It’s that time of year where much of the planet decides to get further into debt for an entirely commercial and shallow event based upon a religious holy day that many of them don’t actually observe. For some reason in a society obsessed with spending money and consumerism and people generally obsessing with saving the planet, that they pick this time to simultaneously waste more money and damage the environment even more.
This month we will collectively spend just under £446,000 every minute of every day on presents alone. This isn’t even including decorations, Christmas food (which at least in Britain is just traditional ever day food but consumed in copious quantities), the parties, drinks and other paraphernalia.
Americans are even worse and part with $2,372,227 or roughly £1,857,000 every minute this month. Even taking into account the population difference, they’re still the biggest average spenders though the UK puts everyone else firmly in the shade.
At the other end of the scale, Luxembourg has a more low-key approach to Christmas consumerism, parting with only two thirds of the UK average personal spend. Different surveys indicate that last year the average British person spent between £470 and £570 on presents alone.
Incredibly a third of people don’t have any idea of how much they have spent just minutes after leaving a shop especially if they pay by a card and with Britain always having been far more into online shopping than anywhere else it is easy to see how spending gets out of control.
Various polls show families with children under the age of 18 will spend anything from £1,000 to more than £2,700 in total at Christmas, with gifts making up the vast majority of the spend. Those without dependent children spend less than half that amount.
Women top the spending for presents, food and drink whereas men will part with more cash on going out and “little extras”. From the first Christmas advert, to the last-minute junk email, you’ll be under pressure to spend a fortune this Christmas.
Many may well start by carefully planning what we’re going to spend but by the time we’ve made it through the festive hype and the ‘irresistible bargains’, 57 per cent of us will go overboard – racking up an average overspend of £152.70.
Seven tips to avoid getting into debt this Christmas
1 Use a budget
Half of us start well by drawing up a budget – splitting the sum they can afford between the expenses. This is the best way to keep costs under control. There’s a whole industry devoted it to making you overspend.
Before you do, leave at least 24 hours before making a purchase, to be sure this is something you really need. If you decide to go ahead, work out where you’re going to squeeze the extra cash from in your budget before you buy.
Ignore money off or sale offers such as Black Friday unless you actually are going to buy the item shortly in any case. Nothing is is more valuable than your money. Save 30% on some junk you don’t really want or need then you’ve just wasted 70% on stuff that you could have spent on something useful or heaven forbid… saved.
2 Ditch the extras
Some things we do because they are traditions, but they’re expensive and nobody really values them. Do you really need festive liqueurs or fancy crackers? Don’t just assume everyone else wants to stick with old traditions, ask them. If you don’t follow an old tradition such as going to Christmas Carols which are free and last an hour or two then why spend a small fortune on crackers that go bang in 1 second?
3 Try not to go posh at Christmas
Sales of premium ranges soar at Christmas, as we treat ourselves to posh ham and top-of-the-range cheese. There’s no reason why you can’t eat the same things you enjoy all year round, but if you’re determined to treat yourself, it’s worth trying the cheaper premium ranges of the budget supermarkets. All this fancy food is actually available all year round, if you want something fancy then why not treat yourself in May as there is already so much good stuff happening at Christmas anyway.
4 Slash your gift list
If you’re struggling to stretch your budget, cut the number of presents you buy. Talk to groups of friends or family and agree not to buy for one another this year. You can just buy for the children, or run a secret Santa, so you buy for one person in each group.
5 Consider shopping for second hand gifts
Younger children aren’t going to care whether it comes in the original packaging, so you can pick up second-hand toys for a fraction of the price. Adults, meanwhile, may well love a vintage gift. Even hard-to-please teenagers may agree to technology that’s a year old if it means they get their favourite brand.
I did accompany a friend on her Christmas shopping last year for her parents, siblings, nephews and nieces and by just visiting Charity and second hand shops she bought 6 or 7 bags of stuff for about £60.
6 Use technology
Before you buy anything, go online to see if another retailer has a better deal, or there’s a discount voucher you can add to the mix. If you have time, leave the item in the digital shopping bag for a couple of days, and the retailer may send you a special offer.
If you are planning to buy from Amazon, look the item up on a website such as CamelCamelCamel, which tracks prices of Amazon items and will show you whether you’re getting a good deal. You can also sign up for alerts when the price drops.
7 Stretch Christmas Out
If all else fails, agree to see people in the New Year instead so you can buy their gifts in the sales (another thing I absolutely despise!!). Christmas lasts 12 days and well into January or if you’re very old fashioned like myself, to February… no need to get your presses all at once! Instead of panicking for weeks before Christmas and packing your tree up before the end of December, why not enjoy it and let it continue well into the New Year.