Christmas can be a budget buster at the best of times.
And in the context of a year that’s been off-the-charts weird 📈, it’s understandable if people are planning to go large for a dose of normality.
But letting loose on these kinds of unexpected expenses could lead to a serious financial hangover come 2021.
That’s why we asked Clare Seal, the personal finance expert behind My Frugal Year, to share her top tips for keeping your Xmas spending in check.
Clare Seal's top tips for Christmas spending
With Brits feeling extra pressure to make this Christmas the best yet, here are five ways to enjoy the festivities whilst staying in control of your spend:
Set your budget
Having a figure to stick to will help keep your spending on track. Make sure it’s realistic, as once a budget’s broken it can be easy to break it further.
It’s always a good idea to have a backup fund too – the point of unexpected expenses is that we never know where they’ll come from, but you can be certain that they will.
Keep a record of your budget and how you’re faring also. Whether you use a notebook, spreadsheet or budgeting app, by keeping track of your spend you’ll be able to avoid nasty surprises when January comes around!
Resist the will to splurge
Discounting season requires a lot of will power, but if you want to avoid the red this Christmas, there are ways to wise up to price slashing.
As Christmas sales approach, make a list of the items you actually want or need – buying items purely for the discount will only cost you more in the long run.
Unsubscribing from brand marketing emails can also help you resist the temptation to splurge, as can taking a break from your phone altogether!
And if you find an item that you do like the look of, do your due diligence online to make sure you’ve landed the best bargain that you can.
Think outside the (gift) box
Whether you’re gifting or hosting this Christmas, it can still be the most wonderful time of year on a budget.
Now is the time to channel the newfound creative skills you might have picked up in lockdown to create homemade gifts, decorations and finishing touches.
If DIY isn’t your thing, second hand sites such as eBay, Depop, Vestiaire Collective and Gumtree place can connect you with some great bargains.
And, whilst we might want to meet up with extended family and friends this Christmas, channelling lockdown spirit and having drinks over Zoom can keep both costs and covid risk to a minimum.
Face up to your expenses
The worst thing you can do is ignore your bank balance at this time of year – it will make the run up to January pay day feel that much longer!
Face up to your statements across current accounts, savings, credit cards and Buy Now Pay Later schemes and make sure you have a plan on how and when you’ll pay them back.
If you’re using credit cards, interest can often be confusing, but there are handy tools – such as Tymit’s interest calculator – that can help you create a realistic payment plan that keeps interest at a minimum.
Always read the small print
When used responsibly, credit can be a great way to help us manage this expensive time of year. But make sure you do your research before signing up to credit cards or Buy Now Pay Later schemes – all too often they come hand in hand with hidden fees and interest rates.
Services such as Tymit are free of fees and have entirely transparent interest rates, helping you to take more accountability of your finances and boost your financial wellbeing.