We know that the pressure to have a “perfect” Christmas can cause many difficulties for families. Money worries are one of the most frequent reasons why families contact our FamilyLine service, and the festive season only pulls the purse strings even tighter.
To help you manage your finances and reduce the stress over the season, we have joined up with our partner Barclays LifeSkills, who fund our Holiday Hub programme, to give you some top tips on how to make your money stretch further this year and plan for the future.
Write a list of your priorities
The first step to understanding what money you can put towards Christmas is to work out your living costs, including knowing what’s coming in, what’s going out and when. Making a budget gives you a clear picture of where your money goes and shows you where you might have a chance to put money aside.
Start by writing down the things that you could go without and those things that you cannot – you can use the Barclays LifeSkills budget planner to get started.
Set a budget and stick to it
There can be tremendous pressure at Christmas to ensure the cupboards are full and there are plenty of presents under the tree but spending money we don’t have can contribute to fresh worries . By setting a budget, you are less likely to get caught out by unexpected bills or costs at times such as Christmas. That way you can prioritise what really matters to you and ensure you don’t let your spending get out of hand. ensure you don’t let your spending get out of hand.
Again, you can find out more about planning and creating a budget to take control of your finances using Barclays LifeSkills.
Plan ahead to cut other Christmas costs
Don’t forget to book your trains as soon as possible if you’re travelling at Christmas, as ticket prices can be much higher than other times of the year. Look into split-ticketing or getting a discount on off-peak railway journeys with a Young Person’s or 26-30 railcard.
Also stock up on essential food and drink while it’s still available at a competitive price. It’s surprising how much you can freeze in advance and use in delicious leftovers post-Christmas. Have a look through your cupboards to see if there are any ingredients, like stock cubes or old mulled wine sachets, you can use up.
Agree spending limits with family and friends
A large network of family and friends is usually a recipe for happiness, but at Christmas the spending can really add up for even the most comfortable families. Have an honest discussion with your friends and family about a realistic spending limit, or even whether you might want to pause on spending this year following the difficult time we’ve all had.
Another way to manage the cost is to suggest Secret Santa for your group of friends or relatives, where you only buy one present for someone else in the group, picked anonymously and with an agreed budget. There are lots of websites that can help to organise it for you. If you don’t suggest Secret Santa, you could still propose a spending limit. Christmas is an expensive time for everyone, so you might be surprised at how popular a spending cap could be.
Be a savvy shopper
Special offers and Christmas sales seem to start earlier every year, and it can be hard to resist buying more than you planned. Make a list of things you need to buy before shopping, this way you’ll be much less likely to be tempted by “deals” and advertisements. This is true of both gifts and groceries.
Discount voucher sites and buying pre-loved items are great ways of purchasing things at affordable prices. Look for the sales! If you can find what you’re looking for at a discount or on sale it will release a little more funds for something else.
Before you start shopping, check out typical prices online for the items that you need to buy. If you see them discounted, you’ll know whether it’s really a bargain.
Recycle wrapping paper and gift bags
Yes, for younger children who tear the paper to shreds saving the literal paper from toys might not be viable, but often we buy too much wrapping paper and there are partial rolls that can be saved and used for a different friendship group or family member. Gift bags are also highly reusable, so make sure you store them away for next Christmas.
Start saving early!
You can start saving money at any time in the year, but the New Year provides a good opportunity to reset and start the year afresh. We recommend setting up a separate savings account specifically for next year’s festive season. That way you can save a little each month and spread the cost of an expensive period over a whole year.
Saving money isn’t just a matter of being able to put cash aside when you can, it’s also about getting the best deal or tariff you possibly can on any of your household goods or services.
Watch this virtual session from Barclays LifeSkills for some top tips!
Pay off Credit Cards quickly
Sometimes borrowing at Christmas is unavoidable. In these cases, make sure you pay off Credit Cards as quickly as you can, as it’s an expensive way to borrow money in the long term.
Explore the Barclays LifeSkills virtual session to find out more about how to manage your debt, review your spending and who to contact for additional support.
Learn how to better protect yourself against fraud
While you’re busy seeking out the perfect festive presents, bear in mind that some fraudsters will be doing their best to have a happy Christmas at your expense – so make sure you stay one step ahead.
If you’re clicking through to a website from a link in an email or on social media, check the address bar at the top of your browser to make sure the site is legitimate and look for warning signs like poor-quality logos and images.
For support, you can use these guides and tools packed with tips and advice from Barclays to help you learn how to better protect yourself from fraud and stay safe online.
Help is out there
If you’re really struggling this Christmas, remember help is out there for you! Family Action’s FOOD Clubs and Toy Appeal are set up to help people in exactly your position, and you shouldn’t hesitate to use them. If you need to talk to someone, you can contact our national helpline, FamilyLine, for free listening support and advice.
You could also consider visiting your local foodbanks and other local charities and community organisations, such as churches and children’s centres.
Remember that money isn’t everything
Although the need to make ends meet during the festive season can have a huge effect on our lives it’s important to remember that at its core Christmas is a season centred around tradition, family and community – things which can be enjoyed at nearly no cost at all – so we hope that your Christmas is as magical, relaxing and rewarding as possible, regardless of your budget.