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Christmas is all about spending quality time with friends and family – but every year we feel under pressure to impress them with extravagant presents and a show-stopping dinner.
While it’s tempting to turn to credit cards, or even take out a loan to pay for it all, nobody wants to start the New Year with a financial hangover, especially if you’re already living with large debts. With the shopping frenzy now well underway, Jane Clack, from national free debt advice service PayPlan, shares her secrets for a frugal – but fun! – Christmas.
How many times have you picked up cut-price cards, wrapping paper, decorations or gift sets in January, only to realise they don’t look quite so sparkly 11 months later? Rather than leaving them to languish in your cupboard, round up a group of bargain-loving friends and ask them to bring any sale items they want to swap. Most people love the thrill of uncovering something ‘new’ – and, of course, it’s a good chance for a festive catch-up. Add clothes into the mix, and you could also bag a new party outfit without spending a penny.
Cash in your points
Many of us are guilty of hoarding loyalty cards, scanning them at the checkout and rarely logging into our accounts. As Christmas approaches, check all your cards and remember, you can often access special offers via your account. You may be pleasantly surprised by how much you’ve earned over the year – even if it’s only £5 or £10 here and there, it can still make a difference to your shopping bill.
Seek help to get your finances on track for 2019
I’d always encourage people to resist over-spending, though it’s even more important to make long-term changes. Worrying about debt often feels worse at Christmas, when all our emotions are heightened, though having a plan in place to tackle them can really help to alleviate some of the stress. Where possible, seek professional help now, rather than waiting until the New Year, so you don’t feel weighed down over the holidays.
Avoid – or make the most of – the last-minute rush
No matter how disciplined we are at sticking to a budget, it’s all-too-easy to fill our shopping baskets with novelty gifts, an extra box of crackers and yet more party food. Taken together, a frantic rush to the shops can quickly push up the cost of Christmas and it is rarely necessary. When buying presents (for grown-ups at least!), most people appreciate something small yet thoughtful rather than extra clutter.
However, if you can hold your nerve, are prepared to be flexible and/or are only catering for a small party, you may be able to pick up festive treats, including that all-important turkey, when supermarkets mark down their prices on Christmas Eve. Remember though, there are no guarantees, so always have a back-up plan in case the shelves are empty.
Can you get away with buying gifts in the sales?
Unless you’re seeing all your relatives on Christmas Day, there’s nothing to stop you braving the Boxing Day sales and pick up gift sets and chocolates for aunts and cousins in plenty of time for the ‘twixmas’ family buffet. As long as you don’t have something specific in mind, you should be able to find something they’ll like for a fraction of the price.
Finally, remember it’s OK to turn down invitations to parties and get-togethers, particularly if they involve expensive dinners, drinks and a taxi ride home. The people who care about you will understand if money is tight, and they would rather see you happy and financially stable, not worrying about money.
For more information about PayPlan, visit www.payplan.com