Christmas is the most wonderful AND expensive time of the year – so how can families avoid spiralling into debt while looking for the perfect present?
The song says Christmas is the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ – but it can also be very stressful and certainly expensive.
The cost of shopping for the perfect gifts for children, friends and family soon adds up and even sticking to a strict budget can lead to debt hanging over into the New Year.
For many parents, Christmas shopping means balancing a child’s wish for the must have toy with the real pressures of needing enough cash left over to buy food, clothes and to pay the bills.
Nick and Simellia Taylor, of Hanley, are looking forward to their first Christmas with nine-month-old Luca.
Nick, aged 34, said: “We set a budget right at the start. We are not buying for any adults this year, but we have bought gifts for friends’ children. We did our Christmas shopping early and have got it all done.”
Simellia, aged 28, said: “I’m still on maternity leave from work, so we’ve had to be careful and stick to a budget but we’ve got it all done.”
Father-of-two Darren Twiss, of Burslem, admitted last year he got carried away and spent too much.
The 28-year-old said: “I had credit card bills that I was still paying off for the next couple of months. This year I’m sticking to a budget.”
Helen Jones, aged 45, of Alsager, said: “Christmas gets more expensive every year. You just have to be careful.”
But there are ways to reduce the cost of filling Santa’s sack.
The money saving team at has come up with a list of tips to avoid overspending. The online company searches out promotional codes and vouchers, which are free to use. It then makes money through advertising on its website.
Darren Williams, of , said: “There may be a lot of shopping to do at Christmas but it really isn’t necessary to break the bank.
“A bit of forward planning goes a long way, so don’t be afraid to start early – you’ll have your pick of merchandise and lots of time to think about why you’re buying each item, which is important.
“You can get everything you need without overspending or getting stressed.
“If you’re really serious about planning ahead, you could even wait until January and then go to the sales for Christmas 2018.”
The company’s top tips include:
- Shopping online, where prices can be compared easily;
- Cash in loyalty points accrued at stores throughout the year;
- Hunt for bargains on local Facebook selling pages and eBay sellers in the area;
- Plan ahead – spreading purchases over a longer period makes it easier to budget;
- Think about selling unwanted gifts from last year;
- Don’t use credit cards or store cards, as tempting as it may be. Even if you are able to pay it off quickly it will start to wrack up interest;
- Don’t be a snob – no-one can really tell the difference between budget and luxury brands for Christmas dinner or snacks;
- Consider making a ‘no-gift’ agreement, or agree a limit on how much you spend on a friend or loved one;
- Perhaps most importantly, don’t lose your head and impulse buy.
But even with military precision planning, it is still possible to slip over budget and end up struggling with debt in the New Year.
Simon Harris, chief executive of Stoke-on-Trent Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “We tend to hear from people only after they have done their Christmas shopping.
“We hear about things when they have bought a faulty product, or if they have changed their minds and we can offer advice on consumer issues and what their rights are.
“The other issue is the extra cost and the pressure it puts on people’s budgets. People come to us after Christmas when they have to repay their debts. Some people can’t access credit and borrow from other sources.
“We advise people to be realistic about what they can afford, to set a budget and stick to it.
“If people do get into debt, particularly if they are falling behind with payments, they should contact us as soon as possible. We can usually work out a plan to pay off the debt.”