Tuesday, 9 December 2014

10 Tips for Keeping on Budget this Christmas

   We all know the toll that Christmas takes on the old bank balance, and yes, it's difficult to find a happy medium between hosting a Christmas with all the trimmings, and saving some money for the New Year bash - but there is a way! In fact, there are multiple ways, and here are a few ideas on how to keep to your budget, and still have the Christmas you've been waiting for.

   1. Set a budget (duh)

   The whole point of sticking to a budget is to have one in the first place, so sit down and make a quick list (or spreadsheet, if you're persnickety, like me) of your incomes and outgoings, how much you're able to spend, and how much you need to save. List all the people you're buying gifts for and how much you're budget is for each person. This seems pretty Scrooge-like, but at least it gives you a rough idea of what you can and can't afford - do not shop on impulse!

   2. Sift through a charity shop or two

   I'm not saying, 'only buy from charity shops this season', but you can find some quirky one-offs if you're looking hard enough, for example, a set of books or an unopened makeup kit. Plus, it goes towards a good cause!

   3. Compare prices

   I really cannot stress this point enough. If you see something great in a shop, chances are it'll go for a cheaper amount elsewhere. Perfumes are a great example of this; I always check Boots and Debenhams first, and if the items aren't on offer I'll try fragrancedirect.co.uk or feelunique.com for better savings.

   Beware the internet, however. Always make sure the site's legit before you hit 'purchase'!

   4. Make your own

   These presents can sometimes turn out a bit dubious-looking, but at least you've put thought into it! First, brainstorm the interests of your gift-ee, then put your inventiveness to the test! For example, you could make your partner a movie-night-in package complete with popcorn, a DVD and some glass-bottled Coca Cola.

   For more homemade present ideas, check out my list here.

   This also works for food. Think about how much you could save if you made your own mince pies, reindeer cookies and Christmas cake with what you've already got in the cupboards, rather than buying them from the shops at much higher prices!

   5. Make a Christmas cupboard

   It may be too late for this year's Christmas, but maybe think about trying this for 2015: designate a cupboard, box or draw specifically for Christmas goods. If you see something at a great price that you know a loved one would want, buy it and pop it in the draw. You'll get your Christmas gifting done before you can say ho ho ho!

   6. Secret Santa

   This old tradition is perfect for offices or friend groups - if you've only got one person to buy for, you can focus on getting them something special, rather than trying to spread the cost over five or six people.

   7. Buy 'family gifts'

   If you're buying for, say, your partner's family, why not buy a 'family gift' in place of separate ones? This could be something that all the family will enjoy using, like a boardgame. It saves money and encourages 'togetherness' at the same time!

   8. Negotiate

   Remember, shops have targets to meet, and they'll sometimes be willing to reduce prices or throw in extra items to make a good sale. This works mostly for stores that sell  high-priced products such as appliances, electronics, jewellery, furniture, etc. This is where shopping instore, rather than the internet, comes in handy.

   9. Avoid thoughtless gifts

   Often, people tend to throw in thoughtless gifts (like a toiletries set, scarf or address book) just to bulk up present packages. However, that money could have been saved, or put towards a nicer main present, than one they may never use and end up throwing away (= wasted money). Also, 'joke' presents never seem to end up being useful to that person in the future and usually end up thrown away, too (= more wasted money).

   10. Stay local

   I know it can be a big temptation to flock to the capital (if you're not already from London) for its huge range of shops and Christmas activities, but this can really wrack up costs. Why not visit the local towns in your county for independent shops and fairs, and find yourself some unique gifts at affordable prices? Supporting your community and high street is so important at this time of year!

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