'Tis the season for saving – get on top of your Christmas budget

Get on top of your Christmas budget

You may not feel in the festive spirit just yet – but now may be an ideal time to start budgeting to ease the strain on your wallet over Christmas.
People typically spent £506 on Christmas 2015 on gifts, food and drink, and socialising.
Get on top of your Christmas budget
The total bill was 8% higher than the average cost in 2014, according to findings from Halifax.
Nearly a third (29%) of people admitted spending more than they did in 2014, and of those who did increase their Christmas spend, nearly one in five (18%) spent more than £200 more.
Many people may also find themselves facing a Christmas hangover that lasts into spring 2017.
Halifax found one in three (31%) people still had payments from Christmas 2015 outstanding at the start of February – and their Christmas financial hangover was typically expected to last until April.
Among these people, just over a third (34%) were concerned they may need to make cutbacks on non-essential spending to pay for the cost of the previous Christmas.
One in eight (12%) thought they might have to forego a holiday this year as a result.
And one in 10 spenders had made, or expected to make, cutbacks on food shopping to cover the cost of Christmas 2015.
Giles Martin, head of Halifax Savings, says: “With the typical cost of Christmas increasing to over £500 and the hangover stretching to a third of the year for some, it’s never too early to think about how you will pay for it.
“If you can afford to save regularly to spread the cost, then the earlier you start saving, the less you need to find each month.”
A third (34%) of festive spenders surveyed saved specifically for Christmas. More than half (55%) funded some of their Christmas spending through their salary.
Christmas can also leave many juggling debts.
Around one in three (31%) rely on a form of credit to fund Christmas, with credit cards being the most popular choice. Savings can also be a Christmas casualty – 7% of us end up dipping into savings we were not planning to spend on Christmas, the research among more than 2,300 people found.
There are also big differences between the sexes when it comes to Christmas spending, with women likely to spend around £100 more than men on Christmas.
So how can you stick to your budget in the run-up to Christmas?
Once you’ve got your Christmas savings pot together, deals sharing website HotUKDeals has some ideas to keep the costs down:
Do your research. Special offers may look tempting, but make sure the savings have not been exaggerated. Check out reviews before making a purchase, particularly for electrical items such as TVs, to make sure the deal is worthwhile. Consider where the best places are likely to be to buy certain items.
Be quick. Some online deals may sell out in seconds, so when you’ve done your research, be prepared to make your move.
Don’t necessarily wait until discount days like Black Friday. Some offers can start before these events, so keep an eye out for where or when discounts will take place.
Watch out for hidden costs, such as postage, which can reduce the discount.
Look out for codes for free shipping and discounts on the purchase price.
Check delivery times for items you’re buying as Christmas presents to make sure they won’t arrive too late.
Be a VIP. Some retailers release details of special offers to their VIP members first, so it may be worth signing up to receive their emails. If you’re worried about your inbox overflowing, consider setting up an email account specifically for these types of offers.

How can you stop yourself falling victim to a scam?
One way could be to simply take a pause for breath if you get a phone call out of the blue asking you to hand over any personal information.
A new campaign called Take Five has been launched by Financial Fraud Action UK along with major banks and financial services providers.
The campaign encourages people to pause and think before they respond to any financial requests, or hand over any personal details. This pausing could be by stopping a phone conversation or delaying a reply to an email or text.

Written by Andrew Moore