The festive season is fast approaching, and as delightful as it can be to celebrate with friends and family, increased spending puts pressure on budgets that may already be stretched thin by higher living costs.

According to the Bank of England*, the typical UK household spends over £700 more in December, which is roughly 30% more than is spent during other months. So if you’re budgeting for the holidays, you’re not alone.

Here are some tips to help you stay on track during the festive season.

Remember to plan for everyday bills

Yes, it’s Christmas. But meeting all your current financial obligations is still a priority and the penalty for not doing so can be considerable. Make sure you have money available for your mortgage, utilities, food and any other debts to avoid extra late charges or potential damage to your credit rating.

Take time to shop wisely whether in person or online

Shopping around and comparing prices can save you money. Be a smart shopper and check prices at as many different retailers as you can. It’s not just the actual cost of the item you’re buying that counts – reduced or free delivery charges and a flexible return policy are also important.

Choose authorised retailers to buy safely

It’s not uncommon for unauthorised traders to pose as legitimate ones. You don’t want to find out you paid top price for an item that’s been sold under false pretenses. It’s safest to purchase from known outlets for brand name goods and deal only with genuine traders with favourable delivery and returns policies.

Consider shipping and postage when sending gifts

If you’re posting gifts, check prices and postal dates for UK and international services. The most economical postal dates may be earlier than you think. Early shipping can help you avoid the considerable extra fees that you’ll have to pay for last minute express service. And early shipping also helps prevent disappointment. No one wants a Christmas gift in January.

Make sure you consider everything before using buy now, pay later offers

Many shops and websites offer a buy now pay later service that can sound very appealing, especially at a time like Christmas when things are usually mounting up.  However, it is important to consider the fact that you will have to pay at some stage. You’ll need to be sure that you will have the money available when the payment is due, late or missed payments can carry substantial charges and may affect your credit rating.

Using these strategies and staying conscious of your spending can help you avoid a financial ‘hangover’ in January. And there may be other areas of your budget that could benefit from a closer look. You may find it helpful to explore this free budgeting planner offered by the Citizens Advice Bureau: Work out your budget – Citizens Advice Bureau.

*Source: Bank of England, Dec 2020