How to avoid debt this Christmas
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Avoid debt this Christmas by focusing on how you can save money AND please all the people.
The truth about Christmas and money
Many people secretly dread Christmas each year. There’s so much hype; so much pressure. Half a year is geared up towards preparing for the main event. Seasonal produce appears in the shops – in summer – before the children have even gone back to school. So we stick our heads in the sand before last minute panic sets in and we spend money on unnecessary gifts, just because we feel we have to.
To hammer home this point, I recently read a post on Instagram from someone who is being proactive to reduce the amount of people they are buying for this year, by suggesting that they only buy for the children in their (rather large) family. Unfortunately, this was met with some negativity. The result is bad feeling on both sides, and a whole lot of stress. There is unnecessary worry about the negative response, the prospect of having to buy for such a lot of people, and the financial burden that goes with it.
How is that fair?
As a serious money-saver and someone who wants to ditch the debt, I’m in agreement with Martin Lewis. We need to stop unnecessary spending on gifts for so many people each year. It’s landing us in even more debt.
The pressure to spend money on our loved ones during the festive season with gifts that they probably won’t even want is too strong. It’s time to stop, and avoid debt this Christmas – and subsequent ones.
The obvious option is to tell your family that you’re not buying gifts this year. But what happens when you’re faced with a situation similar to the one indicated above?
It IS possible to enjoy the festive season and not end up with a financial hangover, with these tips and ideas.
1. Set a budget – gifts, food and decorations
If you have a budget of how much you’ve got to spend for Christmas, you’re less likely to overspend. The most important thing to remember is to set your budget and stick to it (if you haven’t begun saving, or making money for it, now is the time to start!). Work out how many people you need to buy for, and set a limit (see below) for each person. Take any gift wrapping costs you may need to allow for into account and subtract this from your budget.
As far as food goes, if you already have a food budget, then use it, and stick to it. Perhaps put some of your Christmas kitty towards it, but only spend what you can afford. The same goes for the decorations. Don’t be lavish if you can’t afford to be. If that means you can’t buy 3 tubs of chocolate sweeties or a banquet from Iceland, then you can’t buy them, and you need to keep it basic (a prawn-cocktail, a roast dinner and a Christmas pudding doesn’t cost a fortune!). Alternatively if you’re hosting, ask people to bring food. Most will ask, so be specific if there’s anything you’re missing or don’t have enough money in your budget.
Next, write a list of what to buy for each recipient, ensuring it won’t go over your allocated allowance.
2. Set a limit based on what you can afford
Of course, if you’re totally strapped and already struggling financially, the sensible thing to do is to simply put a stop to buying any gifts at all. But if you have children, this isn’t always possible.
After running a poll on Twitter, 43% of you tell others that you’re only buying for the kids. But in the difficult event this choice isn’t very well-received, agree on a spend limit. That doesn’t mean you have to spend the full amount per person, as it is possible to give without spending a fortune. Places such as Poundstretcher, Poundland, B&M and Wilko have some great Christmas gift bargains, so they’re definitely worth a visit.
3. Don’t shop all at once
If you’ve already saved up, set a budget, worked out what you want to buy and how much you want to spend, there’s no reason why you can’t stagger your gift-buying in the lead up to Christmas. It reduces the pressure and stress, and you’re less-likely to panic-buy and end up buying more than you need to out of guilt.
4. Give the gift of homemade, with love
Are gimmicky gifts really worth spending your money on? Year after year the shops churn out gifts that are designed just for Christmas, and they’re not often particularly good quality (such as a hot chocolate gift mug I received one year. It was the consistency of dishwater). Or they might be something that isn’t to the taste of the person you’re giving it to, so it will likely end up in a drawer (like a jokey fart present). Why would you want to waste your money like that?
Last year, I made a batch of gingerbread men. I packed each one into a cellophane gift bag, and tied and decorated them with curling ribbon.
In addition to this, I put together some candle and bath salts/jelly bean gift packages. Using Epsom salts, jelly beans, jam jars, frosting spray, cardboard templates and scented tea-light candles (battery-operated for the elderly and younger generations), I finished them off with some simple gift-tag instructions and curling ribbon. Other ideas include homemade jam, or chutney, or perhaps another craft is your forte. Homemade-with-love gifts are always well received. Not only that, the thought and effort put in to such a gift is evident, potentially reducing future Christmas expectations from your loved ones.
5. Keep it real
At the end of the day, Christmas should be about spending time with friends and family, and having fun.
Don’t make it about money, and refuse to be caught up in the hype.
With a little foresight, some organisation and careful planning, it’s totally possible to have a great time this Christmas and avoid ending up in debt.