Christmas is closer than you think, and it’s regularly a time people overspend, There’s the pressure to buy loads of gifts, the pressure to go out to parties and the pressure to have the most amazing day on the 25th. That’s fine if you can afford it, but not great if money is tight.
So for this month’s guest blog, I’ve asked my blogging friend Hollie Gregersen from Thriftymum, who also happens to be a huge Christmas fan, to share a few ways you can get ready NOW. Over to Hollie.
Get your finances ready for Christmas.
Failing to plan, is planning to fail” – Benjamin Franklin
For a lot of people, Christmas seems to jump out of no-where and panic sets in. What do I need to do? Who do I need to buy for? What are they into this year? And have I got the money to pay for it all? The thing is, we have a lifetime of notice that Christmas is going to come around the same time every year for the rest of our lives. It’s how we plan and prepare for it that will increase or lessen the panic we attach to this time of year. How we plan and prepare for Christmas will also define the impact it has on our bank balances.
Of course, knowing that Christmas is coming means we can take steps as early as Boxing Day to prepare for the next one. If you’ve left it later than that though, there is still plenty you can do now to have a debt-free Christmas.
Making a list (…checking it twice…)
Spend some time typing out the most comprehensive list of things you normally pay for over the Christmas period. Then be ruthless and delete any things which don’t really add value to your Christmas e.g. can you afford the time to be writing out Christmas cards or would you rather donate to charity? Do you need any more decorations or can you make do with what you already have? Could you re-gift some unwanted presents you have at the back of your wardrobe? Can you introduce a Secret Santa at work instead of buying each person a gift?
Take your list and adjust it so each item is in the order you need to buy them.
Work out how may paydays you have left between now and Christmas and add up how much you can spare to cover Christmas expenses.
Allocate an amount to each item on your budget list. Ensure you’ll have the funds for purchases you need to make earlier in the year e.g. personalised gifts which have a longer delivery time.
Outsmart the shops
Shops invest millions of pounds in clever techniques to make you spend more with them, even if this leads you to debt.
Here are the top things to watch out for:
Limited editions! (scarcity)
Limited editions or sales for limited periods or seasonal stock. Also stock announcements e.g. “only 3 left in store!” They’re all there to ramp up the panic and urgency of your purchase or you’ll miss out on it.
Free samples and free gifts! (reciprocity)
Instore: they’re trying to make you feel obliged to purchase the full-sized item.
Online: be careful of a free gift with every purchase. It makes you feel like you’ve received a gift so you’ll be tempted to spend more.
Celebrity endorsement! (authority)
Celebs or expert/verified reviews. We are hard-wired to take instructions from people with authority who we admire and trust – so be wary of who and why you’re taking advice from.
Try it on, how does it feel?! (consistency)
Instore: be careful of test drives, or physically holding an item for sale. This gets you visualising the item being in your life as you’ve already experienced a moment of ownership. The same applies for easy return policies. If they have one, you’re more likely to buy and once in your home, the purchase is less likely to leave!
Online: be careful of signing up for newsletters. This is a small commitment to a business and then your mind will regularly be exposed to their brand.
Must have lists! (liking)
Be mindful of why you’re buying an item in the first place. Has it appeared on a “Must Have” list and you subconsciously want to keep up with the Joneses? Reviews by people like you make you think that the product would suit you more too.
What other people are buying lists (consensus)
Info on what they are buying now or went on to buy after viewing that item can influence your spending. It may be real data but it is just there to make you spend more. People naturally look at the actions of others to determine their own next steps. However, remember that everyone’s financial situation is different.
RRP labels (anchoring)
There are laws about this but some stores such as TK Maxx have been found guilty of pushing up RRP so the sale price appears a bargain.
Sales (instant gratification)
As we have seen from the recent news about Argos’ 3 for 2 sales where they upped the prices right before the sale, it is worth monitoring previous prices. You can do this on sites such as CamelCamelCamel for Amazon purchases.
A discount isn’t always a bargain if you compare prices in other stores. You can compare prices online with sites such as Idealo.
About us pages (humanising)
They are there to make you feel like you’re buying from a real person rather than a large corporation so more likely to spend more. Some businesses use rustic packaging to make the product appear less polished. Big supermarkets have been found to be using fake farms on their meat and veggies to make you imagine an independent farmer.
Even if you don’t have the time to take on another “normal job” there are plenty of side hustles you can do in your spare time, during your lunch break or even on your commute to work. There is plenty of choice, from answering surveys, spotting job vacancies or something traditional like babysitting. All these extra earnings could mean the difference between a luxury, no compromise and more importantly, debt-free Christmas or one which you spend the rest of the year paying off.
Make your money work harder
Combine cashback, coupons, wombling (gathering other peoples’ receipts to claim the loyalty card points), discount mobile phone apps and in-store sales to achieve a debt-free Christmas. If you’re willing to put the work in, it is possible to even have an entirely free Christmas.
Remember the true meaning of Christmas
Whether you’re religious or not, Christmas tends to mean space away from the hustle and bustle of regular life to spend time out with loved ones. Regularly reminding yourself of this can curb your spending and avoid the commercialism. There’s plenty of ways to celebrate the holiday season without spending too much.
- Invite family around for a potluck meal where they all bring a dish and share what they’ve made.
- Have a Christmas movie night in with friends and homemade popcorn.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
- Spend an afternoon teaching younger family members how to play a board game.
- Offer to walk a dog and take your camera with you to capture signs of the season.
Thanks Hollie! You can find more Christmas money saving ideas and tips in Hollie’s Facebook group Thrifty and Frugal Christmas.