How to have a Merry Christmas without going bust in January.

The news that a third of us will go into debt to pay for Christmas has made me determined not to go overboard this year. Normally around this time I don’t exactly throw caution to the winds, but let’s just say I’m no stranger to the M & S foodhall. I used to kid myself that food shopping wasn’t really extravagant, it was essential, even if it meant lobbing a box of ten ludicrous cheese straws in my basket for the best part of a fiver. And I also used to buy Christmas presents both randomly and at the last minute – which is the quickest way to spend a hundred pounds without noticing it I know – especially if you then have to ship it to Canada for the last post, doubling the price.

But, no longer, this year I am a reformed woman! This year I will be the queen of lists. freebies, and great offers – so here are my top ten tips to make Christmas special without making January miserable

1. Plan your Christmas meal and buy it as late as you dare – last year I was kicking myself at the discounts for yummy cheese selections and fresh cream puddings that I missed out on.

2. Be canny when it comes to children’s activities – a trip to the ice-rink at £8 a child and £12 for you or a tenner on gorgeous Christmas card bits and bobs from Baker Ross and an afternoon of peace and joy and a pile of free gift tags? Tricky one.

3. Double up where you can – tickets to the panto are a lovely present for in laws and cousins to open on Christmas Day and can be enjoyed all over again at the theatre when the holidays are dragging.

4. Teenagers are tricky to buy for but cash seems too impersonal so dress it up by including a token gift from their favourite store or even a freebie from a cosmetics counter

5. Christmas parties needn’t break the bank – make one round of canapes yourself then switch to chilli and salad or do an Archer and make mass shepherd’s pie – and don’t forget to ask them to BaB- just like the old days.

6. Don’t be a last minute dot commer – post those cards before the 18th and if you’re ordering online do it now before you pay £8 to guarantee Christmas delivery and need a double scotch for your nerves.

7. Before you splurge on your children try to remember what you got them last year – if you can’t remember, you over did it.

8. Do a family Secret Santa with a fiver limit – it will get everyone involved and spread out the frantic present wrapping time on Christmas morning.

9. Set a limit on cost and number of presents – otherwise you’ll be playing catch up until Christmas Eve

10. Plan your post Christmas eBay and boot fair and declutter now. It means you will have space to enjoy the new toys, remind yourself what you already have, and create a box of things to sell in the New Year.