Many of us are struggling to cover our everyday bills, which can make the thought of Christmas and all its associated costs feel more daunting than ever.
A typical household spends almost £740 or 29% more in December than their average monthly expenditure of £2,500, according to data from the Bank of England. This year, however, most people will be looking to reduce their expenditure, so they have enough to cover essential living costs such as mortgage payments and heating bills.
Here, we look at some of the things you might be able to do to keep Christmas costs down.
1) Work out a budget
Your starting point should be to work out how much you can afford to spend this Christmas. Alice Haine, personal finance analyst at DIY investment platform Bestinvest, said: “To set a budget, first plan out exactly what you need to buy in terms of food and drink for festive social gatherings and the big day itself, as well as presents for family and friends, clothes and accessories for parties, transport, accommodation, a tree and decorations.
“Then set as conservative a figure as possible across six categories: food and drink; presents; clothes; transport and accommodation; going out and 6. decorations, and then check how much you saved up in advance or have sitting in your current account. If your aspirations and reality don’t match up, trim your forecast for each category until you have a more manageable figure.”
2) Buy one gift per family rather than lots of individual presents
If you’ve got lots of relations to buy for, why not agree between you to buy one gift per family rather than a present for every person. You might decide, for example, to buy a board game, or a voucher for a meal out, or a bumper box of sweets for everyone to enjoy. This can substantially reduce the number of presents you have to get, as well as your costs.
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3) Shop second-hand
Once you’ve got a list of things you want to buy, see if you can get them second-hand rather than new. Parents admitted if buying new, they would spend an average of £46 on a toy or game for their child, but this is almost cut in half to just £26 when purchasing second-hand, according to research by website Gumtree. Buying secondhand also means less packaging ending up in landfill.
4) Don’t be pressured into buying supposed festive ‘bargains’
Retailers go out of their way to tempt us to splash out over the festive season, so it’s a good idea to try to unsubscribe from as many shop newsletters as possible. Tara Flynn, personal finance expert at Choosewisely.co.uk, said: “Remember that retailers hire experts who know precisely how to word their marketing and present goods to make you want to buy things you never knew you even wanted or needed. Be strict with yourself and only buy what’s on your list, no matter how much money you think you’re saving.”
5) Compare prices before buying
Make sure you compare prices of the presents you’re planning to buy this Christmas, so you can be confident that you’ve found the best possible deals. Ms Haine of Bestinvest said: “CamelCamelCamel, for example, tracks prices on Amazon products to help you assess whether a sale price really is a steal deal, while sites such as GoogleShopping, PriceSpy and PriceRunner compare prices on certain products with online retailers.
6) Get cashback when you spend
If you’re shopping online, always use cashback websites. These pay you cashback on anything you buy because they are paid a referral fee from the retailers you shop from, provided you’ve gone through them first.
Tara Flynn of Choosewisely.co.uk said: “Websites like Topcashback are free to use and give you money back on purchases from thousands of retailers across the UK. It's a great way to make money, simply by spending money on items you need to buy anyway.”
7) Post early
If you have to post some of your presents, make sure you get them off early so you only need to pay for second class postage. The final recommended date for sending items second class this year so they arrive in time for Christmas is December 19.
If you’re posting parcels overseas to Europe using International Economy delivery, you’ll need to get your skates on as the final recommended posting date is November 28. Posting early is especially important this year because there are several Royal Mail strikes planned this month and next, which are likely to mean it’ll take longer than usual for presents and cards to reach recipients.