Perhaps you’ve already started preparing for this Christmas, or maybe you’re avoiding it till the very last minute. Well, I want you to think about next Christmas. Yes, Christmas 2020. You’re right, I’m a complete sadist. And to suck even more fun out of the situation, I’m going to talk budgets. You need to get started now to plan for the next one. Stick with me.
Imagine I’m a cheery Ghost of Christmas Future. I introduce you to a heart-warming festive scene where you haven’t spent too much money and there’s no massive credit card bill in January. Everything’s paid for upfront and you haven’t wasted your money on unnecessary rubbish. Sound good? Here’s how …
Step 1 – Keep a record of everything you spend this Christmas
If you’ve already started shopping, you’ll need to go through those credit card statements. This serves three purposes:
- It ensures your spending is intentional. You’re making conscious decisions to buy something, rather than automatically clicking ‘buy’ without thinking.
- You know exactly how much Christmas costs so you can budget your spending for next year.
- You can review the spending afterwards to see whether it truly sparked Christmas joy. That’s what we’ll do next.
Make sure you’ve included everything – batteries, Sellotape, Secret Santa pressies.
Step 2 – Review your spending
Once the tree comes down and you’ve eaten all the pickled onions, it’s time to look back over what you’ve spent. With a critical (but gentle) eye, consider all those expenses. Was anything unnecessary? This isn’t about stinting yourself. Rather, the aim is to find ways of cutting expenditure without affecting your enjoyment. We all tend to panic-buy in December, even though the shops are only closed for one day.
Here are a few tips to help cut the costs:
- Don’t stockpile Twiglets in October when they’re on a 3 for 2 offer. Unless you’re admirably self-restrained, you’ll eat them all before Christmas. Supermarkets know that’s what we’ll do. Did you really need that tub of Miniature Heroes, or did you take them to the office in the New Year because you were sick of chocolate?
- Keep a list of potential presents during the year. You don’t have to actually buy them in April – that’s terrifyingly efficient – but you’re more likely to spend money on gifts that people actually want, rather than wasting 30 quid on a boxset of salted caramel toiletries that sit untouched in somebody’s cupboard.
- Talk to friends and family about cutting back. They’ll probably be relieved that you’ve initiated the conversation. After all, most of us tend to overspend and then regret it.
Step 3 – Start saving for next Christmas
Once you’ve established the true cost of Christmas, you can budget properly. If the total bill comes to £600, you could put aside £50 each month, rather than scrambling to find the full amount in January when you also need to pay your tax bill. Even if you saved part of the cost, it would relieve some of the pressure on you. Reward yourself with a small sherry and then bore your relatives with tales of heroic financial prudence.
- This online tool from the Money Advice Service helps you anticipate costs and put aside enough money each month.
- MoneySavingExpert offers precisely 42 tips on saving money at Christmas.
Christmas budgeting maybe doesn’t sound like much fun, but it means you can enjoy yourself without worrying about what happens in January.
If Christmas is your thing, I hope you have a great one.
Christmassy piggy © pogonici – stock.adobe.com