If Christmas makes you shiver when you think of how much it’s going to cost, then take a moment to collect your thoughts. It is easy to get caught up in the festive feelings, but if you don’t want to have the January blues, then take some time now to plan your spending and Christmas budget.
Remember, if you are the person that keeps track of the money in your household, you deserve a Christmas too – make it one that’s free of stress and worry about debt.
Follow the steps below to take financial control this Christmas.
Make a Christmas shopping list
Take these steps to plan what money you will need:
Make a list of what you need to buy for Christmas. Divide it into gifts, food, clothes and socialising.
Prioritise your list. If you have a limited amount of money to spend, what could you cut from the list? Work your way through, numbering items in order of importance.
Add up the costs of your list. Is the total amount very big? If so, look at each individual item again to see how you can reduce the cost (see shopping smartly below).
Tip: Maybe suggest a ‘Secret Santa’ to family and friends or use your hobbies and interests to make homemade decorations, gifts and baked goods.
Make a Christmas budget plan
Once you have made a list of everything you intend to buy, then set a budget for a reasonable amount that you can afford to spend.
Try not to build your plans on the hope of a bonus or overtime payment. Only include income that you are absolutely certain you will get before the Christmas holiday. If you can, try to put some money aside for January too, so you have enough to pay your regular bills in the New Year.
Start a savings plan
Calculate how many weeks there are from now until Christmas. Divide the total cost for your Christmas spending by the number of weeks. This is what you have to save or put aside each week. Use our page on how to build up savings for more tips and advice.
If you have been saving a bit during the year
If you have already been able to put aside some money over the year to meet the cost of Christmas, well done. Check to see if it will be enough to cover the costs you planned for or do you need to save a bit more over the coming weeks.
If you have nothing saved
If you have not been able to put aside any money, or if what you have saved is not enough, then you have a choice. You will either have to cut the money you intend to spend again, until your savings can cover it, or you may decide to borrow.
Think carefully before you borrow
If you really think borrowing is your only option, then here are some things to think about before you do:
Before you decide to borrow
- Only borrow what you truly need and not one cent more.
- Before you borrow, look at your list – ask yourself is it worth getting into debt over?
- Try to make sure you can pay back this loan before the middle of next year, if at all possible. Otherwise, it makes it difficult to save for next Christmas.
Deciding on a loan
- Find out what the weekly or monthly repayments are going to be and see how this will affect your budget. Make sure you can afford that amount and still pay your regular bills and expenses.
- When looking for a loan, try and get the best value you can. Generally, loans from a moneylender will cost you much more than a loan from your local Credit Union or bank. Using a credit card is also a very expensive way of borrowing money.
- Remember to read the terms and conditions of any credit application and make sure you understand what you are agreeing to. Get advice before you sign if you are unsure.
- Contact MABS before borrowing to see what options are available to you.
Read more advice on things to think about before you borrow.
Shop smartly and cut costs
Look at the items on your spending list and research the options. Keep the following tips in mind for shopping smarter:
- Keep to your list and don’t be tempted by sales or special offers on other items.
- Black Friday (the last Friday in November) and Cyber Monday (first Monday after Black Friday) are popular days for in-store or online sales – but sales often continue in your local shops into December.
- Check delivery times for items bought online and the return or exchange policy.
- Keep all receipts together. You can create a folder in your inbox to save all emailed receipts.
- Pay with cash where possible and avoid putting purchases on store cards, credit cards or paying by instalment. They cost you more in the long run.
- Check out the terms and conditions on any items you buy using in-store or any other kind of finance.
- Join Christmas saving clubs or save cash-back vouchers from supermarkets to put towards Christmas food shopping.
- Remember the shops only close for one or two days over Christmas, so there is no need to over shop. Buy small amounts of non-perishable items each week to add to the Christmas treats.
Get more help from MABS
If you’re struggling to manage your money or to make ends meet, or you feel like borrowing more is the only solution, help is available, Contact MABS.
Find out more:
Visit CCPC’s Money Hub for comprehensive information about savings and other personal finance topics.