It is never too early to prepare for Christmas. We know, we know – it is only October but hey the special time will be with us before we know it. No – please don’t stop reading – do your finances a favour and read on as I can help you save a whole heap of money!

Lots of people ask me how I plan for Christmas and want to know if fully planning out the cost takes the fun out of the season by thinking about it early. So, truth time, I do start thinking about what I am going to buy at Christmas in October, but I start setting money aside for Christmas in January.  

I have a friend who shops for Christmas in the January sales. I tried it once. I hid the gifts away so well that I couldn’t find them come wrapping time!  I never did  – who knows where they are! So, I ditched that idea – but it may suit you? Buying in January can bag you some amazing bargains especially on wrapping paper and decorations etc.

Shopping in January is not for me. However, I don’t want to be up to my eyes in wrapping paper on Christmas Eve either. Finding a happy balance is what it is all about.  

So back to January saving. The more time we have to save the easier it is. Also, it is far easier to work out what I spent this Christmas in January, rather than looking back 9 months later in October.

In January, work out what you spent on the whole of Christmas, divide it by 12 and voila, you have your budget for next Christmas. Set aside that amount each month and you will have total peace of mind that you have all you need for the special Christmas you have planned.

Ok so you didn’t do that this year – hey ho. You still have time, but the budget will either be tighter or you will need to save more each month starting now.

What Does Christmas Mean to You?

I think it is important to take a quiet moment and have a good think about what Christmas is all about. What does it mean to you and your family?

Is it REALLY about receiving pricey presents that you can’t afford that may well be forgotten about come March? Is it about buying the biggest turkey, every kind of cheese and nut?  Who still has a bag of Christmas nuts on the table in June? Do crackers have to cost£3 each? And do you need 4 each? Alternatively, is it worth buying the cheapest crackers with bad jokes, badly glued hats and “toys”that quite frankly should never have made it to the production line?

Christmas has traditionally been about giving and that is lovely, but automatic buying and giving without consideration of the consequences will leave you feeling down at the start of the new year in January. Take some time now to figure out how it will work financially whilst also getting your mindset into a place where you can have a great time without the big spend and therefore start the new year with a smile. This will avoid regret and a credit card bill that smacks you in the face like a bad hangover in January. Talk it over with the family too. You may be surprised at their reaction. I remember the sigh of relief when we first capped the budget for presents for family members.

So, when you have made friends with Christmas and promised yourself that it will not be a January regret, get planning!

Let’s get some lists going. You may even consider a spreadsheet. I do!

Here are some lists you might find helpful:

· ChristmasLunch

· Presents

· Stockings

· Wrapping

· Entertaining at home

· Going out

· Travel

Make the lists as comprehensive as possible. Put a price amount against each entry. Plan it, budget for it!  Stick to it!

Try to buy as much as you can over the next couple of months – spreading the cost. Ok, you can’t buy the turkey or the veg now, but if you can organise it so that the last (and I mean the last) shop on 23rd is just perishables, it will be quick, pleasant and you will not be shocked to near seizure by the price at the till.  We have all worn that wry smile wishing all a happy Christmas, using one hand to balance the wobbly bags piled high in the trolley, whilst in a cold sweat thinking how are we going to pay for all this stuff!

Now for the presents.  List who you are going to buy for and a set budget for each. Do the figures add up? Can you afford it? Trim it if needed because it is ok to do so, promise!  Ask your family what they got for birthday and Christmas last year and I bet half of them can’t remember!  

Again - start buying now.  Visit car boots, have a look on eBay and Facebook Market Place  – buy, wrap and list! By wrapping and listing now you will SEE with your own eyes how much you have bought – a great way of not overspending!

Check those Christmas lights now – are they working? Do you need any more tinsel or tree decorations? (a great January buy by the way). Plan and list. Can you make Christmas cards or can you limit them to people you have not seen for ages so to keep in touch? Maybe you can send Ecards?

You may be rolling your eyes with me discussing Christmas now, but I like an easy life. I like to enjoy Christmas knowing that everything is sorted, calm and easy. I also like to start January without regrets!  

I wish that for you too! Happy Christmas.

The contents on this page have been produced by Fanny Snaith, money coach in cooperation with borofree. These contents are for guidance only and do not represent a recommendation for investments nor an advice to get a loan. The debt guidance is provided for educational purposes and to allow consumers to use their money more effectively.