Christmas lights are being switched on all around the UK and Christmas advertising is getting into full swing. It’s that time of the year. Love it or hate it, it’s difficult to ignore it and only too easy to wind up spending more on it than you intended or, really, should have. If you’ve been organised enough to plan ahead and have either bought what you needed already or have a “Christmas fund” with which to do so, congratulations, for everyone else, here are three tips to avoiding the Christmas debt trap.
Start setting expectations now
If you’ve traditionally spent a lot at Christmas but are forced (or just want) to cut back, then it can be appropriate to set people’s expectations so that they have an idea what to expect from you this year. When dealing with very young children, you can always tell them that Santa has had a difficult year and is going to have to be a bit less generous to some children to make sure that he has enough to go around every one. When dealing with adults, you may find your approach triggers mixed reactions. Ignore anyone who tries to make you feel guilty about trimming back on Christmas (at the end of the day it’s supposed to be a time of rejoicing not a time of blatant commercialisation and associated debt). You may, however, be pleasantly surprised at how many people will support you and perhaps even be relieved that they can reduce the amount they spend on a present for you without feeling guilty.
Think outside the Christmas box
Anything marketed as being connected with Christmas will typically go steadily up in price in the run-up to the event and then will often be substantially reduced in price immediately afterwards (meaning that arguably the smartest time to go shopping for Christmas gifts is on Boxing Day). Everyday foods and household items, by contrast, will generally cost more or less what they cost all year round. Therefore, if you want a special occasion meal on a reasonable budget, the smart move is to avoid the traditional “big-ticket” Christmas foods (like turkey, Christmas pudding and Christmas cake) and instead opt for anything “non Christmas”, which can be cooked to perfection and served at a suitably bedecked table. You can add to the festive atmosphere by picking up less expensive items which are associated with Christmas such as mince pies and trifle. On a similar note, alcohol can get very expensive, so make it go further by mixing it with cheaper beverages, for example, create a Christmas punch.
Upcycle basic gifts
Let’s be quite honest here, a lot of the gift items for sale in shops are at least as much about packaging as content. Buying these gifts may save you a bit of time, especially if you see wrapping Christmas presents as a painful, seasonal chore, but you’ll pay a hefty price premium for this convenience and with a bit of creativity, you can add the “wow factor” to basic items yourself, even if you’re not remotely crafty. For example, you can head to eBay for affordable and attractive containers for your gifts. In many cases, it’s absolutely fine if these containers are preloved, in fact, if you’re on a budget, looking on the preloved market can be a great way of making your money go a whole lot further. Again, eBay can be a great place to find high-quality preloved items, just remember to allow plenty of time for postage as private sellers may take a day or two to fit in a trip to the Post Office.
If you are concerned about your finances and are worried about debt, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a confidential and informal chat,