Ask a family what their most expensive time of the year is and the majority will probably say either the summer holidays or Christmas. It will come as no surprise to most that on average we each spend an extra £500 in December compared to a normal month – in fact, Brits love Christmas so much that we spend a whopping £19bn on presents alone, way above the EU average.
When you see figures like that, it’s no wonder many families are left feeling a financial hangover in January. And yet, rather than learning from the previous year’s mistakes, most won’t give Christmas a second thought until perhaps the end of November – just in time for all the shops to increase their prices. Merely mention it any earlier and you’ll likely be met with cries of ‘stop, too soon!’ from your friends and colleagues.
In any case, as a responsible building society we’re going to brave the backlash and give you our top tips on how to get your finances prepped for the looming festive season:
Save little and often
Saving doesn’t need to mean sending huge chunks of your income into a savings account each month. They key is to build up a saving habit by putting away small amounts regularly, perhaps even in a piggy bank or jar. Saving just £5 per week in a change pot at home will net you a cool £260 for the year – not a fortune but certainly enough to help cover the Christmas basics.
Start your shopping early
Put simply – shops increase their prices in the lead-up to Christmas, typically towards the end of November. Avoid getting caught out by price hikes by starting your shopping early. Black Friday can be a good opportunity to grab a bargain in time for Christmas, but beware bogus deals that may be more than meets the eye.
Make a bit of extra cash by selling unwanted goods
Still have clothes hanging in the wardrobe with tags on? Never used that prized set of china you bought all those years ago? It might be time to have a clear out and start selling the stuff you don’t use and put the cash to good use!
Prepare for Christmas… after Christmas
The best time to buy stuff for Christmas is, perhaps not surprisingly, straight after Christmas. Sometimes it’s worth dashing out to the shops on Boxing Day to grab cheap cards and wrapping paper or even decorations, which are usually hugely discounted within days. So while you might have to wait quite a bit to hang that fantastic bargain wreath on your door, it’ll save you a pretty penny next year.
Try the four gift rule
As we all tighten our collective belts ahead of the Brexit deadline in October and all the disruption a no-deal might bring, it may be worth considering jumping on the latest fad – the four-gift rule.
A trend that has been gaining traction among parents in recent years, the four-gift rule sees parents pledge to give their children just four Christmas presents – something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. Now that might seem a little too frugal but in an age where Christmas has become synonymous with greed and excess for many, the four-gift rule would see a little more thought put into each present, as well as probably being cheaper too.
Open a Christmas savings account
To ensure you’re not left orbiting a financial black hole by the start of January, you might consider opening a dedicated Christmas Savings Account.
Our Christmas Saver is instant access between 1 October to 31 December each year – all the better for when you need to get your hands on the cash nearer to Christmas. For the rest of the year withdrawals are subject to 30 days' notice or interest penalty. The maximum balance is £2,000 – which should go quite a bit towards helping with the cost of Christmas!
By planning ahead for the big day and building those all-important money-saving techniques into your daily routine, not only will you feel more relaxed during the festive season, you’ll also enter the new year in good spirits and hopefully a little better off too!