Written by: Cally Worden
Christmas may well only come ‘But Once a Year’, but the hole it can burn in your finances may remain open long after the tinsel has been packed away. The best way to save money at Christmas is not to spend any, but that’s nigh-on impossible and wouldn’t make the season very jolly at all. With a little bit of planning you can enjoy a lovely Christmas on a budget, and without slipping into debt. Here are some top money saving tactics to get you started.
It may seem early to start thinking about Christmas but there are certain items that you know you will buy each year, so it really doesn’t matter when you get them. January is a great time to stock up on cards, wrapping paper, bows and decorations, as stores across the land slash prices to shift the remaining stocks from their shelves. And for food items that you know will last it’s worth slipping a few into your weekly shopping haul from September onwards – target any non-perishables on your list that are on offer. You will barely notice the small extra cost, and by the time Christmas arrives you’ll have a cupboard stacked with cut-price goodies to satisfy everyone. As long as you don’t eat them of course!
Make it a habit to take your loyalty cards with you whenever you shop. The points and cashbacks can add up to an impressive amount throughout the year, and help to ease the financial burden as the festive season approaches. Many stores offer double points, or points boosts as the holidays get closer, so bide your time, avoid panic buying, and bag yourself a bargain.
Keep it Simple
There is so much pressure from advertisers, family and friends to acquire all manner of bits and pieces that will ‘make Christmas special’. Lovely though some of these things undoubtedly are, try to keep things in perspective. All you really need food-wise is a simple Turkey roast and a Christmas pud. Decorations can be simple, and homemade if needs be (it’s amazing what you can do with a pot of cheap glitter and some glue!).
And as far as gifts go sort what you can for the kiddies, and keep it light for the grown-ups, but stay within your budget. If you are under pressure to provide gifts for extended family either be honest and say you simply can’t afford it, or suggest a Secret Santa where everyone only buys and receives one gift up to an agreed value. You can bet there will be a lot of others quite relieved to avoid the pressure of finding and funding multiple gifts.
Make it a Group Effort
Family meals are a tradition at Christmas, but the one who is nominated chief cook on the day can end up spending loads on feeding everyone. Make it a group effort where everyone buys something towards the meal (and then helps prepare it too!) so no single person or part of the family is left to shoulder the entire financial burden.
In days gone by families would slave away writing hundreds of cards to family members they never see or contact at any other time of the year, and then take a trip to the Post Office and take out a loan to buy all the stamps. This tradition was kind of nice (I remember counting up all the cards we would receive, and enjoyed learning about long-lost parts of our wider family). But in recent times the internet has made keeping in touch so much easier and cheaper. If money is tight make your own e-cards (or find a free or cheap on online) and send it out to your contacts list. No cards, no stamps – better for the environment. And your pocket.
When you have more people in your house they generate more heat. So when the family arrive and the oven is going full pelt over Christmas turn down your heating thermostat. Just one degree of difference across the year, along with turning off your fairy lights each night, can save you up to ¬£50 a year.
Give Homemade Gifts
Cooking and baking with the kids is fun, and you can create some lovely homemade gifts for a fraction of the price you’d pay to buy them in the shops. There is something special about a homemade gift, with the love and effort that goes into creating it. Try truffles, festive biscuits, and flavoured oils.
Sell before you Buy
If you have the time and resources it can pay to operate a ‘Sell before you buy’ policy in the run up to Christmas. There is always a market for used toys in good condition on sites like Preloved and Ebay, and secondhand DVD players, TVs and furniture can also earn you a few quid. You can quickly build up a cash stash from existing and unused items in your home that can make a significant contribution to your Christmas fund.