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Hey big spender!

Posted on 07 December 2017

A sobering fact as we head for peak spending season, one in three of us will get into debt over the Christmas period, half of whom will spend the following year paying it off.  This is bad news for many families across the UK already feeling the impact of the living standards squeeze.  At the same time, we are a nation sorely in need of cheer during this period of political turmoil. So what advice do experts have to avoid a financial hangover and ensure all the family has a good time this Christmas?

Take debt on a slay ride

A Christmas budget may feel like a joy-killer but finance experts agree, sticking to one is the best way to achieve peace of mind, and ensure funds to achieve our financial goals in 2018.  As well as the obvious big ticket items, presents, food and drink, don’t forget to budget for a party outfit and travel.

When it comes to giving presents, family and close friends have a critical role to keep you within budget.  Early on, agree expectations for, who buys what, for whom, and how much.  The chances are other family members will be in a similar boat and feel hugely relieved that you’ve surfaced the issue so they don’t have to struggle financially.  If money is tight, relatives can agree to chip into a secret Santa, or give the gift of time with an offer to babysit, cook a meal, help a family member garden or decorate, as is their need.

The four present rule

Some parents swear by the four present rule as a way of setting guidelines that older children can buy into.  For each child buy something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.   Buying ‘experiences’ is often a great way to fund teenage lifestyles over the forthcoming year.  A ticket to a theme park, cinema, sporting or music event is popular as are vouchers for their favourite shops or eateries.  Don’t forget to redeem loyalty points and use discount vouchers to reduce the cost of any purchase.  Check out whether your employer offers incentive or Compliments benefits to save money on purchases through select retailers.

Avoid showering babies and toddlers with gifts.  They will be more interested in the packaging and paper anyway, and remember you are setting expectations for future years when they will be aware of the number of presents under the tree.

Food Wars

With the average Christmas meal costing 16% more this year than last, it is time to take advantage of the supermarket food wars currently underway.  Shop around for the best offers, use discount vouchers and check the results of blind tests in which budget price groceries are often ranked ahead of luxury brands. Where possible buy from street or farmer markets to slash the cost of fruit, vegetables and cheese.  Plan Christmas dinner to make the most of leftovers.

For many families 2017 has been another year of financial belt tightening with more to come next year as Brexit kicks in.  Let’s take time to enjoy Christmas with family and ensure we enter 2018 in the best financial shape.