The clocks have gone back, Christmas is coming, and with sales on the horizon too, this can be a very expensive time of year.
We all know the benefits of budgeting and careful financial planning, but keeping an eye on spending isn’t always as easy as it sounds - especially leading up to the festive period.
While we all want to enjoy the holidays, overdoing it now could make you lose control of your finances in the longer term.
So how do you stay on track without feeling like Scrooge?
Try these ten Shop Smart tips to enjoy Christmas, without spoiling the party - or your bank balance.
1. Make a list
We all love buying gifts for our loved ones but it’s easy to lose track of what we have already bought, what we need and what we still have to get.
This is the simplest trick in the book, but also one of the most effective. Drawing up a present list before you hit the shops will help you get a clear picture of how many gifts you need - and who they’re for.
As well as providing a clear picture of how many presents you need, it could help with more thoughtful gifting too.
2. Say goodbye to self-gifting
It’s easy to get carried away and come home from a Christmas shopping trip with a bag full of treats for ourselves. When you’re trailing around the shops spending money on your nearest and dearest it’s tempting to think you deserve a few extra pressies too. But do you really need anything else? Or could you put it back, pop it on your Christmas list, and keep your spending in check.
3. Price match
Many big retailers offer a price match service - so it’s worth doing some research to find the best prices on or offline. If a particular store has a better delivery and returns or customer service policy, buy from them.
4. The kids only rule
When you’re drawing up a shopping plan, it’s worth having a discussion about who you actually need to buy for.
If you have a large family, you may consider a ‘kids only’ plan - just buying gifts for the little ones. Or you might agree to a limit of £5 or £10 on gifts for adults.
As well as saving you money it will cut waste too.
5. Set a budget
Once you’ve established who you’re buying gifts for, set a realistic budget for each purchase.
You may want to spend more on some people than others, but work this out in advance and stick to it to avoid any impulse spending.
6. Shop around
If you’re looking for something specific - the latest games console, cool clothing, or this year’s must-have toy - shop around to make sure you get the best deal. There are lots of online comparison tools you can use to help you do this and you can set Google alerts - just enter the name of the product you want - so you don’t miss out on any new sale prices.
7. Sleep on it
With all the hype around the festive season it’s easy to get carried away and buy things purely because they’re on sale. But unless you were planning to buy the item anyway you could be wasting some of your festive budget on things you don’t really need. So, before you spend, ask yourself whether this really is smart spending - or just a tempting discount. Would you be buying if the item wasn’t on sale? Or will you regret it?
If you’re shopping online, leave the item in your trolley overnight - by the time you go back to complete the purchase in the morning, you’ll have had time to think about whether you really want to click “buy”.
8. Take care with credit
Used carefully, credit cards help you keep control of your finances. And when you buy something using your credit card, purchases over £100 are protected. If for example, the goods or services aren’t delivered or are faulty, you may be able to claim a refund through the credit card chargeback scheme.
But it can be easier to spend more than you may have originally planned for Christmas, with many people facing a big bill that could take a while to clear. Whether you’re using a credit card, an installment plan at the checkout or taking a personal loan, always make sure you understand the interest rate, monthly repayments and duration of the borrowing before signing up. And only borrow what you feel comfortable being able to repay.
9. Your phone is your friend
Being able to check your transactions regularly on your phone can really make a difference to how you manage your money.
It’s quick and easy to register for online banking and it means you can track all of your spending in real time.
You could also opt for a budgeting app - there are a mixture of paid for and free options available online - to help you keep on top of current and savings accounts.
10. Plan ahead
It’s too late to save much for this Christmas, but as soon as you’ve eaten the last mince pie and packed away the tinsel, add up how much you’ve spent. This gives you a savings target for next year, so you can start tucking away some money each month. TSB’s Spend & Save current account lets you have up to five separate Savings Pots through the TSB Mobile Banking App. You can name them individually, for example; Christmas, summer holiday, rainy day fund, which makes it easy to keep track of your progress.