I am pleased to report that I have just spotted the UK’s first Christmas decorations, hanging in a shop front window, in my local town. Make a note of the date, it is August 28. Have we had Halloween yet or have I been hibernating? My heart always sinks when I see the first decorations going up, particularly if we have not had a great summer, the summer has not in fact ended, and autumn has not been given a chance to chill the air and blanket us with golden leaves. But it did get me thinking about the expense of Christmas and how it is never too early to start saving, buying, or stocking up on essentials, especially if you have a large family coming to stay. There are many ways of getting ahead of the Christmas expenditures that hit us hard in the month of December; and I don’t know about you, but I can never understand why I can’t make the last month of the year’s pay packet cover all the presents and food costs for the festive season. So this year I have decided to be a little more organised and not rely on my credit cards. Here are my tips for saving and making the most of these next few months before the Christmas period kicks in.
Make a list & budget
Work out exactly how much Christmas is going to cost you, by adding up food expenditures, presents etc then divide this into months or weeks, whichever you feel more comfortable with handling. Now you know where you stand, whether you need to cut back a little, or if you have more than you realised. You’ll undoubtably add to your list everytime you look at it, but create a section for fresh foods that you can only buy in the last week, dry goods that can be bought at any time, wines and drinks etc that also can be purchased in advance. Now get into the habit of taking this list with you everytime you go out shopping and trying to buy at least a couple of items from it every week. You can also make up a present list and keep your eyes open for suitable gift ideas when you are out. It saves getting stressed in the month of December, and it saves you spending all your salary in one hit.
Why does everyone eat so much food at Christmas? Did you know the average person scoffs an enormous 6,000 calories on Christmas Day? This is three times our normal allowance and someone has to buy all this food; normally it is you if you’re hosting. So get as prepared as you can. If you have not already done so, get one of those supermarket top up Christmas cards and add to it every time you are out doing a shop. If you start from today and add a fiver each week, you will have saved up £80 by the time Christmas comes around and probably not even noticed it. There are also food stuffs that you can buy in advance that you can be adding from now, to your weekly shop, and they will keep until Christmas Day. Jars of pickles, gravy cubes, biscuits (check the end date), condiments, and if you are making your own Christmas cake, then why not start buying the ingredients now? Raisins, currants and dates are expensive at Christmas when the stores know that people want them for a certain recipe. Buy them now while they are still relatively cheap, and you’ll have one item crossed off your list of ‘to do’ things.
Drinks are another item that can be bought well in advance and in either small quantities, or look out for great deals, such as six bottles and get 25% off. Don’t forget that you will also need mixers, such as tonic, spirits, and soft and fizzy drinks. Getting into the habit of buying a few Christmas items whenever you or your partner are out, saves you spending a huge amount in only one month.
Ask for help!
If you are going to host a huge Christmas family get together over the festive season, no one will expect you do pay for it all by yourself (unless they did last year and you offered them nothing!) So if people ask you “What do you want me to bring?” Don’t go all shy and mumble ‘nothing’ with gritted teeth, have a list already made up of what you consider to be acceptable donations. You could ask one set of relatives to provide Christmas crackers for the Christmas table, another to bring all the mixers, and if someone really wants to donate, then ask them to buy the turkey!