Between presents, food, drink and festive treats, it can be easy to lose control of your spending at Christmas.
Bank of England data shows that the average British household spends an extra £800 in December – around a third more than in a normal month.
Getting a grip on your spending doesn’t mean cutting back on the things that make Christmas special, something that feels more important than ever this year, as the pandemic means our celebrations may have to be a little different. In fact, at a time when more of us are feeling uncertain about our finances, taking control can help you relax and enjoy the festivities.
Here’s how to shop smart this Christmas, by making a budget, and sticking to it.
Build the budget habit
The first step is to look at your finances and be honest about what you can afford to spend once you have covered essential outgoings.
Once you have a clear idea of what you can spend, then divide your budget into the things that make Christmas special for you, such as gifts, decorations, and food and drink.
Make a note on your phone, or on paper to keep in your wallet or stick to your screen, whatever works best for you. But make sure you have it with you at all times, and look at it every time you are at the checkout - on the high street or online.
Knowing your budget is one thing, but you have to make sure you stick to it. There is a reason Santa makes a list and checks it twice. A lack of planning can lead to last-minute panic buying, so before you start shopping make a detailed list of exactly what you need and who you need it for. For example, plan menus so you only fill the trolley with the right amount of food and drink.
The number one enemy of the smart Christmas shopper, is the impulse purchase.
And on the high street and online, retailers have a host of tactics to tempt you into parting with your money for something you had no intention of buying when you started shopping.
Fight back with the 24 hour test. If you’re tempted by something that wasn’t on your list, or in your budget, wait 24 hours before you take the plunge. Taking the time to sleep on it will help you decide whether it is something you really needed.
Make sure you do your research too. Go online and investigate the cost of key purchases before you buy, so you can be sure you’ve got the best deal. Don’t assume sales or special offers are cheaper and remember that a bargain is only a bargain if you need it.
Be sure to factor in the cost of postage for online shopping, as this can add a hidden hike to your bill at the end.
Christmas 2020 is set to be very different for most of us, whether we’re missing office parties or scaling down a giant family gathering.
But if you get a grip on your spending and remember that the most important things don’t have to cost money, it will truly be a Christmas to remember.