It’s irritating to see mince pies in the supermarket as soon as you get back from your summer holidays. But it’s a helpful reminder that it’s time to start getting your finances in order for the festive season. It’s never too early, but when is it too late to start saving for Christmas?
The challenge of saving for Christmas
This year, the prospect of managing money and shopping for Christmas couldn’t be more complicated. Shortages are already evident and more are expected, leading to the popular but rather selfish practice of panic buying. This year, families may wish they had started saving for Christmas in January and bought everything, including the turkey, in July.
Once you add rising prices in the shops and bigger energy bills, many people will be headed for a very frugal Christmas indeed.
It’s never too late to start saving for Christmas
At the beginning of October, there are still two full months to save and plan ahead. It’s easy to see that starting earlier will give you more time to save, but who wants to spend the whole year saving for Christmas? In fact, leaving it until later can put a natural limit on the amount you spend. It is, after all, only one day. In theory, the later you start, the less you might spend.
Saving for Christmas at the start of Autumn allows you to start shopping in good time, and enjoy the festivities in December without a last-minute rush. If you traditionally face a new mountain of debt each January, try making an early resolution to spend no more than you’ve saved.
Save weekly if you can, and put the money in a dedicated savings or current account or use a savings app.
More than one way to save
As well as putting money away, saving for Christmas can mean finding ways to spend less. Stretch Christmas savings further by creating a budget and sticking to it. This will help you to avoid impulse buying. It helps to have separate budgets for gifts and for food and entertainment.
There will be bargains, deals and money off, particularly on Black Friday. Rather than trying to get specific items for less, set a budget per gift, as you would for secret Santa.
When to use a credit card at Christmas
Strategic use of a credit card to fund Christmas purchases can take the place of savings if you know you definitely have money coming in afterwards to pay it off.
Using a 0% credit card now to buy early presents, or book cheaper travel tickets is a way to reverse save. You spend now when prices are low, and use the next couple of months to pay it off.
However, using your credit card in the last few days before Christmas can be more dangerous. Panic buying can lead to overspending that blows your budget, especially after a pre-Christmas drink.
The best ways of saving for Christmas and when to use them
Whatever your budget, there are different ways to save money that will help you and your family have a great Christmas. You don’t have to use just one method, and each one has an optimum time to be deployed.
Christmas Club: spring
A Christmas savings club, through a credit union, supermarket or voucher scheme, is a way to ringfence a regular amount throughout the year to save towards Christmas. It’s too late for this year, but you can join in January for Christmas 2022.
Savings account: autumn
Autumn is the latest time to set aside money for Christmas in a savings account. Unless you have a major birthday or other expense, you could do a low spend month or two after the summer hols.
Supermarket loyalty points: autumn
Saving supermarket points doesn’t seem to make much sense in a time of rapid inflation. Spend them now on non-perishable items for your festive table, and store them at home out of temptation’s way.
Coins in a jar: all year round
A great way to save for treats and stocking fillers, start saving your spare change now in a jar, piggy bank or with a savings app.
Bargain hunting: all year round
Some people have a gift drawer, where they save up suitable gifts all year round for any friend or acquaintance, then pull something out when a present is required.
Zero savings for Christmas
It’s not compulsory to save for Christmas. If the cost of Christmas causes anxiety, it’s time to scale it back. A cheap Christmas can be just as much fun as an expensive one.
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