Christmas is a-coming…

It’s the 25th of October – Christmas is a-coming, the goose is getting fat.

But what about the bank balance?

So many calls on the money – drinks out here there and everywhere, the Office Do, Secret Santa, Christmas Jumper Day, pressure from the kids. Things you didn’t know you needed on every advert and in every supermarket.

And all coming to a head on one day when we’re all supposed to have the best time, and marvellous food, and everyone is happy and lovely and by three o’clock it’s all over and we’re asleep on the sofa and hoping that someone else will do the washing up.

It’s a strange business altogether.

And it’s an expensive business.

Whatever you do, don’t go into debt for Christmas. Just don’t. And don’t let anyone (including your kids) make you feel that you have to go into debt to make them happy.

I think it’s all about control. You don’t have to buy gifts for everyone and their aunty. You don’t have to get the kids everything they ask for. You don’t have to go to every Christmas do you’re invited to – and you don’t have to drink hugely at every one that you choose to go to.

Your money – your choice. Do what you feel comfortable with.

And now’s a good time to start managing everyone’s expectations. Tell the kids that Santa can’t bring them everything they want (not enough room on the sleigh, apart from anything else). Decide who you’ll buy gifts for and stick with it. Pick your Christmas do.

Throughout this year I’ve had a strict ‘£10 per person per occasion’ rule – and I’ll be sticking to that for Christmas too. Let people know that you’re doing ‘Christmas Lite’ this year – gifts for the kids but not the grown-ups maybe, or just buying less all round. They might be relieved that they can now spend less on you!!

Think about what you’re going to eat and drink – plan for it and stick with it. Start to buy things now – the alcohol, things that will keep and things you can freeze – that way it just adds a little bit to the weekly food shop rather than a big chunk all in one go.

If you’re ‘it’ for Christmas this year, ask everyone to bring something – the wine, or the pud, or the crackers, or anything else you can think of. Don’t be a martyr to it – (and if they offer to wash up, the answer is ‘Thank you very much’). Plan for the leftovers too – use everything up!! Turkey sandwiches, turkey curry, turkey soup. It’s all good.

And (and this is the hardest bit!!) don’t get suckered into spending more than you’ve planned for. If you don’t want to buy stuff, don’t go looking round the shops. Or online.

The retailers are phenomenally good at convincing us that we need to spend more than we really want to. They employ people specifically to do this – and they started planning for it back in January. They’re slick, they’re professional – but we know what they’re up to, so we don’t have to fall into their trap.

And how about making Christmas work for you? Do you have a list of things that you need, so that when your Mum, or your spouse, or your kids ask you what you want, you have a sensible, useful idea to give them? Otherwise you’ll just end up with more body lotion or another hat and scarf set…

Or maybe you need one particular thing – ask people to make contributions towards the cost of it. They’ll be pleased that you’re getting something you really want.

So here’s to a Happy Christmas – and a Prosperous, Debt-free, New Year – two months from today.

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