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Seven thrifty ways to have a budget-friendly Christmas

Don't want to blow a ho-ho-hole in your wallet this year? Vicky Shaw reveals some simple ways to keep costs down

Cash-strapped: the cost of presents for family and friends can add up but there are ways to make sure everybody enjoys Christmas
Cash-strapped: the cost of presents for family and friends can add up but there are ways to make sure everybody enjoys Christmas
Cash-strapped: the cost of presents for family and friends can add up but there are ways to make sure everybody enjoys Christmas

By Vicky Shaw

It seems many of us are planning to have a frugal Christmas this year rather than blowing the budget.

In fact, 71% of people are planning to make big cutbacks this year, compared with just 56% in 2015, a survey from AA Financial Services has discovered.

The research also found women were the most likely to be planning to impose a strict budgeting strategy, with 76% vowing to spend less, versus 66% of men.

It's not hard to see why some are trying rein in spending, given that, according to separate research from American Express, people expect the festive season to cost up to an average of £1,522.

This includes money spent on festive getaways, gifts and hosting parties.

Here are some ideas if you're looking for some inspiration to keep the costs down...

1. Write it down

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Laura Laidlaw, head of customer communications at Standard Life, suggests writing down how much you'll need for each part of your Christmas shopping.

Include how much you'll need for food, socialising, presents, decorations and anything else Christmas-related.

By writing down exactly how much you plan to spend, it becomes much easier to resist impulse spending on unnecessary extras and there may be some items on your list that you can cut out more easily if it's all written down.

Handing over cash when you make purchases could also help you resist the urge to spend because it may seem more like 'real money' than with paying by credit card.

2. Have an 'appy Christmas

Laidlaw suggests downloading apps because many will offer special discounts.

Don't forget about online discount codes and cashback websites which give you money back on what you buy. Just make sure you're still only buying what you need.

3. Have a secret Santa for family or friends

Although many of us would only think about secret Santa for work colleagues or large groups of friends, Laidlaw suggests that if you're sticking to a budget, a secret Santa could also be an ideal way for the adults of the family to give gifts.

If a maximum price is set in advance, this can be an effective way of keeping costs down and you can focus your time on buying a perfect gift within budget.

4. Ask guests to contribute to Christmas dinner

If you've got to put on a feast for friends and family over Christmas, asking them to help out could ease your costs.

AA Financial Services found that 8% of women are planning to ask guests to contribute food and drink over Christmas, as are 5% of men. Asking for help doesn't have to mean requesting that guests hand over cash when they walk through your front door. You could ask them to contribute by bringing drinks, snacks, side dishes or desserts over to help spread the cost around a bit.

5. Re-use leftover food

Give food that's gone untouched on Christmas Day a tasty makeover by re-using it in pies, soups or with noodles or pasta rather than letting it go to waste. There are plenty of recipes online for re-using leftovers.

6. Get rewarded for loyalty

If you've been shopping 'til you drop all year, now's the time to use all those reward points you've built up.

More than a third (36%) of shoppers plan to use loyalty reward points from retailers for Christmas, redeeming £61 on average across the festive season, according to a survey from Sainsbury's Bank Credit Cards. One in 10 plans to use over £100 worth of loyalty points to put towards shopping this year.

Separate analysis of Sainsbury's Bank Credit Card data found that during December last year, its customers accrued Nectar points worth £1.3 million.

7. Think about next Christmas

When stores start selling their Christmas cards and decorations off cheap, snap them up for next year.

Laidlaw also suggests putting away a bit of spare cash into a savings account each month. By the time next Christmas comes around, it could have turned into a sizeable sum.

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