Christmas is a time to eat, drink and be merry and this usually involves spending lots of money. The last thing you want to do is run up a huge debt and spend the whole of the following year paying it off only to have to start all over again.
It is possible to have a merry Christmas without going overboard in spending. Below is my A-Z guide on how you can keep out of debt without having to make any big sacrifices.
Arrange in advance a budget and stick to it. Also speak to family and friends and decide who you will be buying presents for and how much you will be spending on each other.
Buy only what you need. Don't be tempted by multi-buy offers such as "3 for the price of 2" as you'll be spending and buying more than you need to.
Christmas cards are such a chore and most of all an added expense you could easily eliminate. My favourite alternative to the traditional Christmas card is to send an e-card as most people have computers these days. Not only will this save you money on cards and postage but it's also a very environmentally friendly way of sending your best wishes.
Decorations and Christmas trees can be used year after year. Don't waste money on buying new just because last years are out of fashion or don't fit in with your room colour scheme. If you fancy a change you could get the kids involved by making some at home; it'll keep them occupied for a bit and save you money!
Entertainment. Don't be tempted to fork out on expensive forms of entertainment such as pay per view TV, DVD rental or going to the pub. Blow the dust off those old board games, play charades or cards, just have some fun as a family. Enjoy!
Freecycle. Join your local Freecycle (link) group and watch out for any items that people are giving away that could make suitable Christmas presents.
Giving of presents. Don't buy presents for the sake of it, try and find out what people would actually like for Christmas. It's a waste of money buying silly gadgets as they'll only end up in a cupboard somewhere and get forgotten about.
Home-made treats are much cheaper and healthier than ready-made shop bought ones. Look online for recipes and get the kids involved too! These would also make nice Christmas presents. Also making your own Yorkshire puddings and Brandy sauce will cost less.
If you are inviting friends and family over for Christmas dinner, get everyone to bring something to contribute towards the meal. This will share the cost as well as reduce the stress of cooking for so many people. After all you don't want to spend all day in the kitchen!
Just say no if you're offered a discount on your shopping by applying for a store card. I know it's very tempting because of the discount but the risk of spending more is even higher and you'll be running up a debt. However, if you have very strong willpower and only use the store card for Christmas presents you have budgeted for, it could work out as quite a saving.
Keep an eye out for special offers when doing your shopping and make the most of them but be careful not to buy things just because they are cheap. Remember to stick to your list and only buy what you need.
Lights at Christmas time do look pretty but they also increase your electricity bill. There is no need for Christmas lights to be left on all day, no one's really going to see them in the day time anyway. Switch them on for a few hours each evening and have them on all day on Christmas day.
Money. Try and save up for Christmas by setting up a monthly standing order to a savings account. Another idea would be to put any £2 coins you get in to a pot, you'll be surprised how quickly they add up.
Not everyone likes Christmas cake or Christmas pudding. Check with your family first before buying any traditional treats. My mum used to make a Christmas cake every year but I never had the heart to tell her I didn't actually like Christmas cake!
Online shopping is definitely the way to go. You can save yourself lots of time and money by finding the best prices.
Plan ahead. The earlier you start your Christmas shopping the less you will be likely to spend as you won't be panicking at the last minute buying expensive presents.
Quench your thirst. Shop around for good deals on booze or, even better, buy kits and make your own beer or wine for a fraction of the price. If you go elderberry picking in September/October, you can make some elderberry wine which will be ready in time for Christmas.
Resist the temptation to use credit cards as you'll lose track of what you're spending and might even spend more than you had originally planned.
Stop and think before making any purchases. Check that the item is on your list and most of all within your budget. If it isn't, put it back on the shelf and walk away.
Turkey, the most important part of the Christmas dinner. Shop around before you buy and compare prices. Also don't wait until the last minute before making your purchase as there will be less choice and you'll end up spending more because all the cheaper turkeys will have sold out.
Use any left over turkey to make a curry for the next day. Don't throw away the carcass, put it in a pot and boil it down make a nice stock as a base for some home-made soup.
Value. Don't be afraid to buy unbranded, value/economy discounted brands of goods. Just because they are a lot cheaper does not necessarily mean they are nasty.
Wasteage. Some much food is wasted each year so don't over cook, plan carefully how much you are going to cook, if necessary ask people how many roast potatoes they would like and only cook a couple extra. On the subject of potatoes, buy a sack from your local farmer as they are much cheaper and will last longer. I normally pay £5 for a 25 kg sack.
Xmas is a prime time for thefts, be on your guard. If your Christmas tree is in the front room, don't put all your Christmas presents under the tree until Christmas eve, keep them out of sight until then as you don't want to attract burglars. Protect your home by locking all doors, windows and sheds, also don't leave any windows on the catch. Also when you're out and about doing your Christmas shopping be extra vigilant and don't put your bags down for a second as that's all it takes for someone to swipe them. This happened to my sister-in-law a few years ago!
Youngsters. Don't go to mad buying lots of presents for your kids, don't forget they'll be getting presents from various friends and members of the family. My daughter still has presents from last year that she has not played with!
Zap the radio on for some festive music and, of course, the Queen's speech. Don't waste money on buying Christmas CDs as you'll find most radio channels will be playing Christmas songs all day, plus there will be more variety.