Think It’s Too Early To Plan For Christmas? Think Again And Save Both Time And Money!

October 28, 2016Mandi Morrison

At the moment, you might have noticed something strange happening in your local shops and supermarkets. No, it’s not the sudden adornment of pumpkins and spooky skeletons. In fact, even though it’s just around the corner, it’s nothing to do with Halloween at all! In true presumptuous style, it’s actually Christmas decor and gifts that have already hit the shelves. This is something that is now fairly common in our modern culture. Compared to thirty years ago, people these days spend an extortionate amount on Christmas. Usually, this is all despite prior intentions of doing it all on a budget. This is something retailers play on by putting out goods as early as possible. This way, customers are more likely to pick up things here and there, thinking that they need them. We all know the pull of the Christmas aisle in the supermarket, after all. It’s normally full of things we know we don’t need, but that at that moment in time seem vital to our family Christmas. Things have got so extreme that reports suggest the average family spends around £800 on Christmas. People asked in the report by the Money Advice Trust’s National Debtline said that they felt pressured to spend money at this time of year. Sources of pressure were said to come from relatives, spouses and even depictions of Christmas in film and television. Of course, it is also worth bearing in mind that the figure of £800 is only relevant for an ‘average’ British family. Generally, this refers only to a family with only two children. If you have any more than this, you can expect your Christmas cost to skyrocket. If you want to avoid a financially difficult start to the new year, it’s vital that you budget your family Christmas – and stick to it! It can be hard when you have kids that you want to spoil of course. But, there are ways you can have the dream Christmas without breaking the bank. The secret’s out: it’s never too early to plan for Christmas!

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Set the ball rolling…

Have you always been a bit of a Scrooge and hate talking about Christmas before December the 1st? Unfortunately, if you want to save money, you’ll need to commit to Christmas pretty early! It can feel strange planning for Christmas when it hasn’t even been Halloween yet. But, the earlier you organize everything, the less stress you will face when the time actually comes. The first thing you need to think about is where Christmas is being hosted. If you have a large extended family who you are close to, you may spend Christmas day all together. Usually, in these circumstances, different relations take it in turns to host Christmas Day. Unless, of course, someone has a particularly large home that is best suited to a large family gathering. But get your relatives together and decide who’s going to host this year. If it’s you, you can crack on with your to-do list immediately. Decide on the scale of the meal you are going to cook. Obviously, it’s better to have too much food than too little, but you would be surprised at the amount of food that is thrown away after Christmas. Set a realistic budget in place and if you can, keep this money safely away from your day-to-day income. Putting it into your savings account until the time comes to spend it can be a big help in this situation. Plus, it can stop you dipping into your Christmas fund when you’re strapped for cash. If you’ve saved receipts from last year, it can be useful to look at these to consider where you may have previously overspent. It’s easy to get carried away at Christmas, so focus on the things that really matter. A third of us may overspend at Christmas, but 60% of us also find a way to cut back on certain aspects of the festive season. So, think carefully about where your money goes.

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….but set a contingency plan

Even if you feel like you’ve covered every single base in your ‘plan Christmas early’ checklist, chances are something is going to go wrong. Maybe the tree you order months ago doesn’t actually fit in your home. Or, if you are one of many families who go away for Christmas, perhaps you forgot to order someone’s gift. This doesn’t initially seem like too much of a problem – after all, you can just re-order it on express delivery whilst you’re away. But many large British retailers do not actually offer international shipping. If you are going away for Christmas, it’s best to familiarize yourself with a trusted forwarding service just in case the worse happens. Of course, it’s easy to make mistakes around Christmas, as there’s so much to think about. But preparing for every eventuality months ahead will save you time and money in the long run. Plus, planning ahead can buy you one very precious thing on Christmas Day itself: sleep. How many times have you been up on Christmas Day even before the children, frantically seeing which couriers work on Christmas (hint: none of them) or considering trying to catch a wild turkey yourself? If all of these things are organized in advance and you are prepared for any mishaps, this could mean you get an extra few hours in bed. Vital when your little ones have already tired you out by 11am!  

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Decorate early

Now, we don’t mean actually having the decorations up in mid-October. Even the most festive of people tend to avoid doing this these days due to fear of appearing in the complaints section of the local newspaper. But, there’s nothing wrong with BUYING your Christmas decorations early (even if it is a bit embarrassing carrying them back home from the shop). Decorations tend to hit the shelves in the UK around October, but if you look hard enough, you should be able to find them all year round. Visit vintage shops, charity shops, and bric-a-bracs to find Christmas decor at any time of year for a fraction of the usual cost. You may have a preconception that all of this kind of decor lacks taste, especially if it is second hand. But go shopping with a bit of patience and you will be able to find some little gems that can really give your home that festive look. It’s hard enough trying to prepare food and gifts in those few weeks leading up to the 25th, without having to worry about decorating your home. Gather suitable decor as the year goes by and then it’s one less thing to worry about when winter comes. The only thing that you can’t afford to buy late is the tree. The British Christmas Tree Growers Association claim that a well-cut tree should be able to last in a family home for around six weeks. However, we all know the reality is around 3 weeks if we’re lucky! Buy everything else in advance, but don’t stress about leaving your tree until last minute.

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Check your credit

More and more of us now use our credit cards to pay for Christmas – about 14 million of us in the UK, to be exact. When used wisely, credit cards can be just the ticket to help you successfully manage your finances. In some cases, they can even be much more than worth your while, by giving back to you in the form of points and cash back. But on the flip side, it is easy to get out of control with them. Around nine million people are still clearing debts from last Christmas after they got a little swipe-happy with their plastic. The rise of American traditions in the UK such as Black Friday has also led to an increase in borrowing amongst Brits. Therefore, if you are considering using credit cards to finance your Christmas this year, it’s vital that you are using the correct one. But with so many different options on the market, how do you know which is the right one for you? Well, first off, you need to find out if you are eligible for  a cashback credit card. Only one in four people will actually use one of these for Christmas, meaning they are missing out on valuable perks. Also, consider the interest rate of your cards and try to view them more like real cash. You can get in serious trouble if you can’t pay the money back at the end of the month, so track your spending just as you would with money or a debit card. If you already have a credit card you’re planning on using for the holiday season, check your credit report as early as possible. This will help to make sure you don’t run into any last minute rejections. After all, the 20th of December is no time to be trying to correct an error on your credit score! By checking your report months in advance you will have time to sort out any discrepancies.

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