Christmas should be a happy time for celebration with friends and family, but for some the very mention of Christmas causes feelings of dread. For many, money is a topic of serious worry, especially at Christmas time, with 19% spending more than their means in the lead up to Christmas 2016, and 9.1% doing so in order to compete with more free-spending friends and family. If you’re feeling stressed this year, there are some ways for you to help you reduce your spending and help you start 2018 on a better footing.

Make your lists now

You don’t necessarily need to know exactly what you’re going to be buying for everyone, but even just writing down ideas for presents means you’re less likely to be scrambling around for inspiration as Christmas creeps up on you! If your nephew likes a certain football team, write it down or set up a note on your phone. If your mum admires a certain colour shirt while you’re passing through the town centre, write it down! It’s so easy to forget moments like this that could spark a great idea when you need it to.

This also goes for your OWN list. If you notice something you’d like for yourself, write it down too. Otherwise you’ll be struggling to come up with ideas when you’re asked on the spot when the time comes, or you’ll leave it up to them to get you something you might not really want or like. You might think this is ‘taking the surprise’ out of it, and perhaps it is, but when you think of all the returned or unwanted presents you’ve received over the years, perhaps it’s worth it.

Be ready to take advantage of bargain days

Add big money-saving dates to your calendar. Opportunities like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are very conveniently placed only about a month before Christmas so if you can use these sales to your advantage then you could save yourself a huge amount of money. This is especially relevant if you have presents to buy for technology lovers, so make sure you prepare in advance to ensure you get what you are after. Be careful though – it’s easy to get sucked into the offers available and end up spending more than you hoped to. Stick to your list and you’ll be more likely to stay on track.

Buy secondhand

This goes for presents to give to others OR supplies you need for Christmas. There are so many sites out there selling secondhand items like eBay, Gumtree or Shpock. You might find something that’s only been used once and looks almost brand new (maybe even still in original packaging), like a videogame or a synthetic Christmas tree complete with decorations. Don’t forget about secondhand items as you could bag yourself some unique finds and some serious bargains. For larger items, you may need to arrange your own courier, so take a look at sites like Shiply.

Set up family secret santa

Be brave! You’ve heard of secret santa in the office or with your friends at your annual gathering, but really this is a concept you can apply to more areas of your life and can be a real lifesaver if you need to be tighter with the purse strings this year. Try and work out your Christmas plans in good time so you can approach the subject with enough notice (before everyone’s already bought their presents!). You never know, there might be someone else in the family that has been waiting for someone else to suggest it!

If you don’t think secret santa will work for your family, perhaps ask whether you can introduce a rule of only buying presents for kids under 18 or introducing a spending cap for each present (like only spending £10 on each person). If all else fails, give yourself a spending cap for each present so you keep within your budget.

Play to your strengths

Are you a good cook?A master with a sewing machine? Use what you’re good at to give a more personal and thoughtful gift. You might prefer to make mulled wine and put in individual personalised bottles, or offer to make an elaborate table decoration in place of buying a gift for whoever is hosting the Christmas meal this year. Making food or gifts in batches will be most cost-effective, so think about numbers in advance to ensure you order enough supplies for best value.

Hopefully this has given some ideas for sticking to your budget this Christmas. What ideas do you have to prevent overspending?

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