Christmas can be the most wonderful time of year, with visits from family and friends, delicious food and a big pile of presents under the tree. Sometimes, though, all it takes to turn you into a grinch is a stressful shopping trip in the rain or a missed bill caused by all the merry mayhem.
Not to worry – by planning ahead, spending wisely and bagging a bargain wherever you can, you’ll sleigh every challenge that comes your way.
Shopping agendas and to-do lists can help lower Christmas stress. They could even save you money by making sure you’re getting the best deal on all your presents.
Here are some tips to help you plan ahead for the festive season:
Check prices for presents online. Before heading to the high street, compare prices on stores’ websites. You might find better value options that would be harder to spot in person.
Take advantage of Boxing Day sales. If you know you won’t be seeing some friends and family until after Christmas Day, delay buying their gifts until Boxing Day. You can pick up some bargain presents during this time without them ever knowing the difference. If you’re planning to hit the Boxing Day sales, a lot of people may have the same idea, with our research suggesting that Boxing Day is a more popular shopping day than Black Friday and Cyber Monday. A little preparation can go a long way.
Buy gifts throughout the year. Shop the sales throughout the year so by the time you reach December, you’ve already crossed off half the Christmas gifts on your shopping list.
Hit the January sales to buy festive items like Christmas decorations and lights, then store them in a cupboard or in the loft for next year instead of paying full price in November or December. It might feel silly at the time, but the future-you will thank the you-of-Christmas-past.
It can be very tempting to spend, spend, spend at Christmas time. However, a little bit of planning could make the world of difference to your Christmas shopping experience.
A good way to prepare for the Christmas expense is to plan and stick to a budget. Add up all the predicted costs of food, decorations, presents and little extras like festive party outfits at the start of the year. You can then divide this total by 12 to see how much you need to set aside each month, so you’re not caught by surprise.
There are also plenty of small changes that’ll help make your Christmas more affordable. Here are just a few ideas to help you get started:
Organise a Secret Santa with your friends and set a small budget. The smaller the budget, the funnier the novelty gifts can be. Plus, it’s a fun chance to bond while guessing who bought what.
Keep your Christmas receipts in one place to help keep track of how much you’re spending. If you have a Barclays account, you can keep track of your outgoings using Money Tools, or you can also use our free text or email alerts to keep on top of your budget. For example, an alert can give you a heads up when you’re close to reaching an account balance of your choosing.
Food, glorious festive food – it doesn’t have to be expensive just because it’s Christmas. Consider shopping at discount supermarkets to make your money go even further. If you’d prefer to do an online shop, try swapping brand name goods for own-brand options – your guests will never know.
Consider spreading the Christmas spend by using a purchase card with a 0% interest period. Make sure you can comfortably clear the balance in full before the interest-free offer ends though. Try not to use your card for more than your planned purchases too, as it could make it harder to clear your balance in the promotional period.
Make homemade gifts such as gingerbread men, snowglobes, candles or painted personalised mugs. The personal touch makes your gift extra special and can let you save some money.
If you need some help managing your Christmas shopping budget, you can try using the Barclays budget planner. It helps you work out how your repayments fit with your other monthly commitments and what you can afford.
Shopping on the high street can have its advantages, including trying items before you buy them, and snapping up unexpected bargains. Sometimes, though, you can’t beat browsing your favourite stores in front of a roaring fire with a mince pie in your living room.
Here are some online shopping tips that could help ease your Christmas stress, give you gift inspiration and protect those expensive purchases:
Changed your mind about that cardigan you bought for gran? It’s sometimes easier to return items that were bought online than on the high street. Many online retailers offer a convenient parcel returns service with depots near you. Some will even pick up from your home. It’s worth remembering though that you won’t get some of the benefits from shopping in-store when you return items – instant refunds, for example.
Take advantage of the extended return periods many retailers offer over Christmas and keep your receipts safe.
If you do use a credit card while shopping, any purchases you make over £100 could be protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This purchase protection can be especially useful when buying online, when you aren’t able to check items in person, or if an item you’ve ordered fails to show up at all.
Never lick a stamp at Christmas again. There are tons of sites offering hassle-free e-cards that don’t cost a penny and save the stress of dashing to a postbox in the cold. Or, if you’d still like to send a card, a personalised greeting cards site could save you a trip to the shops.
Sign up for email newsletters from your favourite retailers to keep an eye on their sales, offer codes and delivery deadline updates. As an added bonus, it could help with gift ideas.
Download a browser extension that will automatically apply coupon codes to your shopping cart at checkout. Search online for ‘apply discounts extension’.
Make use of price comparison sites for items like electronics and toys. Also, keep an eye out for online news stories that sum up the best deals from multiple retailers.
Try using a cashback site when you shop for gifts online. Every time you purchase something through one of these sites, you will receive a small payment as commission. It’s a small bonus for buying items you would have purchased anyway.
By following these simple steps, you can avoid the crowds and still get your Christmas shopping all wrapped up, and maybe with a bit less of the stress.
When you combine presents, decorations, food and nights out, even the largest Christmas budget can feel the strain. Sometimes you might be thinking about using your credit card to help out. Here are a few tips if you are:
You’re likely to make more purchases during December than at any other time of year. If you’re going to get out your credit card, you might want to think about a 0% purchase card. With a 0% purchase card, you only pay back what you’ve spent with no interest added on top. As long as you clear your balance in full and on time within the promotional period, you won’t have to pay any interest on your purchases (subject to status and application).
Loyalty cards can be used at any time of year, but they can be used in the run-up to Christmas too. If you spend at certain supermarkets and high street shops, you could double or triple your points during the festive period. These points can then be redeemed at a range of shops or on days out with the family.
If you’ve built up debt on your credit card and carry a balance into the new year, you could consider moving it to a card with 0% interest for a set period. Barclaycard has a range of balance transfer credit cards with various 0% interest periods, so you can find the right one for you. While these cards sometimes have fees for moving your money, they can still save you a lot compared to paying the typical APR on another card.
Balance transfer cards still have APR after the 0% interest promotional period is over. As an example, here's the APR most people get with the Barclaycard 33 month balance transfer Platinum card:
If you do carry a balance into the New Year, you can use our repayment calculator to work out how long it will take you to pay it all back and how much you’d pay in total.
Worrying too much about money at Christmas could make you feel like a Scrooge, but hopefully our tips make managing your budget a little easier and let you concentrate on what makes Christmas special – spending time with loved ones, indulging in festive feasts and, of course, bad jokes from Christmas crackers.