The deadline is fast approaching to buy in those much-anticipated gifts, enough food to feed the street and maybe a bottle of bubbly or six, too – but how do you get through Christmas when finances are an issue? We’ve got some quick tips to help you manage
Look at what you’ve spent so far, see what’s still to be purchased and measure it all against what you can reasonably afford to spend. Decide how much you can spend on different people and items, and stick to it. Operating in cash when you’re shopping really helps with budgeting too. If you manage to save money in one area? Transfer it to another.
If your budget won’t stretch this year? It could be time to cut back. This doesn’t mean a festive celebration that Scrooge and the Grinch would be proud of – you can still have a great Christmas on a budget. There’s no point in getting into lots of debt if you really can’t afford it – now or after Christmas.
While saving for Christmas might be out of the question now, start thinking ahead to next year. You can set up a savings account with your current bank, shop around for saving options which offer a competitive interest rate, or Scotwest (www.scotwest.co.uk) offer a Christmas savings account, which sees members pay in throughout the year and pays out in November. Savers aren’t allowed to withdraw from the account unless they close it, giving them a bit more discipline with their savings. “This year, we’ll be paying out over £2 million,” says Scotwest CEO Kenny MacLeod. “About 3,000 people have saved with us, so they’re each getting an average of £700. They’re not resorting to borrowing for Christmas by saving on a monthly basis.”
You may be at the point where you have to borrow cash to make Christmas happen. Remember that you’ll have to pay it back, plus interest, over a set time, so it will end up costing you more in the long run. And if you can’t make the repayments? You could find yourself in court.
When it comes to borrowing, avoid payday loan companies, which have huge interest rates. Instead, look into a credit card, or investigate borrowing from your current bank, or a credit union. Credit unions are owned by their members – so their interests are at the forefront of their services.
“We’re not out to exploit or extract maximum revenue from them – we’re there to help them,” says Kenny. As one of the UK’s biggest credit unions, Scotwest are all about making saving and borrowing affordable for all. Kenny adds: “Because we’re lending to the owners of the business, we spend the required amount of time with them when it comes to borrowing decisions.”
Don’t buy that toy the kids are after in the first place you see it. Get onto Google and search for it in the ‘Shopping’ tab to see how much it is elsewhere. Look out for discount days too, like Black Friday or pre-Christmas sales, to try get the very most for your money.
For free, impartial financial advice, contact Money Advice Service on 0800 138 7777, or head to the website at www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk