December is here which means we all have just over three weeks to get our shopping done before the Christmas festivities begin in earnest. Food, drink, decorations, gifts and wrapping are high on our lists, but this year shoppers have the worry of how to pay for it all as living costs soar.
The trick is to make the most of the festive period without giving yourself a massive new year financial hangover.
If the annual splurge is putting your wallet under too much pressure, learn to say no, politely but firmly, said Anthony Morrow, founder of low-cost financial advice platform Open Money. “Consider whether you can afford to hit every party or event you’re invited to. If not, there’s no shame in backing out of one or two.”
Think twice before going on a festive spree using credit cards or other forms of credit, Morrow added. “Beware ‘buy now pay later’ schemes such as Klarna and ClearPay. Think how you will pay it back.”
If your gift list is starting to look a bit costly, agree price limits with family and friends, said Reemul Balla, comparison site Finder.com’s shopping expert. “Don’t be afraid to raise the subject. You might find it comes as a relief to others when you suggest it.”
Alternatively, gift an “experience” rather than splashing out on a costly gift item, that may be less personal.
“Think of something that would brighten someone’s day that doesn’t involve reaching deep into your wallet. It could be as simple as breakfast in bed, planning a nice walk or making something,” Balls said.
You can save on presents by organising a “Secret Santa” with groups of friends or even family, said Pete Mugleston, money expert at onlinemoneyadvisor.co.uk. “It’s a great way of saving money.”
Sending digital Christmas cards instead of paper ones is now more socially acceptable and saves money, says Al Ward, head of customer savings at fund manager Abrdn. “You can download free e-Christmas cards from the internet or design your own.”
You could still send traditional Christmas cards to closer family members, or older friends and relatives who are less digitally aware.
Sign up to cashback sites such as TopCashback, Quidco and NetVoucherCodes, or check Groupon for offers.
More than a third of Brits will be bulk-buying specifically for Christmas but this can be a false economy, warned TopCashback director Adam Bullock. “On average, a fifth of multi-buy purchases go to waste. Just buy what you need instead.”
If you have to cut back on children’s gifts, ask them to prioritise one or two items they really want, said Louise Hill, co-founder of children’s savings app GoHenry. “That’s better than a huge list of presents they will soon get bored with.”
For many children, the greatest gift is your time, Hill said. “Make homemade decorations, cards and gifts to save money and have some fun together.”