cost. Yes of course you need to have a basic choice of drinks available to be hospitable but if people have particular requirements or want to drink excessively then you need to gently encourage them to bring their own! Also don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to drink continually through the season: why not make this the Christmas when you are merry for all the right reasons!

We hope that the above tips help you get in control of your seasonal expenses this Christmas, and also that you will be inspired to save money during 2017 so that next Christmas is a joy and not a struggle!

*All figures and rates correct at time of writing