1. The season to be jolly
The countdown to Christmas is well and truly underway. Gift lists have been written, shops are bustling and tills are ringing.
But nearly one in three of us feel the pressure to spend more than we can afford at this time of year, according to the Money Advice Service. In 2015 we spent on average £429 per household on Christmas and as we did it tipped one in ten of us into, or further into, debt.
But it doesn’t have to be the same this year. Take a step back, shop wisely and Christmas could cost less than expected.
2. How to cut back
Budget doesn’t have to mean basic. Click or tap to find out how you can still have a great festive season while watching the pennies.
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Image credits: Nik Taylor/Alamy, Magdalena Bujak/Alamy, Natallia Khlapushyna/Alamy, Zigzag Mountain Art/Alamy.
3. Travelling tips
Heading home for Christmas may involve travelling long distances.
Booking tickets in advance often means the best deal, but you can also save money by splitting the journey into stages. There are a number of apps and websites which can determine if buying several tickets rather than one will be cheaper.
As well as this, if travelling home by rail, investigate whether it’s worth buying a railcard. They’re not just for students and you could be eligible for a decent discount on your tickets.
If you’re driving home, download a petrol prices app which will show the cheapest places to fill up your tank. And if your journey will take several hours remember to take plenty of food with you - don’t be a hostage to over-priced service station sandwiches!
But if family gatherings and turkey sandwiches aren’t to your liking there’s always the option of spending Christmas overseas. Flight prices around the festive season can fluctuate from day to day – but it’s worth noting that flying on Christmas Day itself can often offer substantial savings, as can returning on New Year’s Eve.
4. This time next year...
When the festivities are all over it’s worth taking a moment to think about how you’ll pay for everything next Christmas.
Have a savings plan
How much can you afford to save each month? Christmas planning needn’t start immediately but, as an example, if you can set aside £50 every month from April you’ll have saved £450 by December. But every little amount helps.
Join a supermarket savings club
Members save throughout the year and as December approaches savings are normally returned in the form of vouchers to spend in store. You can also top up your savings at the till, when you’re feeling flush.
Be sales savvy
Keep an eye out for deals throughout the year. If you see something suitable in the summer sales, buy it and store it away. Sales closer to Christmas, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday could also be a big help. Don’t forget decorations, cards and wrapping paper will also be on offer at discounted prices in the January sales. As the year progresses, you can spread the cost by buying up dry food goods with a long shelf life. If you have the storage room, why not take advantage?
But before then, with this year’s celebrations still to come, doing a little research and sticking to a strict budget could mean this year’s festivities will be enjoyed with a lot less worry and fewer debts.
5. Alternative Christmas gifting
If you’re lacking in inspiration or just can’t face buying presents that will likely be discarded by the end of January, there are alternatives.