Christmas seems to hit the shops earlier every year, but despite best intentions some of us still find we leave budgeting for the annual festivities to the last minute. Whether you plan months in advance or leave your shopping to the last-minute, here are some top tips to help you get ready for the big day.
1) Budget: First things first, whenever you begin planning for Christmas making a budget is key. Work out how much you can afford to spend, then divide this into everything you'll need including food, wrapping paper, the tree, travel and presents. Once you've worked out your budget it will help you decide how much to spend on each person and you'll be less likely to spend more than you can afford.
2) Reduce, reuse, recycle: Before you hit the shops look in the back of the cupboard to see what you've got left over from last year. You might find some wrapping paper or left-over Christmas cards which can be used this year. Have a look around the house for any unwanted gifts lying around - if you've had them for a whole year and still haven't used them chances are you never will. Even if they aren't the perfect fit for a close friend or family member they could be good for the office secret Santa.
3) Get creative: Christmas cards and wrapping paper can be expensive so why not try to make your own, start early and you'll have plenty of time to get creative. If you have kids making Christmas tree decorations together not only saves you money but they make great gifts too. Baubles and garlands can be pricey so use sites like Pinterest to get inspiration on how to deck the halls for a fraction of the price.
4) Fill the cupboards early: If you've got lots of mouths to feed at Christmas the cost of food can really add up. Start shopping for dried and frozen goods early to spread the cost - if you spot a deal grab it now.
5) Don't fall for Christmas packaging: Lots of household brands will bring out special products with Christmas designs on. Chocolate is going to taste the same whether it has different packaging or not so always buy the cheaper options. Bargain stores like Aldi and Lidl have mince pies and Christmas puddings for a fraction of the price and they often get scored well in taste tests.
6) Make loyalty pay: Remember all those loyalty cards you have at the back of your wallet? Use them! Remember to use your points in stores like Boots and Superdrug when buying their bargain presents. Tesco and Nectar will give you money off your shopping or exchange points for money off elsewhere.
7) Celebrate at home in style: If you've spent all that time decorating your home, why go out for dinner with friends? Invite your gang over, get everyone to bring a bottle or even a course and have a Christmas party at your house. You'll save a bundle on restaurant prices, expensive drinks and taxi's home.
8) Book early: If you're travelling home for Christmas book your transport early. Not only will train, flight and coach seats fill up quickly, you could also get cheaper tickets the sooner you book them. Use a ticket splitter for train fares to make sure you aren't paying more than you need to. Saving money on transport doesn't have to stop there though - if you're going to your office Christmas party, book your taxi home in advance. Be sure to agree a price when you book and don't forget to check with colleagues to see if they'd like to share to cut the costs down.
9) Savvy spender: Christmas is an expensive time of year and if you haven't saved enough it can leave you feeling panicked about how to pay for everything. Don't end up paying for Christmas by using store cards or an unauthorised overdraft because these will cost you loads more in interest. If you've left it too late to save you could research getting a 0% purchases credit card which will give you a number of months interest free. You need to make sure you pay the balance off by the end of the interest free period for it to be an effective way to pay for Christmas. This way you'll gain yourself time to pay for Christmas retrospectively and you can spread the cost out.
If you're going to have enough upfront cash you could consider using a cashback credit card and getting rewarded for what you buy.
The main thing to remember is as much as we all love Christmas it's simply not worth getting into lots of debt over. If you're going to struggle be honest and upfront with your family and friends. They'd much rather a handmade gift from you than see you struggling with debt in the new year.
10) Know your rights: If things go wrong with your gifts it can be so frustrating, but you do have rights so make sure you understand them. If you shop with a credit card you will get Section 75 protection on all purchases costing between £100 and £30,000 find out more about this here. If you buy something and fall out of love with it, it's best to get to know your refund rights - check them out here.