Heading to Christmas feels very different this year as the pandemic has created a lot of uncertainly around the festive season.
We have regional and national restrictions on non-essential journeys, pub and restaurant curfews in certain areas. Tiers will be in place from 3rdDecemberand we have Christmas rules from 23rd to 27th December that will give us a little relaxation.
The most organised of us, when planning Christmas will feel daunted with financial and social pressures pecking away. However, there are somethings you can do to cut the stress and keep your costs down.
Here we go for our top Christmas tips. Check our blogs daily!
Buying presents as you see them and then panicking at the last minute and buying more, it’s very easy to get carried away at Christmas.
Make your list well in advance to help you prioritise the things that are essential to you and your family.
Budget by working out how much you can afford to spend this year. The next step is break this down into the items you’ll spend money on, such as presents, food and travel.
Work out and set a budget to each item you need to buy and stick to it to prevent financial stress around Christmas into the New Year when the bills come in.
Many retailers run pre-Christmas sales, slashing the price of everything from toys to electronics, to tempt us to spend even more in the run-up to Christmas.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday and Amazon’s Prime Day are obvious. Big retailers also run their own promotions too.
Check your list and think about whether you could buy some items in sales to make a saving.
Don’t get caught up in the excitement of grabbing a deal just to end up overspending. Remember to stick to the items on your list only and to do some research before the sales start on what a good price actually is.
If you’re unsure whether the deal you’ve seen is a good one, run a quick search online to see what other retailers are selling the product for before buying it.
It may not be so exciting to give a gift card, but it means your family and friends can but what they want, maybe in the New Year sales. Gift cards save on wrapping costs and help with budgeting too!
Saving a small amount of money away every week each year in the run-up to Christmas will help you to feel more in control of your finances and will leave you with a buffer for emergencies.
When it’s nearer to Christmas, think about what you can afford to put to one side then work out how much this will leave you with to spend on food or gifts nearer the time. It soon adds up – even putting £10 away a week through the year will give you an extra £500.
If cash is tight and you don’t have much to spare each week, consider whether you could you cut out a non-essential out in the run-up to Christmas. If you’re a fan of take-out coffees or sandwiches, could you make your own on certain days and squirrel the savings away?
Another way to take away the financial pain of a pre-25 December ‘big shop’ is to stock up on non-perishable items in the run up to the big day.
Try to add one or two non-perishable items to your weekly shop in the weeks leading up to Christmas, rather than being faced with the bill for a bumper shop closer to the time. You could snap up items that are on offer, such as tins of chocolates, as and when you see them discounted – just make sure you check use-by dates so your effort isn’t wasted.
The pandemic has shown us the real importance of family and. In full lockdown, a lot of us missed and are missing social interaction more than material possessions or habits such as going to the gym.
With that in mind, don’t forget this and maybe think about Christmas presents differently this year. Perhaps you could plan a winter walk or a day out with a friend, once restrictions allow, rather than exchanging gifts?
If you were one of the many people who brushed up on their baking skills during lockdown, you whip up some homemade tasty treats as gifts for Christmas, rather than buying an impersonal present?
Get you children involved with homemade gifts too. Homemade cards and even wrapping paper are really nice and show you have thought about the person. It’s an opportunity to do something together as a family - an art session and lesson on budgeting in one.
If you really want to buy a gift for someone who always gives you one in return, have a frank conversation this year about what you can both afford. Don’t be in the situation where you friend or family member will spend £5 on you on something that is nice, but you don’t really want or need and you feel obliged to spend a similar amount!
There’s nothing worse than feeling obliged to buy an expensive gift as you always receive one, so suggest sticking to a budget – it may make you both think more creatively.
Remember the office Secret Santa? An option for family or friendship groups is to arrange a Secret Santa, which will allow you to all spend a bit more on one person. Again, agree a budget in advance, though, and stick to it.
If you like to declutter your house ahead of Christmas, take a look around for items that you haven’t used since last year, clothes you’ve never worn or even unwanted gifts.
Consider selling any items in good condition on a resale site and use the money to put towards essentials for Christmas.
The price of wine continues to increase according to figures from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association and Wine Drinkers UK. The average price of a bottle of wine will go over the £6 mark for the first time on record this year.
Keep your eye open for offers on your favourite tipple in the run-up to Christmas at the supermarkets and wine retailers. No matter how good the deal is, though, remember your budget and don’t go over it, or just buy to save!
A lot of the supermarkets run occasional ‘buy six bottles and save 25%’ – always worth keeping your eyes peeled for as this means you can effectively get you half a dozen bottles for the price of four or five (providing you can stretch to the bulk purchase, of course).
You don’t have to splash out on champagne to impress when it comes to fizz. Prosecco and cava or other sparkling wines, are popular too. They are often better value and you may prefer them – so shop around.
Some retailers often put up prices (on many things!) around now so they can cut them just before Christmas and advertise big “savings”, especially with spirits, so look out for the genuine bargains and don’t be easily tempted.
We have to think that next year…
Normally, the general advice when it comes to getting the cheapest rail fares is to book 12 weeks before your travel date, as this is when tickets tend to be released. So, when we can travel again, start to look in early October if you know you’ll be travelling over the festive season.
This year, with so much uncertainty over what we may or may not be able to do, it’s worth checking how flexible the tickets you’re considering are. Booking plenty of time before your travel date, advance tickets are often the cheapest option, but they aren’t usually flexible or refundable. If you do have to change, you’ll have to pay a fee of £10, plus any difference in fare, to change the time or date on them.
Depending on restrictions on travel and your circumstances, it’s worth checking how much more another type of ticket is, to give you the option to claim a refund if restrictions or your circumstances change (you may still have to pay an admin fee).You can find out more about changing and cancelling tickets on the National Rail site.
It's worth checking to see if you’re entitled to a discount railcard – available to those aged 30 and under, those aged 60 and over, those whose disability makes traveling a challenge, and various other groups,
When making a last-minute decision to travel, it’s still usually worth buying your ticket in advance – so take a look online before you travel to see which ticket types are left.
It’s always best to spend only what you have. If you have no option other than to spread the cost of Christmas on a credit card, make sure you have the right one.
Apply for a 0% credit card well in advance to avoid paying interest, but make sure you always pay at least the monthly minimum payments and know when the 0% period ends so you can clear everything off the card before a high interest rate kicks in.
We all have store loyalty cards these days. So, if you have loyalty cards for your favourite shops, start saving up your points to buy a Christmas present or two, or even “bank them” for next summer. For example, Tesco Clubcard points can be used for everything from shopping and days out to holidays, while Boots points can be exchanged for toiletries, toys, kids’ clothes and more.
Lots of other retailers have their own schemes, so check out what your favourite store offers and sign up if you haven’t already.
Over the past months and depending on how the coming weeks and months unfold, we may find ourselves leaning even more heavily than usual on our home entertainment systems this festive season and going forward, especially with the cold, dark nights.
It’s worth checking to see if you have the best deal on all the various channels and streaming services you have and that are available, and working out whether you’re getting the best value on your Broadband and TV packages. Think about the services you have but don’t use!
Last updated: 29/12/2020