Monday 6 December 2010

Countdown to Christmas Day 6: Don't break the bank

I was listening to a lady from our local Citizens Advice Bureau talking on the local Lakeland Radio today about how not to get in debt this Christmas. Many families are really going to be feeling the pinch this year with redundancies and cut backs in so many jobs. So what can we do to enjoy Christmas without worrying about still paying for it in 12 months time?

Set a budget

Look at your family income and be realistic as to what you can afford to spend without running up huge credit bills or a massive overdraft. If you've been setting money to one side either in a special account or through a savings club such as Park stick to what you have set aside!

Manage expectations

If your kids want the latest hi tech gadget and its well over your budget tell them in plenty of time. Let them know what you are able to spend and get them to look at things within that range. For those with children who are still young enough to believe in a certain red suited gentleman managing expectations can be harder. "It's alright mummy I'll ask FC and he'll bring it". Try pointing out that his sleigh is very full these days and he can't fit everything in! In fact my daughter has been told this by the white bearded man himself...

Reduce your shopping list

Talk to your friends and family and reduce the number of people you buy for. Quite often we ending buying something silly or not wanted just to give a present. It maybe that children you bought presents for are now grown up and will understand that you can't carry on buying presents for everyone. Or perhaps with friends you could all just buy one present for one of the circle so everyone gets something but no-one spends too much. With my school friends we agreed to start making a donation to a nominated charity instead of giving a token gift to each other.

Avoid unnecessary expense

To you need to send ALL those Christmas cards? Send an electronic one to those with e-mail and only send a handwritten card to those without. And when you do send don't waste money with 1st class stamps as delivery guarantees are relaxed for Christmas! In the office put one card up on the staff noticeboard for everyone or make an agreement to make a donation to charity and not send any cards at all.

An Australian friend has realised that sending presents to her family back home was costing more in postage than in presents. She now shops on the Australian eBay to get goods delivered to her mum in Australia and her family use UK eBay and she receives and wraps her kids' presents here.

Make it yourself

Cards, decorations and presents can quite often be made cheaper by doing it yourself. It can seem more personal as well if you've put in time and effort to do it. This is especially true if you have young children. Get them making or baking and melt the hearts of their grandparents or other relatives.

Plan ahead

Get your non perishable Christmas supplies in the sales after Christmas. Crackers, wrapping paper and cards are so much cheaper then. Even toys can be bought well ahead of time if you have somewhere safe to hide them... I've already signed up to start saving for next year's Christmas with Park for love2shop vouchers which can be used in lots of high street shops.

Do you have any more tips on not breaking the bank at Christmas?

More Countdown posts at Cafe Bebe

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