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Average Brit spends £538 on Christmas: seven ways to avoid overspending

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

The average Brit will spend £538 on Christmas and overspend by £153, research shows.

They’ll splash out £311 on presents, £121 on food, £57 on going out, and £49 on extras like decorations and festive outfits.

But these averages hide some pretty hefty spending. The survey of 2,000 people by Hargreaves Lansdown revealed one in six people will spend more than £500 on presents alone, and almost one in 20 (4%) will shell out more than £1,000 on gifts.

Women spend more on presents and food and drink, while men spend more on going out and the little extras.

Parents with children under 18 living at home with spend £1,034 on average on Christmas.

When asked how they pay for Christmas, 58% said at least some of their spending comes from their usual disposable income and 39% said they used their savings. Many also borrow to pay for Christmas, with credit cards and overdrafts the most popular methods, followed by store cards and interest-free deals.

“While it’s easy to spend too much at Christmas, there’s really no need to start yet another year with a debt hangover,” said Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“There are some steps you can take right now to keep your Christmas spending plans on track.”

Seven ways to avoid festive overspending

Use a budget

Once you have a budget, the trick is to stick to it. Throughout the ‘shopping season’ you’ll be tempted to overspend – there’s a whole industry devoted to making you do this. Before you do, force yourself to leave at least 24 hours before making a purchase, to be sure this is something you really need. If you decide to go ahead, work out where you’re going to squeeze the extra cash from in your budget before you buy.

Ditch the expensive extras

Some things we do because they are traditions, but they’re expensive and nobody really values them. Do you really need festive liqueurs or fancy crackers? Don’t just assume everyone else wants to stick with old traditions, ask them.

Resist the urge to upshift brands

Sales of premium ranges soar at Christmas, as we treat ourselves to posh ham and top-of-the-range cheese. There’s no reason why you can’t eat the same things you enjoy all year round, but if you’re determined to treat yourself, it’s worth trying the cheaper premium ranges of the budget supermarkets.

Slash your gift list

If you’re struggling to stretch your budget, cut the number of presents you buy. Talk to groups of friends or family and agree not to buy for one another this year. You can just buy for the children, or run a secret Santa, so you buy for one person in each group.

Buy second hand

Younger children aren’t going to care whether it comes in the original packaging, so you can pick up second hand toys for a fraction of the price. Adults, meanwhile, may well love a vintage gift. Even hard-to-please teenagers may agree to technology that’s a year old if it means they get their favourite brand.

Use technology to make shopping around easier

Before you buy anything, go online to see if another retailer has a better deal, or there’s a discount voucher you can add to the mix. If you have time, leave the item in the digital shopping bag for a couple of days, and the retailer may send you a special offer.

If you are planning to buy from Amazon, look the item up on CamelCameCamel, which tracks prices of Amazon items and will show you whether you’re getting a good deal. You can also sign up for alerts when the price drops.

Stretch Christmas

If all else fails, agree to see groups of people in the New Year. Then you can buy their presents in the January sales or consider a cheeky re-gift or two.