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Christmas is a time of giving, goodwill, family and of course, excess. We buy too much, we spend too much and we eat and drink too much and as a consequence we’re often left with a nasty January cash hangover and a very lean start to the New Year.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. With carefully planning, preparation and a bit of budgeting you can still enjoy a traditional family Christmas with all the trimmings and extras but without being so cash-strapped at the year’s beginning.
Here’s our easy ‘smart cash’ guide to the festive season…
We love giving and receiving presents at Christmas time. Nothing beats getting up early on a Christmas morning with a glass of Champers and watching friends and family open all their presents. Unfortunately all the retailers know exactly how important Christmas is to us and gear a huge amount of effort into maximising their sales and profits at this time of year. We are literally bombarded with offers, promotions, pre-Christmas sales and advertising pretty much from November in. Much is also made now of that US import Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) where almost every shop and online retailer seems to slash prices. This creates a huge consumer buying frenzy (In 2016, Britons spent an astonishing £5.8 billion over the period between Black Friday and Cyber Monday). But beware, in reality Black Friday is just the start of the seasonal promotional free-for-all with all its opportunities and risks.
A big danger is getting so excited by all the ‘bargains’ flying around and pressure selling that you get into a spending frenzy with common sense and budgeting flying out the window – meaning you buy the wrong things at the wrong prices.
The truth is many of the Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals or even better ones will still be around in one form or another in the lead up to Christmas and the best thing you can do is thoroughly research what you think you might want on-line in advance. Then be really wary about parting with your hard-earned cash.
Make a list of exactly what you want to buy and set a maximum price against this. Then using these as your guidelines – STICK TO THEM! This way you wont get suckered into making impulse buys you might later regret. For example, if you’re buying your Mum a digital camera – set a top budget and list the essential features eg video, internal flash – then review all the options inthat match the criteria – don’t get swayed by the lure of a higher spec camera just because it seems to have a bigger discount – stick to the top price you’re prepared to pay and make the product fit your budget. Set a budget for every present you intend to buy and don’t stray from this.
Without a doubt food and drink make Christmas but, again, planning is important – work out what you need for each of the major meals (sure have a few treats like sweet tins and cakes), but work out what you actually need to cater for the numbers of people that will around and don’t over-stock. There’s nothing sadder than loads of expensive leftovers that will either go to waste or sit taking up cupboard space in the new year just when you’re on your fitness programme and don’t want to be tempted by left over teats. Ask yourself if you need a whole turkey or will a crown of turkey do? Plan in what you do with leftovers on the days after Christmas – turkey pie or curry anyone? Bubble and Squeak with some bacon for the leftover veggies? Save cash by making sure there’s no waste.
As for the provisions themselves again shop around. Do you need Champagne when Prosecco will do? Are you better buying a good Cava rather than a poor Champagne? Check out the online drinks reviews and you’ll find even the discount retailers have bottles of fizz that are really cheap and great quality. As before, set yourself a Christmas provisions budget and stick to it.
It’s not just the gifts and food that cost at Christmas – the tree, wrapping paper and cards all can rack up the expense. So factor this cost in – you can save money by buying a slightly shorter tree or re-use an artificial one. Cards can be hand made at very little cost and this adds a real personalised touch. Plain packing or brown paper can be used for wrapping but jazz it up with some craft items and ribbons. So watch that spending and have a very Merry Christmas.
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