The run-up to Christmas is likely to feel very different this year as the coronavirus pandemic has thrown uncertainly around the festive season.
Unemployment is already rising, there is a new lockdown and finances will be a worry, especially for those faced with redundancy.
We will have restrictions on non-essential journeys and pub curfews, as well as the “rule of six”, which makes social gatherings of more than six people against the law. Will these still be in place at Christmas? Who knows?
We usually provide some Christmas spending tips at this time of year, but this year we have been particularly mindful that some people will find gift buying very difficult, if not impossible.
From savvy shopping tips and ways to save, to why you should prioritise the important stuff this year, here are our top Christmas tips for keeping costs, stress and embarrassment down:
1 Make a list – and check it twice
It’s easy to get carried away at Christmas, buying presents as you see them and then panicking at the last minute and buying more.
To prevent this, work out how much you can afford to spend this year and then break this down into the items you’ll spend money on, such as presents, food and travel.
Assign a budget to each item you need to buy and stick to it to prevent financial stress around Christmas and into the New Year.
2 Buy strategically
Many retailers run pre-Christmas sales, for example on Black Friday (27 November) and Cyber Monday (30 November.) Consult your list and think about whether you could buy some items in the sales.
However, don’t get caught up in the excitement of grabbing a deal just to end up overspending. Remember to stick to the items on your list and to do some research beforehand so you know you are getting a good deal.
3 Start saving now
Putting a small amount of money away every week in the run-up to Christmas will help you to feel more in control of your finances and will leave you with a buffer for emergencies.
Think about what you can afford to put to one side then work out how much this will leave you with to spend on food or gifts nearer the time.
Maybe you can cut out non-essential spending (like take away coffee and sandwiches) by making your own and saving the money.
4 Stock-up in advance
To take away the financial sting of a big Christmas shop, stock up on non-perishable items by adding items to your weekly shop in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
5. Loyalty cards
If you have loyalty cards, use these in the run up to Christmas and save the points to use on presents, food, clothes etc.
6. Look out for deals.
This is obvious, but worth keeping an eye out. For example: some supermarkets run occasional ‘25% off when you buy six bottles of wine’ offers and Groupon usually runs promotions on spa days and plants etc.
But be careful! Some retailers put up prices around now so they can cut them in December and advertise price cuts, so keep a keen eye open for genuine bargains.
7. Home Entertainment
Depending on how the coming weeks unfold, we may have to entertain ourselves more at home this year, rather than going out.
Check that you have the best deal on all the various channels and streaming services that are available, and work out whether you’re getting the best value on your broadband and TV package.
Also think about some inexpensive games you can play within your friend and family bubbles – charades is always fun and you don’t want to be couch potatoes ALL the time!
8. Think differently this year
The coronavirus pandemic has shown people the huge importance of friends and family, and, in full lockdown, many people missed social interaction more than material possessions or habits such as going to the gym.
So, don’t forget this and think about Christmas presents differently this year. People generally love homemade gifts and if you have developed some new skills during lockdown, you could put these to the test – biscuits, cakes, paintings, a new song, a fancy wall hanging – you get the idea! Or a present promise is a very inexpensive gift – a meal for 2 in the future, a special walk or drive or tour, a music lesson etc. rather than exchanging gifts.
9. Don’t be afraid to talk money
We are all in this together so don’t be embarrassed to tell people if you can’t afford presents. Make it clear you don’t expect any either and take the pressure off everyone.
A good idea for family or friendship groups is to arrange a Secret Santa, which will allow you to all spend a bit more on one person. Again, agree a budget in advance, though, and stick to it.
10. Spread the cost
Find out what your friends and family are really interested in and think creatively. For example: you can sponsor all sorts of things and pay a small amount each month (maybe for ever or just for a few months.)
You can adopt an endangered Jaguar (or other animal) for a wildlife fan, for as little as £3 pm from the World Wildlife Fund. They will even send you a little furry Jaguar to wrap up!
11. Free up some cash
Declutter your house ahead of Christmas and consider selling any items via a resale site. Old ‘phones are usually worth more than you think and as everyone is in the same predicament financially, there will be plenty of people looking for used items.
12. Book travel in advance
If indeed we are able to travel, you can get some of the cheapest fares by booking early as soon as tickets are released. It might be worth spending a bit more to buy a flexible ticket in case your plans have to be changed at the last minute.
13. Don’t pay interest on borrowing
This is something we say every year – don’t get into debt and only spend what you have!
Take cash out of the bank and stop shopping when it has all gone.If you have no option other than to pay for some of Christmas (ie: food) on a credit card, make sure you have the right one.
Apply for a 0% purchase credit card well in advance to eliminate paying interest, but make sure you always pay the monthly minimum payments and know when the 0% period ends so you can clear everything off the card before a high interest rate begins.
As always please feel free to share these tips with friends and family if you think it will help to make Christmas more manageable for everyone at this very difficult time.