We know what you’re thinking – it’s way too early to be thinking about Chrimbo! But if you listen carefully you can hear the sound of a sleigh being made ready: there are just a few paydays left until Santa Claus comes to town.
Particularly if you’re living on a tight budget at the moment as so many of us are, you might dread the thought of how you’re going to pay for all that eating, drinking and making merry. But please don’t panic! With some forward planning and a little creativity, you can make the festive season a whole lot more affordable: we believe in you, and we’re here to help. Read on for some tips.
Put money aside now
It pays to plan ahead. Can you put a few pounds aside each month between now and December? If you can, you could build up a nice little buffer to help you meet the extra cost of Christmas. Try to identify some savings on your housekeeping or leisure spending: it will be worth missing out on the occasional night out or takeaway to make it to the New Year without running out of cash!
Look at your budget
Next, think about what you’ll need to pay for. The obvious things are presents, food and drink. But depending on your circumstances you might need to factor in:
– travel. Are you driving, taking public transit or (eek) even flying to see friends or relatives this Christmas?
– decorations: reuse last year’s if you can, and check out Pinterest for cute homemade ways to deck those halls.
– cards and wrapping: have a look online for homemade gift-wrap ideas. If you still send Christmas cards, the cost of postage as well as the cards themselves can really add up: it probably costs you way more each year than you realise. Consider switching to homemade or online Christmas card alternatives, or simply going card-free – it’s better for the environment as well as your wallet!
– socialising: do you have a work Christmas do? What about New Year’s Eve? If you need a new outfit, keep costs down by shopping second-hand or even clothes-swapping with friends.
Make your budget as detailed and realistic as possible, and be prepared to adjust your plans if you’re simply not going to be able to afford the Christmas you’d plan in an ideal world: this is why it’s such a good idea to get everything planned early. How many people are coming for dinner? Will they be bringing booze? (We’ve all made the mistake of getting just a little too ready for a party: you over-stock your drinks cabinet to make sure you’re ready for Christmas, then everyone brings a bottle and you have gallons left over: which is a nice problem to have, but it’s not going to help you when you’re struggling with your bills comes January!) How much will your work Christmas do cost you?
Then work out how many people you’ll need to buy presents for. Think of ways you can keep this list down. If you buy presents for friends or colleagues, why not do a Secret Santa so you each only have to buy one gift? Is there anyone on your list who would appreciate a homemade gift this year? Even if you don’t think of yourself as a super-crafty person, something simple like a bottle of infused vodka is relatively easy to put together, and likely to be incredibly well-received!
Finally, work out how much you can afford to spend on each person for whom you’re going to buy a gift.
Spread the cost by buying early
We all know that one person who has her (and it almost always is a her!) Christmas shopping done and dusted before November is out. Don’t you just hate her? Well, you can’t beat them, so it’s time to join them. Start keeping an eye out now for sales and offers. (And remember this tip in January when sales are plentiful – it’s the best time to pick up wrapping paper in particular at rock-bottom prices!)
If you spot a bargain that you know someone on your Christmas list would love, snap it up, put it aside – and make a note for yourself so you don’t forget and buy more presents than you need. (One year my darling, absent-minded boyfriend forgot he’d already done his Christmas shopping – and did it again. I got two sets of presents. Best. Christmas. Ever. True story!) You could even wrap your gifts as you buy them and save yourself the dreaded Christmas Eve midnight wrapping marathon (surely the real nightmare before Christmas).
As we mentioned above, travel can account for a huge chunk of your Christmas budget, particularly if you’re travelling as a family. If you need to book tickets, don’t leave it until December: you’ll most likely get a better deal if you book in advance. But if your plans change closer to your travel time, don’t panic-buy: take your time and search around for a good last-minute deal.
Can you make a bit of extra cash?
A pre-Christmas clear out could help you get your home ready for the family to visit – and raise some extra money. If you’ve got any old clothes you don’t wear any more, or old phones or other gadgets knocking around, why not try to sell them? Or if you’ve been meaning to get rid of an old car, now’s the time to flog it to Pacific Cash For Cars. Or, if you got particularly good at handicrafts while you were putting together all those DIY gifts, why not turn your skills into cold hard cash by taking advantage of a local makers’ market, or an online selling website such as Etsy?
We hope you’re feeling a little less panicked and a little more prepared. Getting organised now can save you both money and hassle come December – you might be surprised how affordable Christmas can be. Happy saving!