• Presents: in 2013, Britons were expecting to spend an average £599 on gifts
• Food and drink: approximately £180
• Decorations: £30
• Christmas cards and postage: £13
We’ve already reached that time of year when department stores start to wheel out the wrapping paper and the pressure of paying for Christmas begins to build.
One of the best ways to prepare for Christmas is by building savings throughout the year – and those that have managed to put away a modest sum every month in preparation for the big day will be rubbing their hands with glee.
But if you haven’t managed to save up enough money – or even if you have but are looking for ways to enjoy Christmas without the usual January financial blues – there are ways to make sure you don’t over spend during the festive season.We’ve spoken to personal finance blogging superheroes, Maria Nedeva and Emma Russell-Bennett, to collate their best tips to help you save during the festive season.
Be prudent with presents
Gift giving is undoubtedly the most expensive part of the festive season, taking up almost 75 per cent of shoppers’ Christmas budgets every year.
Maria Nedeva, founder of consumer finance blog The Money Principle, points out, “Every year, we collectively buy people stuff that they don’t need and want and that costs as much as building four new hospitals. Am I the only one who thinks there is something wrong in that?”
Gift giving is completely engrained into the Christmas culture, and it’s not something us Brits are prepared to sacrifice. However, by planning in advance it’s possible to see through the yuletide without breaking the bank.
Maria shared a couple of her favourite tips for keeping down the Christmas spend, including organising ‘happenings’ instead of buying gifts, or organising a Secret Santa – both of which can be a refreshing change from spending money on impersonal presents.
“Very early on in my friendships I discussed with my friends whether they would mind if we stop buying presents but do something nice together. It so happens that a group of us go to our local pub for a drink on Christmas Eve. You can negotiate something else: go for a ramble in the hills, cook for your friends or go to the theatre.”
Spending on family can also be trimmed down, but it’s important to remember that cutting down on the present spend doesn’t necessarily mean compromising on Christmas cheer. All too often family members end up spending money on stocking fillers or little extras that really add up.
Maria has some top tips for spending on loved ones without wasting money: “I’ve been trying for years now to convince my sons that buying Christmas presents is wasteful: they are not budging. So we buy presents. However:
- My husband John and I usually agree on something symbolic to put under the tree. Usually we buy each other something we’d get anyway and it is not secret.
- Our sons get what we believe they need and we know they are not going to get it for themselves.
- Our youngest son started telling us what he really wants several years back. He is very modest, claiming that he doesn’t need anything and what he wants is new Meccano sets.
“In other words, for close family we buy as essentialists: we gift what we think useful and/or beautiful. And the presents don’t have to be expensive.”
Make a little extra
Emma Russell-Bennett, founder of popular money-making blog, From Aldi to Harrods, says, “If you are looking to boost your funds for Christmas then it isn’t too late. There are still a whole host of ways to increase your cash in the run up to Christmas, and they don’t involve taking long surveys for pennies.”
The internet has opened up a wealth of opportunities for making that little bit of extra money, whether that means putting old clothes on eBay, selling items on Facebook, or scouring sites for special offer codes and vouchers.
Emma runs through her top five money-making tips:
1. Sell your unwanted items on eBay, Facebook selling groups and websites such as Music Magpie, Zapper and ZiffIt give you instant cash quotes for your unwanted games, DVDs, CDs and books for cash.
2. Get paid for your writing: Bubblews pays you for every view that you short (400 character) posts receive. Payout is at $50 (around £30) via Paypal, and takes 30 days to receive. Milk The Blog also pays per view and payout is made monthly once you reach $15 (around £9)
3. You can also earn Amazon gift vouchers by completing short surveys, tasks and offers with Instagc, Superpoints, and Swagbucks.
3. Even your smart phone can help you to earn cash or vouchers! Complete short mystery tasks with Field Agent, iPoll, Roamler and Clic and Walk, download and test apps with AppNana and AppXpert, record video responses with VoxPopMe and even earn cash playing games with Peko.
4. Mystery shopping is a great way to not only earn extra cash, but also enjoy a free meal out or get the cost of your shopping reimbursed. Marketforce, Grassroots and The Mystery Dining Company are great places to start.
Go frugal on festivities
Quite apart from the cost of present buying, there’s a whole host of other expenses to consider, from food and drink, to new clothes, travel expenses and general festivities.
Maria suggests throwing tradition out of the window to really get the most bang for your buck at this expensive time.
She says, “You can reduce this considerably without compromising on quality: just by reducing consumption a bit. Also, you’ll need to ask yourself (and your family) what you really like to eat on Christmas day.
“Because we tried to cook turkey for close to a decade and never got it right; when we talked about it, we discovered that no one in our family likes turkey.
“We had chicken – high quality, free range and corn fed chicken – for quite a few years. It is your Christmas and you should be brave enough to break with tradition and eat and drink what you really like.”
And apart from trimming down the cost of your Christmas dinner, there are a number of ways to cut down on the season spend. Collecting shopping vouchers throughout the year, scouring the supermarkets for deals, buying tickets to visit family well in advance, and sending e-cards instead of paying for postage can all help keep the merriment of the season from burning a hole in your pocket.
It may sound obvious but the earlier you start saving, the easier Christmas will be. Many people set up a Christmas savings account or join a ‘Christmas Club’ at the start of the year, putting a little bit away here and there until Christmas comes around again.
The great thing about doing it this way is that if you pick a high-interest savings account, you can even make a little extra on top of the money you put away.
Aldermore Bank is a dedicated supporter of Britain’s SMEs, homeowners and savers with all of their banking needs. Contact us for more information about how we can help you to make the most of your finances.
Have your say
Do you have a favourite festive savings tip? If so, Aldermore is inviting the Twitter community to come together and share their own advice on ways to enjoy the season without breaking the budget.
Let us know your Christmas saving tips on Twitter, and each week, the Bank will turn the best idea into a #FestiveSavers graphic to share with the rest of the online community.
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