How to have a more affordable Christmas
It’s officially almost Christmas, because this week the giants tubs of chocolates have started appearing by the supermarket doors. But while for some people this inspires a warm festive glow, for others the thought of the expense gives them the shivers. If the cost of Christmas is looming large in your life, there are five things you can do right now to avoid overspending.
Our research shows that around two in five people will be tightening their belt this Christmas, and spending less on their friends and family. Women are far more likely to need to cut back, along with the squeezed middle – those aged 34-55. We also know that the best way to avoid Christmas breaking the bank is to do something about it now.
Use this month’s pay packet to start saving
If you’re not already putting money aside for Christmas: start now. If you end up having to squeeze it out of your November and December pay packets, there’s a much higher risk you’ll have to put at least some of the cost of Christmas on a credit card.
Then of course, you have the added cost of interest on top of everything else. One sensible option is to move a chunk of your salary into an easy access savings account as soon as you’ve been paid, so you’re not tempted to dip into it for anything else.
Set up price alerts
We know prices are always volatile around Christmas, and they’re bound to be even more so while we’re coping with everything from supply problems to runaway inflation. One of the best ways to avoid buying something at the worst possible time is to set up a price alert.
If you’re buying from Amazon, CamelCamelCamel is a great shout. Otherwise you can try the likes of Idealo or Alertr. Their offerings vary, but you should be able to search for a product, and see what the price has been in recent months – so you can get an idea of what constitutes a sensible cost. You can then check the current price, and if it’s higher than you’re happy to pay, you can set up a price alert, so you get an email when it hits your target. It won’t always guarantee the cheapest possible price, but it’ll help you get a good one.
Plan for big sales days like Black Friday
These can be a great opportunity to get a good deal, or a chance to waste money on things you don’t need. The difference starts with preparation. Before the sales arrive, you should have a shopping list – along with an idea of what constitutes a sensible price for that item.
If there’s a piece of home technology on the list, you also need to be clear on the model you want, and the features you’re interested in. A big discount on a high-end item isn’t a saving if you’re paying extra for things you don’t need.
Next, bookmark the retailers where you want to shop, so you can get to them as early as possible in the morning. And finally, be strict with yourself. If they don’t have what you need at a discount you’re happy with, don’t buy something else instead. It may be reduced closer to Christmas, and if you have a price alert running, you’ll find out as soon as it is.
Sign up for cashback websites
This is essentially money for nothing, because by signing up to the likes of Topcashback or Quidco, and then clicking through the site to shop as normal, you’ll earn cashback.
In some cases there’s 10% or more available, and in other cases it’s 1% - but it all adds up. There are also specific cashback deals on offer if you buy a particular product they’re trying to promote, or do something they’re trying to encourage – like click and collect.
Talk to your friends and family
This can feel like the toughest option, but it’s also the one where you can make the biggest savings. There may be friends or family members you can agree not to buy for. So, for example, some people opt just to buy for children and grandparents.
Others will do a Secret Santa for groups of friends – to cut down the number of gifts they need to buy - or make one another presents instead. It may feel difficult starting a conversation about not buying for someone, but you when you do, you may well discover they were building up the courage to have exactly the same conversation with you.
Watch: How to prevent getting into debt
• Sarah Coles is a personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown and co-presents Switch Your Money On podcast.