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12 ways to avoid overspending in December

Here’s how to have a stress-free Christmas and enjoy the festivities without breaking the bank.

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Piggy bank with Santa hat and festive scarf.
The Christmas countdown has begun but it can be a stressful time for our savings accounts.

It’s the most wonderful time of year! The Christmas countdown has officially started and while we hope everyone’s holiday is filled with cheer… It can also be a stressful time for our budgets and savings accounts

Christmas is an expensive holiday as we are faced with buying presents, going to social events and buying a lot of delicious - and pricey - food. Now, we don’t want to sound like Scrooge, but overspending doesn’t equate to the best Christmas ever.  

So instead, some of our financial experts at Money.co.uk share ways to reduce financial stress and enjoy the holidays without breaking the break. 

1. Create a budget and track spending 

The first stage of a stress-free Christmas is to create a budget. If you haven’t done so already, decide how much you can afford to spend during the holiday season and track it against what you need to spend. If you’ve already started to buy presents - don’t panic - as you can add that spend to your budget and work out how much you have left. Be disciplined with spending and your bank balance will look a lot healthier in the new year. 

2. Suggest Secret Santa with your family and friends 

Speaking of presents - one of the ways to reduce Christmas spending is to restrict present buying. Instead, organise a Secret Santa with your family or friends as this will mean you’ll only need to buy one present rather than multiple gifts. Make sure everyone sticks to a budget and you’ll be amazed at the savings, plus it’s a fun game to guess who bought your present.

3. Try not to self-gift 

Now, this might be a tricky one, but a good way to avoid overspending in December is to resist the temptation of buying yourself a gift. This can be easier said than done, as when you are buying presents for others you might spot an amazing deal. Instead, resist the impulse purchase and make a note of the item. Then if you have money left at the end of the month you can still treat yourself. 

4. Buy someone a good book 

It’s important to remember that with Christmas, it’s the thought that counts. You don’t need to buy everyone expensive presents, instead focus on something that is more meaningful. Gifting a good book is a great example of something that is low-spend but could give someone a lot of joy.

5. Don't buy too many gifts for children 

Christmas is a particularly magical time for children and it’s natural that you’ll want to spoil them. However, this can put a strain on your budget and remember time with family is just as important as gifts. Try the rule of four - buy them something to wear, something to read and then something they might need and want.

6. Priortitise experiences over gifts 

Our senior finance editor, Salman Haqqi, says that a good way to avoid overspending is to prioritise experiences over material gifts. Instead of buying expensive gifts, he says to consider giving the gift of experiences; such as tickets to a concert, a cooking class, or a spa day. These can be more memorable and often cost less than physical items.

7. Be selective with social activities 

It’s natural that our social calendars will fill up during December, but try to be selective with the events you end up attending. This will help to reduce spending and it’ll mean you go to the activities that you really want to attend. Try not to be swayed by others, as everyone understands that sometimes budgets don’t allow a party every night. 

8. Tour local Christmas lights 

That being said, social activities don’t always have to mean pressure on your finances. Instead, suggest to friends and family cheaper alternatives that will still get everyone in the festive spirit. For example, you could hop in a car and tour your local Christmas lights, marvelling at your neighbours’ outside decorations.

9. Cut down convenience costs 

The festive season might involve convenience costs like taxis or takeaways if you don’t fancy cooking. Try and plan ahead to avoid these costs, whether that’s getting a lift with a friend to a party or making sure you buy some treats in the weekly food shop so you aren’t tempted by a takeaway. 

10. Wait for the supermarket offers

Our SME expert, Kyle Eaton, is keen that you don’t overspend on your festive feast. He says that it's a good idea to look past the early supermarket offers. Supermarkets typically put up the same deal twice, once in late November or early December and again in mid-December. For example, offers on sweet treats can be a great saving  - but buying too early might mean you end up enjoying it before the big day, and you’ll end up buying it again nearer the time when the deal returns. 

11. Go to a BYOB restaurant for your Christmas party 

If you are planning a Christmas party with your friends and family, consider a restaurant that allows you to bring your own alcohol. This can help to cut down the final cost of the bill and if you aren’t drinking, there won’t be the awkward moment of trying to split the bill to reflect how much you owe… 

12. Be creative with traditions 

One of the best parts of Christmas is enjoying festive traditions with family and friends. This year, take the opportunity to be creative with your traditions and suggest activities that won’t hurt anyone’s bank balance. For example, set up a Christmas movie marathon at home or invite everyone to a festive kitchen disco with your own holiday treats. These special events will be the memories your loved ones will remember.

Plus, don’t forget to move any money you save during the festive season into a savings account. Interest rates are still competitive, so it's important to compare savings accounts to earn as much interest as possible.

Help stretch your budget a little further by making the most of your savings.

About Lucinda O'Brien

As a trained journalist, Lucinda has spent the past 10 years writing and editing content for regional and national titles, including The Mirror, WalesOnline and Manchester Evening News. She is now a personal finance editor and specialises in savings, helping people to make confident financial decisions so they can save for what matters most.

View Lucinda O'Brien's full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.