Plan ahead to take the spending stress out of Christmas

We know what you’re thinking – Christmas is months away! But the shops are already stacking their shelves with festive cards and wrapping paper, and there are just a few paydays left until Santa Claus comes to town.

On a Debt Management Plan you are, of course, used to living on a tight budget. In the run up to Christmas, we know that many customers worry about how they are going to find the money to pay for all that eating, drinking and making merry. But now’s the time to use the budgeting skills you’ve developed for a little forward planning, to make sure you can pay for the festive season without missing your December or January DMP payments, or any of your other usual bills. Read on for some tips.

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Put money aside now


It pays to plan ahead. Can you put a few pounds aside each month from now to December? Perhaps by making some savings on your housekeeping or leisure spending. If you can, you could build up a nice little buffer to help you meet the extra cost of Christmas. Take a look at the Money Advice Service guide to your options for saving up your Christmas funds.


Look at your budget


Next, think about what you’ll need to pay for. The obvious things are presents, food and drink. But depending on your circumstances you might need to factor in:

- travel

- decorations: reuse last year’s if you can

- cards and wrapping: have a look online for homemade gift-wrap ideas. Consider switching to homemade or online Christmas card alternatives, or simply going card-free - it’s better for the environment as well as your wallet!

- socialising: do you have a work Christmas do? What about New Year’s Eve? If you need a new outfit, keep costs down by shopping second-hand or even clothes-swapping with friends.

Make your budget as detailed and realistic as possible. How many people are coming for dinner? How much will your work Christmas do cost you? (It’s a good idea to work out your budget before you confirm your plans!) Don’t forget your heating costs will go up, too.

Then work out how many people you’ll need to buy presents for. Think of ways you can keep this list down. If you buy presents for friends or colleagues, why not do a Secret Santa? Is there anyone on your list who would appreciate a homemade gift? Work out how much you can afford to spend on each person.


Can you make a bit of extra cash?


A pre-Christmas clear out could help you raise some extra money. If you’ve got any old clothes you don’t wear any more, or old phones or other gadgets knocking around, why not try to sell them? As well as eBay, its worth looking at selling on Shpock, Facebook and Gumtree. For gadgets and games Music Magpie and CeX are great too.


Spread the cost by buying early


Keep an eye out for sales and offers. If you spot a bargain that you know someone on your Christmas list would love, snap it up, put it aside - and make a note for yourself so you don’t forget and buy more presents than you need! You could even wrap your gifts as you buy them and save yourself the dreaded Christmas Eve wrapping marathon.

If you’ll need to travel by train this festive season, don’t leave it until December to book your tickets. They usually go on sale months in advance, so buy early while the cheapest tickets are still available.

Getting organised now can save you both money and hassle come December - you might be surprised how affordable Christmas can be. Happy saving!

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