Jingle bills! How to get your festive finances in shape

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THE festive season is now only a few weeks away so if you’re worried about the impact on your finances it makes sense to start budgeting now.

We spent an average of £452 per person last Christmas, according to research from Halifax.

The goods we splashed out the most money on were booze, gifts and the Christmas roast. Women were more likely to spend more (£482) than men (£419), claimed the survey.

Meanwhile, the independent Money Advice Service (MAS) has found that nearly one in three (30%) people feels pressured to spend more than they can afford over the festive period.

So, to avoid a financial hangover in the New Year, here are some tips from the MAS on what you can do now to ease the strain on your wallet:

Set a budget

Work out how much you can afford to spend in total over Christmas.

Factor in everything, from food, gifts and decorations, to social events like the office party. The MAS’s own money planner tool (moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/tools/christmas-money-planner) can help you create your own budget and see how much you can save in time for Christmas Day.

Keep track of what you’ve got coming in and going out

Putting aside a bit of money each week between now and Christmas is one way of ensuring you have enough cash for the festive period.

If you want to avoid the temptation to dip into it, you could also ringfence it by placing it in an easy access savings account, rather than your day-to-day current account.

Giles Martin, head of savings at Halifax, says: “To avoid a bill shock, it’s worth starting to save now to spread the cost over several weeks.”

The MAS also suggests making a note of your spending, whether it’s by keeping receipts or just making a note on your phone or in a notebook. This will mean you’re more likely to stick to your budget.

You can also simply take out a certain amount of cash each week or day, so you know how much you have left to spend.

Cut out bad spending habits

Free up more money by thinking about whether there are any costs you can either reduce or cut out altogether. Halifax suggests ditching your regular takeaway coffee, for example, as small savings can soon add up.

The MAS has another tool to help you work out how you can cut back on your spending (moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/tools/quick-cash-finder).

Make savings at the supermarket

See if you could save a few pounds by switching to your supermarket’s own brand on regular purchases, such as cereal or ketchup, or by doing your food shop at a different supermarket.

Who knows, you might not even be able to tell the difference!

Have an early spring clearout

Spring might be months away, but why not have a clearout now to make money for Christmas? You could try selling old and unwanted items on websites such as eBay or Gumtree. You might be surprised by the amount you can earn.

And it will create more space for when family and friends visit over the festive period.