Experts in the Media

Sarah Wells – Body+Soul

Money and Finance expert

Feeling the pinch? Here’s how to avoid blowing the budget this Christmas.

Keep your finances in check.

It is possible to enjoy the festive season without ringing in 2024 with a mountain of debt, says finance expert Sarah Wells.

Ah, Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and also the most expensive.

If you’re still reeling from all of the retail fun of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, you’re likely looking at your bank account with some unease that the holiday season is already here.

When you’re Christmas shopping, it’s easy to get carried away and splurge more than you should, (especially if a few gifts for yourself start to sneak in!), but if you follow these tips you’ll be able to mitigate some of the financial pain come January.

Set up a budget

Before you even start thinking about Christmas shopping, sit down and work out a proper budget. Figure out how much you can realistically afford for presents for each person on your list, and then stick to it.

This will help you to avoid those sneaky impulse buys that seem like a good idea at the time but leave you with a bit of buyer’s remorse later on. Don’t get tricked into buying something you can’t afford because of good old marketing or FOMO.

Make a shopping list

Write down exactly what you need to buy, and don’t stray from it. With a list, you can be organised and tick presents off your list and without a list you’re in shopping free fall and that’s dangerous territory.

A focused approach stops you from getting sucked into any of the flashy sale items that stores love to push during the festive season.

Compare prices

Use your smartphone or laptop to compare prices before you buy. Just because something is marked down or a fantastic deal doesn’t mean it’s the best price out there. Also, check for model numbers and current prices, so you don’t fall victim and become clickbait prey.

A bit of digging around can save you a fair bit of cash and doesn’t take too much more work.

Hit the shops solo

Head to the shops on a weekday instead of the weekend if you can, or order things online if it’s easier, but if you go to a shopping centre, go alone and go with your mission fully mapped out, so you can’t be distracted by all the glitz and sparkle.

I know, it’s so much fun to go shopping with your friends and then have a drink afterwards… and it’s Christmas! But have you noticed this is also when you do the most damage? Keep your eye on the prize and meet your friends for a tipple when your shopping is done.

Be smart going into 2024

Starting in January 2024 set up a separate bank account as a festive season slush fund for Christmas 2024 and deposit a set amount into it every month.

Come December 2024, you’ll be prepared and any money you have leftover can be used to buy a special gift for yourself. Arguably the best gift, however? You’ll avoid a festive season finance hangover and the headache of paying back a big credit card bill that you can’t afford.

Sarah Wells is a money and finance expert. She is the director of Tailored Banking and Finance and can also be found at @the_moneystudio.