Christmas comes round at the same time every year, yet still takes some of us by surprise! We are now heading towards November, so is it too late to save for Christmas?
A financial headache
I have done Christmas on the credit cards before. The financial headache going into the new year wasn’t fun. The baubles and glitter have all gone, it’s cold and dark and you are scrabbling around to save money to pay for the festive excesses – and paying interest on it too! As I said, not fun!
I realised I had to save for Christmas, so since then I have always put away a small amount each month.
It is always best to start early when it comes to Christmas. But if you haven’t, is it now too late to save for Christmas? If you make a massive effort you could still put some money away.
How to save for Christmas
Set a budget
Actually set two budgets. One for day to day living and the other for Christmas itself.
How little can you live on? Go through all expenses and cut out anything that’s not strictly essential (see below for ideas). You will be surprised at how little you can live on when your goal is to save for Christmas.
What do you actually need to buy for Christmas? Make a list of everyone you want to buy for and set a strict amount for everyone. If you spend £500 on each of your family but don’t have the money, have a rethink. It’s only one day! Don’t put yourself into debt.
What will you eat? Set a shopping budget. Don’t plan to buy more than you can eat. Use last year’s decorations, send out e-cards rather than hundreds of Christmas cards, etc.
Take a new approach
We tend to do things the way we always have because it feels safe. But if you are on a tight budget, it is only sensible to take a new approach to Christmas or anything else.
For example, don’t rule out buying second hand presents or even making them if you have the skills. My daughters expect at least one pre-loved present each year from us!
If you usually go totally overboard, scale down a bit. Remember, it is to save your sanity and top the new year spending hangover. Maybe set a limit for the number of presents you buy your kids. If they have piles and piles of new things it is hard for them to appreciate each one. A lot of parents are using the ‘something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. I always did this, without even thinking about it (although they got a few cheap and fun stocking gifts too, sweet and chocolates.
If you always buy for everyone in your extended family, the cost is huge. Maybe suggest only buying for each child still in full time education and then doing a Secret Santa for everyone else? This works well for us.
Pare down to the essentials
You can free up money to save for Christmas by reducing all inessential spending. It’s only for a few weeks and your goal is to have a worry free and debt free Christmas.
Here are a few ideas for the short term:
Cancel unused gym memberships.
If you go out to dinner once or twice a week, cut it out and eat at home instead.
Give up on trips to the pub, get some friends round and buy some supermarket beer.
Knock takeaways on the head. If you don’t want to go without buy the supermarket equivalent. Sainsbury’s does a nice Indian or Chinese meal.
Reduce your TV package to the channels you actually watch.
Stop buying newspapers and magazines and read online instead.
Give up the take out tea or coffee and take a flask out with you.
Stop shopping for fun!
If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that I have been publishing different ways to save money every day of October. Come on over and have a read!
Have a no spend month
You might even decide to cut out spending money altogether. We often choose October or November as a no spend month. This means buying nothing at all apart from food and spending only on your bills. I find a no spend period, whether it is a whole month or just a week, really liberating. There is no debating whether you should buy or can afford something. You just don’t do it!
Having said that, I would allow Christmas spending during November as it can help to buy as you go along – using the budget you made, of course.
Find free stuff to do
Check out free things to do in your area and you may be surprised at how little you need to spend on entertainment.
Eat from the larder
Pull out every item in your food cupboards, fridge and freezer and plan meals around those. This can dramatically reduce your grocery spend and prevent food waste.
Plan every meal and shop with a list
Leading on from the above, plan your whole week’s meals. Then make a shopping list of only what you need and stick to it. I have a post on the benefits of meal planning here. If you can, leave the family at home so they don’t beg for extras and don’t go shopping hungry.
Sell your old stuff
A declutter can be massively liberating too, and will make space for new things that arrive at Christmas.
You could check out some of my more extreme ideas to save money for Christmas here. These will help you stretch your budget as much as possible.
What do you do to save money for Christmas? Are you ready? I haven’t bought as much as I usually have at this point, but most importantly I do have the money saved that I need to spend for Christmas. Hopefully these tips will help you and stop you getting into debt.
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