Christmas comes but once a year and for all the fun it brings it can be a significant drain on the family finances. With that in mind, it’s worth looking at opportunities to see where savings can be made. While it may still be too early to put up the decorations, some of the best Christmas bargains require a bit of advance planning.
Food and Drink
Think about having a non-traditional Christmas. Christmas dinner does not have to mean turkey (or any other kind of bird) and all the trimmings followed by Christmas pudding. Going vegetarian or opting for cheaper forms of meat can cut the costs without compromising on taste. Likewise, dessert can be anything you fancy rather than something which is specifically made for Christmas.
Actively compare the cost of making food at home as opposed to buying it ready made. Neither is necessarily cheaper or better. Be prepared to consider the budget/own-label brands. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Get in plenty of “soft” drinks. Keep expensive wine and spirits for particularly special times. For the rest of the time serve soft drinks either on their own or with a dash of alcohol (e.g. in a punch). This can help to make the expensive alcoholic drinks go much further.
Entertainment and Travel
If at all possible, book Christmas entertainment and travel well in advance. It can also help to be flexible when looking at your options. For example, whilst air and rail can be both quick, the bus can be substantially cheaper. Likewise smaller, more local entertainment venues can also put on very good shows, which can be substantially more affordable than their larger-scale counterparts. It can also be worth looking at whether signing up to a loyalty programme can cut costs even further. Similarly cultural venues may have a “friends of” programme with discounts.
Cards and Gifts
This is arguably one of the trickiest areas of Christmas. The key to managing it is setting expectations. This starts with setting a realistic budget, which means one that you can comfortably afford. Your budget is a limit not a target and if there is a conflict with it and your plans for card and gift giving, then you should change your plans, not your budget. Make a list of all the people to whom you want to give cards and/or gifts at Christmas. The key word here is want. If you routinely send gifts to people just because you know they’re going to send one to you, then put those names on another list. Contact these people well before Christmas to make them tactfully aware that you’re only planning to send a card this year. They may be relieved.
Your next challenge is to make your money go as far as possible. Ways to achieve this include: watching the internet carefully for special deals and flash sales; buying second-hand and creating home-made gifts. These can not only be welcome gifts in their own right, but help to keep the pennies for when they are really needed. Adults and older children could even be given IOUs for items which are likely to come down in price in January.
Avoiding New Year Financial Headaches
Keeping control of spending at Christmas can help you avoid a nasty money hangover at New Year. Why not go one step further and a make a resolution to review your personal wealth this coming year by investing some time getting advice from a financial adviser?