This year’s Christmas build up is sure to feel very different as the pandemic continues to throw our normal routines into disarray.
We are nearly at the end of our second lockdown of the year, making social family gatherings against the law, and although this lockdown is due to expire on 2nd December, we now have new laws set out for Christmas 2020.
And with unemployment high, and the furlough scheme still in place, it is possible that more will be feeling the strain this festive season. At the best of times, this can be a time where budgets are dismissed to accommodate all food, drink, and present demands. From savvy shopping and saving, this year will need many to prioritise the more important stuff, and we explore a few steps that could help minimise excess Christmas stress and keep costs down.
1. Think differently
This year has not been a normal year at all, and the pandemic has really shown the importance of family, friends and social interactions over material possessions. Perhaps this Christmas, there could be different ways to celebrate and show someone you care. Maybe plan a day out with a friend (restrictions permitted) rather than exchanging presents? Or why not use lockdown time to brush up on those baking skills and create some delicious treats for your loved ones? Homemade gifts bring a real personal touch; so keep the children busy with an arts and crafts afternoon, making homemade cards, wrapping paper – it could go a long way.
2. Stick to the list
It is always easy to get carried away with Christmas, but perhaps before you splash the cash on all the last minute gifts, create a list to work out what you can afford this year. Careful budgeting could help you to stay organised and on-track with your spending. Indulging because “it’s Christmas” may make you happy in the short-term, but probably not your finances.
Christmas brings with it a lot of traditional pressures, so if you don’t think you can afford those festive liqueurs or the posh chocolates that you have every year, then maybe leave them on the shelf.
It also doesn’t need to be any different to what you eat normally; premium ranges sales soar over Christmas because of a wish for something “fancy”.
3. Strategise your spending
Many retailers run pre-Christmas sales on the run up to the big day, with perhaps the biggest diary event being Black Friday on 27th November.
Consult your list and see if you can get any of the listed items on sale. But try to control the excitement of so many deals and try your best to stick to the list.
4. Stock up early
We have all been there, leaving all the festive shopping until last minute and suffering a heavy financial hit. However, by adding one or two items to your weekly shop in the weeks leading up to Christmas, you may find the impact slightly less. If certain items are already on offer, why not make the most of the discounts and store them away until you are ready to crack into the festive biscuits!
5. Don’t be nervous to talk money
The Christmas guilt is real when someone gives you a present that you know you could never match in value. Perhaps having a frank discussion with someone on a spending limit could ensure you both feel comfortable with the gift exchange and could also force you to think slightly more creatively!
6. Home entertainment
Depending on how the next few weeks unfold, we may have to rely heavily on our home entertainment systems more than usual this year during the festive season. Shopping around to see if you can find a great deal on various channels or streaming services could help keep everyone entertained this year, and if you’re not sure you’re getting the best value, why not switch off the screens and crack open a board game or two.
7. Increase your income
A pre-Christmas declutter could not only tidy your home, but also bring in a little extra cash before the big day. There may be clothes you’ve never worn, gifts you’ve never used that could be sold on to better homes, and you can put this income towards Christmas essentials.
8. If you can travel, sort it early
With so much uncertainty over what you may or may not be able to do, it is worth checking how flexible any travel tickets you are considering buying are. Advance tickets are often the cheapest option, but they are often not flexible or refundable and you will have to pay a fee of £10, plus any difference in fare, to change the time or date on them. You can find out more about changing and cancelling tickets on the National Rail site. Here you can also find out if you are entitled to a discount railcard. If you make a last-minute decision to travel, it could still be worth buying your ticket in advance – look online before you travel to see which ticket types are left.