So you've made it through the festive season, probably a few pounds heavier and having made your annual tour of the relatives. Now your alarm is back in use and it's back to work, and working out how to have fun with payday still up to 4 weeks away.
While it may seem premature to be thinking about next Christmas already, thinking about your Christmas finances in advance doesn't have to take a lot of effort but it can be really beneficial financially. Knowing when to get started can be the hardest part - so we've come up with some tips to help get you started on making next Christmas - or indeed any big upcoming event, a little more stress free.
1. Decide how much to pay in each month
After the flurry of Christmas excess, there's no time like the present to plan your finances for the next festive season. Be ambitious but be realistic. Setting a target amount of money to set aside into your current account each month and sticking to it will help keep you on track for December. Even saving as little as £20 a month - that's only £5 a week if you are paid weekly - would give you a pot of £240 to put towards next Christmas by the time it arrives!
2. Book travel way in advance
Train tickets can eat into December savings if booked too late. Most train providers offer substantial discounts on their fares if you book up to 12 weeks in advance. So you can arrive smug in the knowledge that you likely paid a lot less than many of your fellow train travellers.
3. Make use of any store loyalty cards throughout the year
Take the opportunity to gather points on store loyalty cards on basics such as toothpaste, toiletries, and other necessities you buy during the year. Those points and store rewards can quickly add up with Christmas the perfect opportunity to turn those points into presents.
4. Make the most of vouchers
Looking out for any special promotions throughout the year will get you into the habit of looking out for seasonal promotions in the lead up to Christmas. This is one sure-fire way of finding top deals and opportunities for savings when buying food for a large number of guests. If you're looking for top quality gifts without the top quality price to match, there are many options for online vouchers and deals, covering a range of activities from restaurants, beauty, technology, home and garden, even travel deals, so there's bound to be a good deal to suit everyone.
5. Set up a Christmas cupboard
Set aside a designated Christmas cupboard as a good way to stash ideal gifts and bargains spotted throughout the year in one place. That way you won't be left hunting for those presents you cleverly stocked up on and you won't forget that you bought the perfect present in the first place. Why not put leftover cards and wrapping paper from this Christmas in there also and you won't have to start from scratch when you start your Christmas shopping in earnest in 2016.
6. Target the January sales
Christmas cards, stocking fillers, wrapping paper, gift bags, and labels will all be on sale or even reduced to clear once the festive season has drawn to a close. Making the most of this will mean not only are you prepared for the coming Christmas but you won't have to factor in these costs come November or December.
7. Start a loose change or coin jar
Have you ever stopped to think about how much your spare change and stray pennies here and there could add up to over even a few months? Hold onto those coins and take them to the bank towards the end of the year. You might be surprised at how much it adds up to. Be sure to collect some money bags from your local bank and store them in the same jar as you'll have to separate the change into certain denominations before you deposit. It's a little bit more work but it's cheaper than using a coinstar machine, for example, which charges you up to 7% of your hard saved pennies to deposit.
8. Sell any unwanted gifts online
While lots of stores extend their returns period over the festive season, it can be hard to find the time to get to the store to return an item. You might not have the receipt, be near to a store or you might not want store credit so what to do with those unwanted gifts? Selling duplicate or unwanted gifts on online auction or free-cycling sites could bring in some cash to put away for the next festive season. Just be aware that some sites have fees to be aware of which can diminish your profit.
9. Regift the perfect present
Regifting has become fairly commonplace these days. We've all been given a gift that feels a little off the mark and done our best to look like we love it, but maybe you do know someone who would love that gift. You could even add a small personalised item to the present to make sure they know you've had them in mind. Make sure to add some new gift wrapping of course, and there's no reason why your bad gift couldn't be someone else's perfect one.
10. Order your gifts way in advance to save on postage and stress
If you like to be very organised, ordering your gifts early on in the year can help you to avoid paying for seasonal postage like 'guaranteed by Christmas' delivery. You'll have peace of mind that you already have some gifts sorted and can avoid paying over the odds for seasonal delivery at the same time. Countdown to Christmas websites can help you keep tabs on how many shopping days are left before the big day itself, meaning you can plan in advance.
Merry next-mas from all at TSB.