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Have yourself a debt-free little Christmas

Jan 31, 2011

High street stores have been displaying Christmas goodies for weeks and retailers are surely hoping that the festive season will sparkle despite the crunch.

But does Christmas have to be costly? If you are facing bigger bills than a year ago, there's plenty you can do to minimise the financial hangover this yuletide.

Present danger

Last year in the UK, the average family spent over £500 on presents*. So, clearly this is a good place to start if you want to reduce the Christmas outlay. First of all, set a budget. According to a survey**, failure to set a budget is the main cause of overspending.

So, rather than spontaneous sprees, allocate an amount for gift-giving and stick to it. Here are some ideas to help you stay on track:

  • Talk to your family and friends and call a halt to the gift exchanging
  • Only buy presents for the children
  • Try 'Secret Santa' - put all the names of your friends or colleagues into a hat and ask everyone to pick just one to buy a present for
  • Compare prices in store and online to see where the best deals are
  • Avoid borrowing on credit and store cards
  • Give homemade presents, such as cakes and crafts
  • Send e-cards

Deck the halls with lots of money?

Don't forget to allocate a fund for additional costs, such as food, decorations and parties. Remember to recycle, too - an artificial tree can last for years and, apart from the edible ones, decorations can be packed away and reused time and time again, too.

If you're catering for a large group over the festive season, ask your guests for contributions of food, wine and trimmings.

Free fun

Despite the lure of glittering shop windows, there are many activities during Christmas that don't cost a thing. Check out your local paper for listings of special events, such as carols with a brass band and the switching on of Christmas lights. You could take your kids on a tour of light-soaked houses in your area and spend time making cards for their teachers and friends.

Party at home

Crowded bars, long queues and pubs charging for entry. Going out over Christmas and New Year isn't all it's cracked up to be. Why not invite your friends or neighbours round for wine and mince pies? You could save a packet and you won't be waiting around for a taxi at the end of the night, either.

Save year round

Rather than rely on your December pay packet, why not put a little aside every month to cover the cost of Christmas? The regular saver account from Teachers Building Society offers an attractive interest rate and includes a 1% bonus for the first 12 months. The minimum monthly investment is just £10.

Whatever you do this Christmas, have a merry one!

For more money saving tips check out our article, surviving the credit crunch.

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