Christmas can be expensive, particularly if you have young children or a large family. If you do not have the savings to buy all the presents, decorations, and the food that seems to be such a big part of this time of year, you might be tempted to look for bad credit loans. While that is fine, if you feel comfortable with paying for Christmas into 2020 and beyond, you might want to consider other ways of getting through this costly period.
“What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer” (Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’)
.Here, we look at some of the ways you can cut the worry of money of Christmas in a little more detail.
Spend less on Christmas
This is one of the most obvious ways, but it is actually a lot easier said than done, especially with young children. However, with a bit of forward planning and some creative thinking, there are ways in which you can reduce your spending without cutting back on the fun.
For example – can you collect bits and pieces throughout the year to make up a nice hamper of food or toiletries. This involves a bit of planning ahead and taking advantage of any savings and offers throughout the year – and plenty of willpower not to eat them or use them yourselves!
You could also turn thinking of new (and cheap!) Christmas traditions into an activity with the kids. Set aside a day in September or October before you get caught up in the festive franticness and make a list of things you would like to that cost little or nothing.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- A hot chocolate picnic on Christmas Eve – On Christmas Eve, wrap up warm, make up a flask of hot chocolate and pack your favourite mugs, some squirty cream and marshmallows, as well as a rug to sit on, and head to the beach, woods or even to the park. Find a little corner to sit and drink your hot chocolate and spend some quality time together before the madness starts.
- Christmas walks – Make an ordinary evening feel a little bit special by waiting until it gets dark, grabbing your coats, hats, and scarves, and going for a walk around your local neighbourhood to admire all the Christmas lights. You could even turn it into a competition – the one who counts the most decorated trees wins a prize.
- Make your own Christmas decorations – You don’t need much; some paint, maybe a few pine cones picked up on your winter walks, some cheap crafts sticks, and sequins from your local craft store, and plenty of imagination. You can make some beautiful decorations with a lot of love and thought behind them to look back on in years to come. You could make it into an annual thing – perhaps making salt dough Santa hand decorations, and you can look back on how the hands have grown over the years.
- Find a local Christmas panto – Lots of the big theatres have all star casts in their pantomimes, which are great – but can be expensive. Instead, check out your local am-dram group and see if they are putting on a pantomime that you could go with the family to watch.
Essentially, it is about PRESENCE rather than PRESENTS.
Do a Secret Santa
If you do presents and there are a lot of adults to buy for in your family, or you have a circle of friends that you buy for, why not look into setting up a Secret Santa this year? Instead of spending £10 on eight different adults and not really getting anything that they like, you could spend £50 on one adult, buy something decent AND save yourself a bit of money in the process. You can do it the old fashioned way by drawing names out of a hat or use the services of an app such as Elfstar. This allows you to input the names and emails of everyone involved and automatically matches people up. It even gives you the chance to create a wish list for your giver to see, so you have more chance of getting something that you actually want!
Spend less on other things
If you do not want to cut out any of the stuff at Christmas, you might want to – or need to – cut down on your spending on other things. Perhaps you pick up a takeaway coffee from the local coffee shop on your way to work every morning. Instead, can you make your own coffee in an insulated travel mug and sip on that to get your caffeine hit instead? It will save you a good two or three quid a day! If you eat in the office canteen at lunchtime, take a packed lunch, and cut out those expensive and usually unsatisfying takeaways on the weekend. Look at any subscriptions to magazines or TV streaming services that you have – do you really need Sky, Netflix AND Amazon Prime, or will just the one do?
Another thing that you may be able to make savings on is your food shopping bill, which for many families, is one of the most significant expenses. If you shop at one of the big four supermarkets, see if you can swap to a budget supermarket such as Aldi or Lidl. Take advantage of offers – but only if you are going to use the, It might be ‘buy two get one free’ on that chicken, but if you have not got the space to put the extra two in your freezer and you won’t eat it before it goes out of date, you are wasting money. Take a long hard look at what you are spending your money on and see what you can cut down on, even if it is only for a couple of months.
Plan how you are going to pay back loans or credit cards
Hopefully, by putting one of the above two tips into practice, you will have a bit of cash to get you through the festive period. However, if you still need to turn to some form of credit, that is fine, but make sure that you have a concrete plan in place for paying it back. The sooner you pay back any debt, the less likely it is to spiral out of control as you are paying much less in the way of interest. It is also important to pay back as much as you can. People often get trapped in a cycle of only paying the minimum on credit cards and store cards. While you are paying it back, it will take you a lot longer.
Start saving for next year.
One of the best ways to make sure you have enough money for Christmas is to start saving up for it as early as possible. Obviously, it is too late for that now, but it is one to bear in mind for next year. Starting from January, put an amount of money that you can realistically afford away each month – whether that is £10 (giving you an extra £120 by the time Christmas comes around again) or £100 (a whopping £1200!). Another way of doing it, where you barely miss the money going out of your account, is through skimming. This is literally ‘skimming’ the top off your account. To do this, get into the habit of checking your online banking account every evening. Look at your balance and round it down to the nearest five pounds/pound, depending on your financial situation. So, for example, if you have £41.56 in your account, at the end of the day, transfer 56p/£1.56, whichever you can afford, into your Christmas savings accounts. Some days it might only be a penny or two, but any saving is going in the right direction!
If you are worried about dipping into these savings for other expenses, you can open up separate accounts for each savings goal – one for Christmas, one for your holiday, one for emergencies, and so on.
To sum up – where you can, reduce the amount of money you spend at Christmas by implementing some low cost or free traditions and joining in with a Secret Santa. If you can’t reduce the amount of money you need to spend, find other areas in your life where you cut back or save money, and make next year’s festive season a little less stressful.