Debt advisor Sean works at our Leeds office and is an expert...
How to avoid getting into debt after Christmas
Christmas really can be the most wonderful time of the year. It can also be the most stressful and expensive. If money’s too tight to mention at the moment, you might wish you could skip the whole fiasco altogether!
Luckily, there are lots of ways to side-step any potential debt hangover once the Christmas decorations are long packed away…
Put together a budget and stick to it!
Once this is done, take a look at what you have left over once you’ve covered your bills, living costs and debt repayments. You should now have an idea what you have available for Christmas presents and other festive expenses.
Many people consider sacrificing their living costs in order to cover Christmas. Please don’t do this. Your loved ones wouldn’t want you to go without.
Skip the credit cards
It can be all too tempting to put Christmas on credit, but this can very quickly have a ‘snowball effect’ (pardon the pun).
If you put the presents on your credit card, it’s a lot easier to find yourself slapping the big food shop, the new dress for the office party and that 30 foot inflatable Santa that just has to come home with you on there, too.
The third week in January tends to be our busiest, as that’s when everyone’s credit card statements tend to land on the doormat with a thwhack! You could make your own statement land a little lighter by:
- Selling stuff and using the money for Christmas expenses
- Only buying presents for immediate family, your ‘ride or die’ best friends, and other people you actually like (well, tolerate)
- Using points cards and online discount codes where possible
“Zeek sells unwanted gift cards at an up to 10% discount. (Just before you buy your pressie) do a quick search on Zeek, buy the gift card, and then put that towards your purchase for extra savings.
Many gift cards have digital codes too so you can use them instantly.
Use my code CLEVERCASH when signing up to save you £5 off your first gift card purchase.”
Suggest a Secret Santa
One way to cut down on present-buying hassle is to suggest that the family or you and your closest friends have a ‘secret santa’. Instead of buying presents for individual people, you could agree on an affordable limit and you only have to purchase one present. You may even find that your family or friends are in a similar position and will be grateful for your suggestion.
Much of the stress that comes from buying presents for other people is not knowing what the heck they even want. Once you’ve all agreed on a spending limit, why not create a secret santa ‘wishlist’ on Amazon each? You can then pop all of the wishlist links in an email alongside the person’s name. Money saved, time saved, holly jolly hassle saved.
4. Cut the Christmas cards
Cards can be an expensive part of Christmas. You buy them for family, you buy them for friends. Then you see them being handed around at work and you start to feel the pressure of buying them for everyone in the office too.
Instead of sending cards which, lets be honest, are just going to end up in the landfill for the next thousand years, you could send e-cards instead. There are 11 lovely and free designs on Lifewire to choose from.
If digital cards aren’t your thing, you could always donate some money to charity that you would’ve spent towards cards. A £5 donation to those in need will go to much better use, and you’ll get an extra dose of the ‘warm-and-fuzzies’ for doing a good deed. You might even inspire your friends and family to do the same, which is extra lovely!
5. Regift, regift, regift!
I personally see nothing wrong with re-gifting gifts! It could be an office secret santa gift or that toiletries set that your Great Aunt Shirley got you last year (always check the expiry date on your smellies before you regift them!).
Why spend money on a gift for someone when you have a perfectly good, unopened gift at the back of the wardrobe?!
You could also put your crafting skills to the test. Making Christmas gifts is a great way to save money and also add a personal touch to gift giving. You could try making a lovely framed photo of the family for grandma, or perhaps some homemade jam for your team at work.
6. Get that cashback!
I LOVE cashback websites! I never make an online purchase without first going through a cashback website, and I’ve made hundreds of pounds over the year doing this.
There are lots available (Quidco and TopCashBack are the ones I tend to use) and some banks even offer cashback with a standard current account. Check with your bank to see if you have this feature on your bank account.
I like to let my cashback build up over the year and then put all of it into a voucher for a specific shop or restaurant. There are tons you can choose from, and sometimes you get a little extra in your cashback for withdrawing the money as a voucher versus plain old cash.
7. Take up some temp work
Lots of shops, restaurants and warehouses will recruit for temporary staff over Christmas. This can be a great opportunity to make some extra money during the festive period. You could even dress up as an Elf or Santa for some extra cash!
They always say Christmas is a time for giving. But remember that giving doesn’t always have to cost money. Christmas is all about spending time with loved ones and enjoying. So why not give yourself the gift of less stress and more fun!
8. Celebrate the New Year on the cheap
Ah, New Year’s Eve. Love it or loathe it, the last evening of the year can be like the super-tough final boss of a very long video game where everyone expects you to PARTY ALL THE TIME.
The turkey carcass has barely hit the bottom of the binbag, and everyone’s on your case like “well, you HAVE to do something for New Years. What are you, some kind of monster?!”
Look, when it comes to New Years, you do you, as the cool kids say. If you love it, then by all means celebrate it. Write those New Year resolutions, wave those sparklers and pop that fizz to toast to a brighter future. Just make sure your joie de vivre doesn’t leave your bank account feeling comme ci comme ca come January (Yes I did GCSE French, what of it?)
Some quick tips:
- Set a door fee limit. Every club, every pub, every establishment with half a beer tap to its name will be charging a door fee on New Year’s Eve. If you’re determined to paint the town red, set a limit on how much you’re willing to pay on the door and stick to it. Make sure you’re actually paying to get into somewhere decent, too. Always ask yourself “would I pay to go into Cobweb Ken’s Gloomy Watering Hole of Despair any other time of year?” Hey, maybe you would. I’m not judging!
- Stick it to the man and attend a free event instead. No matter where you live in the UK, there’s bound to be something cheap, cheerful and fun occurring near you. Check your local authority for free firework displays, light shows and other neat stuff.
- Ask around and see if anyone’s throwing a house party. I love house parties. You can bring your own booze, there are usually plenty of snacks, you can take your shoes off (BIG selling point for me) and the host sometimes has a cute pet you can spend time with instead of as well as other, human guests.
If none of that appeals to you, it’s totally fine. For many people, the beauty of New Year’s Eve is staying in, staying cosy and not joining the hordes in an off-key rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
Don’t let your friends, family or SOCIETY make you feel guilty if you’d sooner stay in, watch Jools Holland and eat those terrible liqueur sweets your Mum keeps buying you. Like I said, you do you, sunshine.
When you’re ready, check out our 10-step financial detox to help you kick your money-savvy new year off in style.
I know I’ll be in debt after Christmas – what can I do?
Firstly, please don’t feel bad. Lots of people struggle due to Christmas obligations and expenses. StepChange Debt Charity is here to help you make sense of any money worries you’re experiencing. When you’re ready, please get in touch. You can also use their online debt help tool 24 hours a day.
Not sure where to start? Our 7 Days, 7 Ways email programme is a low-stress, no-fuss way to get ready for the debt and money advice you need. Simply sign up on our website and we’ll send you the first of several friendly emails to help you get all of your debt ducks in a row.
Remember, we think you’re marvellous, with or without all the festive flim-flammery. Your family, friends and the people who really matter think so too, and want you to have the wonderful, worry-free Christmas and New Year you deserve.
Now go have yourself a well-earned cup of tea and mince pie!