Sticking to your budget this Christmas

published on 19 Dec 2018

Christmas can be a stressful time for managing money, with the pressure of gift-buying and special meals meaning budgets are pushed to - and sometimes beyond - their limits.


Lorraine Cook, who heads up The Salvation Army’s Debt Advice service, has shared some important advice to help people stay in control of their money this Christmas and into the New Year.


  • Set a realistic budget and stick to it
    • Start by working out your total income. Include your salary, as well as any grants or benefits you receive.
    • Work out your essential expenditure. Include your rent or mortgage payments, bills, debt repayments, as well as expenses such as transport costs, petrol, and phone plans. 
    • Once you know how much you have leftover, you can categorise into presents, food, and any other activities. 


  • Be aware if you get paid early 
    • Often December’s pay day is scheduled earlier so it comes in before Christmas. Look at what essentials you will have to pay before your next pay day at the end of January and set aside money to cover them. Make sure you don’t dip into this money for anything non-essential.  


  • Remember what Christmas is all about
    • It’s easy to get caught up in endless Christmas celebrations and feel pressure, but it’s important to remember what’s really important – including your financial security and peace of mind.  


  • Be creative with your gifts
    • Instead of spending money, could you gift your time? How about offering to babysit for a friend so they can have a night out? Also consider browsing in a charity shop for cheaper prices.
    • Have the conversation as a family before Christmas. Other people may be feeling the same pressure as you, and you could agree on a budget or to opt for a ‘Secret Santa’ instead of getting something for everyone.
    • One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, as they say – can you re-gift something that you don’t use that someone else might need?
    • Think second hand – has your child been asking for a bike but you know they’ll grow out of it in a year or two? It doesn’t need to be brand new, shop around for second hand goodies.


  • Be smart with your meals
    • There are a lot of Christmas goodies on offer but they’re not always good value. Plan your meals based on the number of people you are expecting, write a precise shopping list before you go shopping and stick to it to avoid over-spending, over-catering and over-eating!


  • Be savvy
    • Shop around for the best prices, compare supermarkets and look online to compare between retailers.
    • Keep an eye out for deals, sales, coupons and vouchers and try to use them as much as possible.


  • Manage expectations – especially with children

January can be a stressful time for many when they’ve got caught up in the Christmas excitement and pushed their budget beyond its limit, but stick to a few simple habits and it needn’t be that way.


If you or someone you know would like free debt advice support, contact your nearest Salvation Army debt advice service