It’s easy to get carried away as Christmas approaches.
That carefully planned budget gets swept away in a storm of ‘must have’ presents and giant grocery shops.
In fact, according to the Bank of England, the average household spends almost £740 more in December than in a typical month.
But you can have a happy Christmas without the New Year financial blues, by following some sound tips and focusing on good value.
Here are 12 seasonal steps to consider.
1. Have a plan
Before the shopping starts, work out what you want to spend and how much you can afford.
There are some good planning and spending tools available, like the MoneySuperMarket savings calculator.
This should make your money go further and is a far better plan than simply overloading the credit card!
2. Keep to your budget
It’s easy to run over your budget in the heat of an epic shopping trip.
Keeping track of what you’re spending and sticking to your self-imposed rules – whether you use a notebook or an app, can really help you stay on course.
3. Monitor your accounts as you go
Many banks now provide an alert when your current account dips below a certain level – it could be a wise idea to request this function.
You might like to try an app like Emma, which collects all your bank and credit card information in one place, so you can check your spending levels at a glance.
4. Beware Black Friday
Don’t get carried away in the seasonal hysteria of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Step away from the tsunami of bargains and offers for a moment – these are only great deals if you wanted them in the first place – otherwise, they’re just impulse buys and unplanned spending!
5. Don’t over-cater
This is one of the most common – and easiest – ways to spend more than you planned to over Christmas.
The shops are packed with tempting food and drink, and buy-one-get-one-free offers. Again, planning is the key.
Try sticking to your list and having a clear idea of exactly what you want before starting.
There’s no need to go without the things we all enjoy together over the festive season – it just means you won’t spend money on things that get wasted or nobody really needs. Keep an eye out for better value own-brand products as you shop too.
6. Get the news
Why not sign up to your favourite retailer’s newsletter? You’ll be the first to hear about special Christmas offers, and you’ll usually enjoy a healthy discount, such as 10 per cent off certain purchases.
7. Start early
Get some of your seasonal shopping done good and early – especially drinks and snacks.
There are sometimes pre-Christmas bargains to be had. This can also prevent last-minute panic buying, which often means you pay too much or buy too much. It’s down to planning again …
8. Go for zero per cent
If you decide you really need to get a credit card to cover Christmas, check that it offers you zero per cent interest on purchases and make sure you pay off the balance as soon as you can.
If things are looking really tight just at the moment, why not let friends and family know that you’re going a bit easy on presents, or perhaps plan a celebration in the New Year at some point?
9. Compare prices online
There are lots of sites online, such as My Supermarket Compare, where you can compare supermarket prices and pinpoint the best deals for groceries and essentials.
It’s surprising how much you can save this way. You might want to use the extra to cover a special present or help strengthen your finances in the New Year.
10. Hold on the coffee stops
It’s a treat many of us appreciate, but buying your favourite coffee out can mount up really quickly.
It’s easy to spend more than £50 a month without realising it. You could try cutting out coffee stops through December to make a significant saving.
You may like to take a hot drink from home on long shopping expeditions if you really need refreshment!
11. Give the turkey a break
Who says you have to eat turkey this Christmas? A good-sized chicken provides a very similar meal, and many people prefer it.
Turkey prices really take off at Christmas anyway, so serving up a tasty alternative could save you quite a bit.
12. Get personal
A thoughtful, personalised present can often be appreciated and treasured for longer than this year’s ‘essential’ buy … even a nicely framed photo of family or friends enjoying a shared special occasion can really hit the mark.
You could explore companies such as Etsy or Not On The High Street and create an individual gift that doesn’t cost a fortune.
Celebrate without the financial hangover
You can have a good time without nagging worries about high prices and spending too much.
It’s all about planning, doing a little research and being a bit disciplined.
Think about our 12 tips and create your own personal strategy for a good value Happy Christmas.