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Act now to avoid Christmas debt: seven top tips

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

Christmas is an expensive time of year, but it doesn’t have to leave you in the red. If you plan ahead and set yourself some ground rules, you won’t have to start 2019 struggling under a mountain of debt. 

The mention of the ‘C’ word in October might make you squirm. There are still 76 days to go. We haven’t had Halloween. The clocks haven’t even gone back yet!

But for anyone worried about overspending or getting into debt this Christmas (sorry, I’ve said it), it pays to plan early.

Research suggests over half of Brits will spend more than they earn in December and that the average time to pay off Christmas debt is five months.

Setting yourself some rules now means you may be able to avoid the dreaded January financial hangover.

1. Set yourself a budget and stick to it

Planning how much you’ll spend on gifts, food, drink, decorations and going out will give you control over your money and take some of the Christmas stress away.

Write your (realistic!) budget on a piece of paper and stick it to your fridge or download a budgeting app. Check out the Santa’s Bag app (available on iOS) which has tools for budgeting, shopping lists and allocating gifts.

2. Shop online to avoid spontaneous purchases

Buy as many gifts as possible online to avoid the temptation of picking up extra bits in the shops. Retailers are dab hands at enticing shoppers with beautiful Christmas displays. Cosmetics counters are particular pros. You go to buy your mum some perfume and end up with a gift box costing double the price.

3. Only buy gifts for your kids

Talk to your partner about just buying presents for the children this year. Maybe you can have a dinner date in January instead? On the topic of kids, try not to go overboard. The sight of a mountain of presents under the tree might seem magical, but your bank account won’t thank you for it! Don’t forget the likes of Poundland or Poundstretcher for stocking fillers.

4. Do Secret Santa with family/friends

If you usually buy for all your family and friends, talk to them now about doing Secret Santa. Explain that you’re trying to keep your spending under control this year and that you’d rather buy one person a slightly more expensive present.

Check out Elfster (available on iOs and Android), a Secret Santa generator which lets you draw names and set up gift wish-lists.

5. Start buying presents now

You still have two (possibly three) pay checks to go until Christmas so start your present-buying now if you can. Buying just one or two gifts this month will take the pressure off mentally and financially. According to research, 10% of us leave our shopping to Christmas Eve. Panic buying is the easiest way to blow the budget!

6. Consider changing supermarket

Many of us are loyal to a supermarket because it stocks what we like or is the nearest to home. If your normal supermarket isn’t the cheapest, consider going elsewhere for your Christmas food shop. You could save serious money going to Aldi or Lidl rather than Waitrose or M&S.

7. Start saving today

It’s not too late to start setting money aside for Christmas now. Even if you started saving £20 a week, you’d have £200 by Christmas. Stick your savings in an easy access account – the best buy at the moment from Marcus Bank pays 1.5% interest – then you won’t be tempted to dip into them.