It’s very easy to get so carried away with budgeting for Christmas presents, decorations and a delicious Christmas lunch that we can forget that we still need to meet our December and January household bills. Yes, avoiding Christmas debt can be a challenge!
We’ve been saving a little each day towards the cost of Christmas using Skintdad’s 52 Week Saving Challenge which helps you save around £650 by saving the same number of pennies as the number of the day in the year. So, on 1st January you save 1p, 2nd January 2p, 1st February 32p and so on.
I would highly recommend trying this out next year and we will certainly be repeating the exercise, but that doesn’t help with the general household bills and the costs of things that can go wrong, like the heating, the boiler, or the car.
The chances are, as soon as the cold weather hits, anything that’s about to break down or leak will start to do just that and, unless you have a savings ‘cushion’ you’re left to find the funds to put things right.
Most insurance deals now offer emergency cover for this kind of thing and it is certainly worth shopping around when you renew your policy to see if this extra protection can be added on cheaply. Don’t forget to do your comparisons though using a search engine like gocompare.com.
If your car won’t make it through the winter and you need finance to purchase another one, make sure you do your research and use a site with a car finance calculator. That way you’ll be clear about exactly what the true cost of your loan is and whether the repayments are manageable. You might want to consider car leasing instead.
Here are some other things that might help.
Plan for Next Christmas as early as possible
As I mentioned above, simple savings plans like Skintdad’s can provide you with a nice safety cushion to cover the costs of the big day. It’s obviously a bit late now – but you can at least console yourself that next Christmas will be paid for.
Don’t blow all your December pay packet on Christmas
Easier said than done if you’ve bills to cover! Lots of companies pay their staff earlier in December – at least a week earlier – and it’s easy to spend on luxuries and extra presents because you’re in the Christmas spirit. There’s also your Christmas party outfits to consider.
Remember, it needs to cover you to the end of January – a looooong 6 weeks away.
Make sure you don’t miss vital payments like your mortgage.
Missed mortgage payments are likely to get you into very hot water, not only by denting your credit score for future loans but with your lender. Meeting these is far more important than new fairy lights or a state of the art TV to watch Christmas telly on.
Talk to your bank if you need an overdraft
Don’t get clobbered by high interest rates because you have not agreed an overdraft.
Use credit cards wisely
Credit cards can offer protection if you purchase goods costing over £100 because, if you have a complaint against the retailer, the credit provider can also be liable. But, the best advice is to pay off your credit card in full every month to avoid interest charges, or shop around to see if you can find good balance transfer deals. Don’t forget, though, that credit is generally an expensive way of paying.
Similarly, don’t take out extra store card which often have very high rates of interest, or extended finance schemes which you might struggle to pay back come spring.
Manage the kids’ expectations
It’s best to be upfront with kids who are pretty good at understanding when money is tight. Tell them that Santa will be bringing them one special present this year rather than promising the full Christmas list – particularly if a mobile phone or other tech gadget is on their list.
Share the costs with your family
Are you the one who always organises Christmas? If you have siblings (and it won’t cause a riot) try to agree to rotate the festive hosting between you. If you’re cooking Christmas lunch, get your family to bring another course, or a Christmas cake, mince pies or wine.
Budget for nights out
It’s easy to budget for presents and food but forget all the extras that come with drinks after work and things like taxis back and forth from office parties (those were the days!). Then there’s your office party outfit, Secret Santa presents and tubs of Quality Street to keep your colleagues happy. Don’t forget to add an allowance for these ‘incidentals’ and try to stick to it.
With a bit of planning and some positivity you will hopefully be able to rein in the excessive spending which can grip us all at Christmas and face the New Year without a Christmas debt hangover.
If you need advice about your financial situation now, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau who can help. Avoiding Christmas debt can be done with some careful planning.