Take the stress out of sav­ing for Christ­mas

WITH LESS THAN 100 DAYS TO GO, IT’S TIME TO MEN­TION THE C-WORD. MONEY EX­PERT WAR­REN SHUTE OF­FERS HIS TIPS ON HOW TO SAVE FOR THE FESTIVE SEA­SON

Gloucestershire Echo - - CASHING IN -

WHIS­PER it, we are al­ready in the last quar­ter of the year, and the dec­o­ra­tions will no doubt be on the shelves soon. The cost of Christ­mas can be a real strain, but by plan­ning ahead you can take the stress out of your festive fi­nances. Here are my tips.

IT’S ONLY A DAY

EV­ERY year we’re bom­barded by months of ad­verts and pro­mo­tions in the shops and on­line.

Amid the mad­ness, re­mem­ber: Christ­mas is just one day out of 365. Don’t spoil 2020 by start­ing out in debt for the sake of 24 hours!

BUD­GET AHEAD

GET fi­nan­cially or­gan­ised us­ing my bank ac­count sys­tem:

■ Set up two ac­counts: one for bills and an­other for per­sonal spend­ing.

■ Ar­range ALL your reg­u­lar pay­ments, stand­ing or­ders and di­rect deb­its to come out of your bills ac­count – which is also where you keep your in­com­ing money. Go through each pay­ment and ask your­self three things: Do I need this; do I want this, and can I get a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence for less? You might be sur­prised at how much you can save.

■ Put some WAM into your life! WAM is your weekly Walk­a­bout Money, and it pays for all your vari­able spend­ing and fun: beer, cof­fee, hair­cuts and so on. Work out how much you want (or have) to spend in a month af­ter your out­go­ings, di­vide it by four, and you’ll get your weekly WAM.

■ Set up a weekly pay­ment for this amount from your bills ac­count to your WAM ac­count. Make it hap­pen on a Wed­nes­day, be­cause then you don’t have too long to wait af­ter the week­end, which is when most of us spend our cash.

■ Your WAM is your weekly al­lowance; it’s fi­nite. DON’T dip into your bills ac­count for more, or use credit cards if it runs out, it’s not too long to wait for the next Wed­nes­day to come around!

NO SPEND OC­TO­BER

IF DE­CEM­BER is an ex­pen­sive month for you, why not bal­ance the ex­cess spend­ing of De­cem­ber by hav­ing a no-spend Oc­to­ber?

You do this by com­mit­ting to not spend any­thing which is not es­sen­tial from Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 1 to Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 31.

You ob­vi­ously need to en­sure your com­mit­ted (mort­gage/rent/ bills) and es­sen­tial (gro­ceries/ travel) ex­pen­di­ture is met, but this could be cut back; maybe you walk rather than tak­ing a taxi? But you buy no take­aways, no eat­ing out or go­ing out and no cof­fees on the go.

SHOP SMART

I HAVE three rules when it comes to Christ­mas shop­ping:

■ Shop with a plan: If you think about what you in­tend to buy and stick to it, you’re more likely to spend less. It’s like di­et­ing, when you record your calo­ries, you con­sume less, you’re con­scious of your eat­ing and spend­ing.

■ Shop around: Com­pare prices be­fore buy­ing, this is so quick and sim­ple to do on­line. I love to use ideal.co.uk for this, I can search prices quickly and eas­ily.

■ Shop with re­wards: Check for of­fers which can save you money from sites such as Voucher­cloud. com and Voucher­codes.co.uk

Also check sites such as Top­cash­back.co.uk and Quidco. co.uk to see if they are of­fer­ing cash­back on any of your in­tended pur­chases. They are free to join.

BOOST YOUR IN­COME

THESE days it’s in­cred­i­bly easy to sell things you no longer want or need. Whether through ebay and Face­book, or through the many apps that re­quire lit­tle more than a photo on your phone, there are plenty of ways to cash in on un­wanted gifts from years past.

Now is the best time of year to sell all your un­wanted items to oth­ers plan­ning their Christ­mas pur­chases.

These sites can also be great for find­ing a bar­gain, so you can kill two birds with one stone.

TRAVEL TIP

IF YOU’RE vis­it­ing friends or rel­a­tives at home or abroad, then buy your tick­ets as much in ad­vance as you can.

You can save a lot of money on train fares in par­tic­u­lar by book­ing months ahead. Those sav­ings can eas­ily add up to a present or two.

CHANGE YOUR HABITS

FOR many of us, Christ­mas is a time for an abun­dance of food and drink. You could break the mould this year by steer­ing clear of the booze and save plenty of money do­ing so.

If you don’t fancy that, then con­sider do­ing it be­fore­hand – Go Sober for Oc­to­ber is an an­nual cam­paign to stop drink­ing for a month, and not only will you save cash but you can also raise money for Macmil­lan Can­cer Sup­port in the process. Win-win!

THE GIFT OF GIV­ING

PLENTY of Christ­mas presents and knick-knacks are given out and then left in a drawer for months.

Why not make Christ­mas about peo­ple, time and con­nec­tions and not things?

Spend­ing time, talk­ing and play­ing games with loved ones is the most valu­able thing most of us can give. Or per­haps do some­thing for oth­ers in need.

Home­less char­ity Cri­sis needs more than 10,000 vol­un­teers ev­ery year for its ac­tiv­i­ties, while or­gan­i­sa­tions sup­port­ing the el­derly are al­ways look­ing for peo­ple to spend time with those home alone.

There are so many ways to help and truly give a gift this De­cem­ber.

It doesn’t need to be all about the money.

Don’t spoil the start of 2020 by go­ing into debt

Spend­ing time with loved ones is more valu­able than you might think

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