10 budgeting hacks for the lead-up to Christmas
With summer already feeling like a distant memory, your attention is probably starting to turn towards the rest of the year; particularly Christmas. While it might feel like a stressful time of year financially, the good news is there are things you can do now to help make sure your celebrations don’t break the bank.
So, if you’re worried about funds being tight, or just want to feel more organised financially this festive season, read on to find out how to budget and save for Christmas.
1. Work out what you’re spending
The first step to sorting out your finances is to review your current spending. Take a look at your bank and credit card statements to understand exactly where your money is going each month. Many of us overlook the little extras that can send a balanced budget into the red, like travel, morning coffees and other small but regular expenses.
Budgeting software or tools can help simplify this process and make tracking your spending easier going forward. For more advice on how to budget, visit the Money Advice Service’s free online budget planner.
2. Adopt a ‘jam jar’ approach to saving for Christmas
Many of us work towards several different financial goals – from saving for a holiday to budgeting for home improvements – yet keep all our money in one single savings account. By lumping your money into one place, it can be tricky to know how much more you need to reach each goal.
To solve this problem, consider opening an additional savings account just for Christmas. Being able to see exactly how far off you are from your goal amount means you’ll have an added incentive to pay into it.
Furthermore, consider an account which provides penalty-free withdrawals, so you can access your cash whenever you need to in time for Christmas.
3. Start your shopping early
Get ahead and hit the shops as soon as you can. That way, you can spread out the cost of your shopping so it’s more manageable each month, and you won’t be reduced to panic-buying at the last minute and spending more than you wanted to.
Another benefit to starting early is that you can avoid the crowds – making your Christmas shopping a far more relaxed and enjoyable experience.
4. Agree spending limits
If you’re buying presents for each other in a group – whether it’s friends, colleagues or family – why not suggest a spending limit for everyone to stick to? It’ll help you stay in control of what you’re spending, and you’ll be helping everyone else keep on top of their finances, too.
5. Sign up for sales alerts
To help make your money go further this festive season, get savvy about where and when to find pre-Christmas sales. An easy way to do this is to sign up for sales-alert newsletters for the brands and shops you plan to buy from.
Register for an M&S account and you can opt in for email notifications. Easy peasy.
6. Try online first
You might find that shopping online is more convenient and could be a better way to stick to a Christmas budget by saving you money (and time!). By taking advantage of key sales events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday too, you can often save even more money as many stores offer extra online deals and discounts at these times.
7. Apply for a reward credit card
Providing you can afford to pay off the balance, using a reward credit card to buy your Christmas shopping could be a smart move as you’ll get something back for your spending – be it points, vouchers or another reward.
8. Only buy what you need
This might sound obvious but when it comes to Christmas, we can sometimes get swept up in the excitement of the season and over order on the food and drink. Yes, you don’t want to run out of anything, but think back to past Christmases and how many leftovers you had and try to buy based on what actually gets eaten and drunk. This is also a great way to avoid those boxes of chocolate lingering on into the New Year.
9. Reduce your festive travel costs
If you’re heading away for the holidays, don’t pay more than necessary. You can make significant savings on travel costs by buying your train tickets in advance. Travel operators usually bump up the cost of tickets over the festive period, so the key to finding a bargain is to buy them as far ahead as possible, and to be flexible both about the dates you travel and your route.
You can cut the cost of rail travel with Trainline’s Price Prediction tool. It uses machine learning to work out when fares are likely to rise and gives customers an at-a-glance snapshot of all available opportunities to save money when buying advance tickets.
10. Get creative with your stocking fillers
To save yourself some money, you could take a more-DIY approach to your presents this Christmas. Hand-made gifts and stocking fillers are unique and personal, plus you can make a lot of things in batches to save yourself time. Think toiletries made of natural ingredients and festive treats, like condiments or biscuits.
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Published: 28 September 2018