Seven ways to help your finances cope with Christmas

Banning unnecessary presents is a good way of saving money this Christmas.
Banning unnecessary presents is a good way of saving money this Christmas.

Ho, ho, oh no. Sorry for raising the spectre of the C-word this early, but Christmas is on its way.

I growl at jingle bells in October as much as the next Scrooge. Yet this isn’t about early celebration, it’s about preparation.

There’s things you should do NOW to reduce financial and other stresses for the big day.

Every January people tell me they’re skint (it’s debt counsellors’ biggest month).

When I ask why they say “Christmas of course”. Yet it’s on 25 December every year, it’s not an unexpected expenditure, so planning matters.

And for those who’ll instead be celebrating Eid, Chanukah or owt else this winter, don’t worry, in the main the same tips apply.

Ban unnecessary Christmas presents. Many feel pressured to buy gifts for an extended list of friends, family and colleagues, often panicking, “I’ve got to get ‘em something, anything” - even if they won’t want it. This tit-for-tat giving means we end up with tat. Even ‘the joy of giving’ can be selfish as it obligates someone to buy back for you – and they mightn’t be able to afford to. The best gift can be releasing someone from the obligation of buying you something. Make a no unnecessary present pact, or at least cap the cost with a Secret Santa - then if you want to give more, donate to charity.

I’ve been campaigning on this for years, you may enjoy the detailed theory behind it in www.mse.me/banxmasgifts, and many have taken up the call

@Julia1965 tweeted: “Finally took your advice and told family I can’t afford Xmas presents. What a weight off my mind. Thank you.”

And @JohnGilibrand tweeted: “Excellent - wise comments about restraining the financial & other pressures of Christmas. I tweet this as a Vicar!”

Make £150 in time for Xmas by switching bank accounts. One big festive help is extra cash. Perhaps the easiest way to do that is to switch bank accounts to one willing to PAY YOU for your custom. As it can take up to 60 days to get the cash, do it now to definitely have it in time for any necessary pre-Christmas spending. For a full rundown and pros and cons of each read www.mse.me/bankac counts.

Not saved for it? Do it now - then you can split the cost by four. The surveys say a typical family spends around £800 at Christmas. For most that’s totally unsustainable from one month’s income. So if you haven’t started saving yet, there’s still time. For example, put £200 aside from your September, October and November income, and spread the cost. If you’re saying “no way I can’t afford that”, then fair enough, I’m afraid you’ll need to go cold turkey. Prepare for the C word

Small sacrifices now can make big savings. Small sacrifices now can add up. I’m not saying you should give up everything completely, but make an active choice: would you prefer the cash at Christmas or the daily treat? The www.demohohoti vator.com tool works it all out for you.

Train-ing home for Christmas? Get ready to book. Train tickets are usually released 12 weeks before travel, and that means it’s the best time to ensure you get hold of cheap advance tickets. So if you know when you want to go we’re nearly at the booking point for Christmas and New Year.

Don’t plan the perfect Christmas. That’s a dangerous mind set. Instead, first work out your budget and let your financial situation rule. Then ask yourself: “What’s the best Christmas I can have on the money I’ve got?” Remember it is just one day. Far better to have a slightly less expensive Christmas than a financially frantic New Year.

Walk around the house looking for anything unused since last Xmas. Shops don’t just value the cash in their till, they value their stock too. And this is a great time for your annual personal stock check. If you’ve unused items, why not flog them for cash whether toys, prams, old coffee makers, mobile phones, gadgets, or even clothes, why not sell them? nMartin Lewis is the Founder and Chair of MoneySavingExpert.com. To join the 12 million people who get his free Money Tips weekly email, go to www.moneysavingexpert.com/latesttip