Spreading the cost of Christmas

Christmas Eve doesn’t have to look like this

I know Christmas is still two months away but the scary fact is that a third of families who had to borrow money for pay for Christmas are still paying for last year’s blowout. This time last year, according to researcher by mystery shoppers Consumer Intelligence, 2.3m families were still paying for last Christmas’s Nintendo DS and that extra bottle of Baileys. So if we don’t want to be in the same position it’s time to start planning now. Now I don’t mean stocking up on bargain chocolate oranges and the giant tins of chocolates that have started appearing tantalising close to the checkout at Sainsbury.  Unless you’ve got a will of iron – and a childproof loft – all that does is ensure that you start Christmas early. You might as well start pulling crackers at breakfast and have done with it. I’m talking about planning and budgeting – two words to strike fear into the heart of most Christmas fairies. My plan is first of all to scare myself sensible by working out exactly what I might spend this Christmas, then half it! My second job will be to work out who I need to buy for and start shopping around for the best bargains – for example I will be scanning KidStart particularly closely for two for one deals at Argos and other toy and bookshops and using those to hoover up all the nephews’ and nieces’ presents. The same goes for all the voucher schemes which are offering fabulous deals on beauty treatments and days. For example the other day I picked up a Falconry day for £18 which killed two birds with one stone – forgive the tasteless pun. Not only did it provide a great present for those awkward to buy for boys in my life, it did it at a quarter of the price! So – here is my plan to keep the January credit card blues at bay:   1. Play Santa and draw up a list of exactly who you need to buy presents for. But rather than attach a dispiriting and self-defeating financial limit on it use time to your advantage and think about what they would really like. Remember at the moment you have all the time in the world to bargain hunt.   2. Start stashing cash away now. If you can put a fiver a day away now you will have £300 in emergency money by Christmas Eve.   3. Feel free to drool over the catalogues and Sunday supplements but do not succomb. You do not need a silver monogrammed Port pourer to make your Christmas complete. A cheese board draped with sugared grapes and your granny’s dessert forks will create the same aura of opulence.   4. Look out for deals on booze and flowers on line now, but do not be tempted to sneak bottles of brandy and ludicrously-priced boxes of biscuits into your day to day shopping “to spread the cost”. Unchecked and unplanned it just doubles the cost of Christmas.   5. Try to put one thing on eBay a day to offset your online purchases and aim high – if you can have a zero eBay footprint in January you will have triumphed!