How to budget this Christmas

A couple organising Christmas together.
A couple organising Christmas together.

With Christmas only around the corner, many of us are starting to plan our festive finances.

After all, doing a bit of homework now could save a last-minute dash to the shops on Christmas Eve.

But new research suggests that how far you’ve got with your planning to date may depend on whether you’re male or female.

A survey from American Express has found more than half (56%) of women will spread the cost of buying gifts in the months leading up to Christmas, compared with 41% of men.

Men are also nearly twice as likely to make a last-minute sprint around the stores on Christmas Eve in the hope of securing last-minute gifts, with 12% admitting to doing so, compared with 7% of women, according to the survey of 2,000 people.

Many people may be holding fire on their Christmas spending for now in preparation for the Black Friday sales bonanza on November 27.

According to research from Nationwide Building Society Current Accounts, the average shopper spends £176 on Black Friday.

The most prized items purchased on Black Friday, which tends to coincide with the last payday before Christmas were found to be home appliances, computer games and new TVs.

But many people are also likely to go on to regret the “bargain” they nabbed in the heat of the moment.

Nationwide found that one in eight (13%) people end up returning goods they buy on Black Friday.

If you do end up taking something back this year, it’s worth bearing in mind the new Consumer Rights Act, which came into force on October 1 and can help people get their money back if something goes wrong.

The Act gives consumers clearer rights to a refund after a purchase, and makes it easier to challenge hidden fees and charges.

In the meantime, it’s not too late to budget for Christmas.

Julie Hutchison, a consumer finance expert at Standard Life, says the key is to make sure you’re not trying to cover all your costs with your December pay packet or, worse still, January’s.

She says: “That’s where lots of people seem to go wrong, so if you’ve not already saved up to cover the cost of Christmas, try to make sure you’re saving as you go along.”

Here are Hutchison’s tips for planning a Christmas budget:

Pay for a present a week

With the average gift for a close friend or family member often coming in at around £30, budgeting this amount each week means you won’t suddenly find this amount multiplied by all your best pals and relatives on December 24.

Book your travel now

Doing so in advance could really cut costs. Shop around for the best price.

Don’t be a retail snob

Keep affordability front of mind when shopping, especially when it comes to food shopping. Buy in bulk as many “use by” dates will last until after Christmas. Clear space in the freezer to help keep food fresh for the festive season. Make the most of supermarket vouchers and loyalty card points.

Go online

Big brands and retailers will be ramping up their social marketing at this time of year - sometimes revealing deals and coupons exclusively through their social channels. Get following them.