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How to cut the cost of Christmas

How to cut the cost of Christmas

Christmas is an expensive time of year even without the cost of living crisis. But you can cut the cost of Christmas without cutting corners

As the country faces the toughest economic pressures in a generation, many of us will be worrying about how to afford Christmas this year.

There are lots of ways to cut costs without cutting corners. With a bit of planning and some creative thinking, it’s possible to have a fun festive season on a budget.

Plan ahead

When we think of Christmas, we often think of presents, but there are lots of additional costs that can really add up. Before you even sneak a peek at the tinsel, make a list of everything you would like to buy this year and then decide what’s realistic. Your list should include presents, decorations, cards and wrapping (including postage), food, travel and entertainment. Entertainment might include things like pantomime tickets, a new outfit, train tickets or babysitting. Include a realistic cost for each.

"Before you even sneak a peek at the tinsel, make a list of everything you would like to buy this year"

This might seem daunting, but knowledge is power. Once you have your total, you can review whether it’s feasible for your family this year. Think about how you can save or cut back between now and Christmas so you can spread the cost as much as possible.

Be realistic about presents 

We are living in some difficult financial times and that means it's time for some difficult financial conversations.

Do you really want to get into debt so that you can reciprocate another candle or pair of slippers, or a box set you will never watch?

Talk to your friends, family and colleagues. Can you set up a Secret Santa amongst your friends? Perhaps set a spending limit on family presents? Do you really need to swap gifts with your colleagues? Setting expectations now means that no-one will be offended or disappointed. Chances are your loved ones or colleagues will be secretly relieved that someone else has suggested it.

Christmas presents

Do you really need to get presents for absolutely everyone you know?

If this doesn’t come naturally to you, there’s some useful guidance on how to start conversations about money at moneyhelper.org.

Once you have your streamlined list, plan your gifts. Planning takes the stress out of shopping, and also means you can capitalise on black Friday deals, 3 for 2 offers or shopping alerts on more expensive items. Sites like https://pricespy.co.uk/ https://shopping.google.com/ or Vouchercodes.co.uk/dealfinder can help you source your gift for less.

Now is also the time to cash in any loyalty points or supermarket vouchers you might have.

There are also lots of free or handmade gifts you could consider. Rather than a pricey gift that might sit in the cupboard, could you offer an evening of babysitting to a busy couple? You could present them with a little certificate in a gift bag with a bottle of wine. For teacher gifts, what about handmade cookies, or a child’s picture in a nice frame?

Cards and wrapping 

Less presents mean less wrapping, so you are already winning! Before you splash out on cards and wrapping, check what you already have. Chances are there is some wrapping paper hiding in your Christmas cupboard or loft, so use that first (plus it’s better for the environment).

"Before you splash out on cards and wrapping, check what you already have"

For overseas cards, you could send e-cards or email a personalised Christmas video.

Parties and socialising 

If you are meeting friends, consider whether you need to go for a meal, or whether drinks would be just as much fun. Think about restaurants that offer BYOB and consider going for a set lunch—restaurants often have the same menu at a considerably cheaper price at lunchtime.

Christmas drinks

Just having drinks can be as fun (and cheaper!) than a whole meal

When it comes to outfits, wear something you already have. If that idea fills you with dread, swap with a friend and have fun styling an outfit your way, or have a treasure hunt in charity shops. (Top tip—seek out shops in the wealthier areas of town. A friend of mine once found a mulberry handbag for £40!)

Christmas dinner 

This can be the highlight of the family calendar for some, but for others it can be stressful. Either way, the cost of Christmas dinner can add up, and regardless of your financial situation, there is no shame in asking for help. If you are hosting, enlist some support and ask family members to contribute a starter, dessert, wine or even crackers. All adults should be able to contribute something (however small) and it will also make everyone feel more involved.

"If you are hosting, ask family members to contribute a starter, dessert, wine or even crackers"

Set a menu and stick to it. That way, you can keep an eye out for reduced items that you can freeze ahead of time. This year could be a good time to venture away from turkey. Supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi offer good quality chicken crowns and ham, which are just as tasty, at a fraction of the cost.

Next year 

In January, look at your budget and check whether you stuck to it. Once you understand what a realistic total for you is, divide it by 12. If you can, set up a standing order or direct debit for that amount (or as much as you can) into a separate savings account. Next year you can withdraw from your savings, smug in the knowledge that whatever Santa has in store, you have Christmas covered.  

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