Have a merry money Christmas: How to look after your finances this festive season

Published on
16 December 2021

The countdown to Christmas is well and truly underway, but alongside all the fun, presents and parties, can come at expense.

At The Cumberland, we are looking forward to this Christmas as much as anyone. However, we also know the importance of prioritising our financial well-being, and how many may feel the pressure to buy just the right gift and host the perfect celebration.

With so much to do over the festive period, it can be all too easy to let your spending get out of hand. However, we’ve got plenty of advice to help you keep track of your money this Christmas.

‘Tis the season to be organised

Christmas is a time when we tend to make lots of smaller purchases, which can easily add up to hundreds of pounds.

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Cluster manager Barry Ridley says it’s important to plan ahead to map out how much money you’re likely to spend over Christmas and make sure this isn’t impacting payments for other essentials such as bills, rent or mortgage repayments.

“There are a lot of things to spend money on over the festive period,” he says.

“It’s not just presents, there’s food and drink, going out and travelling to see relatives. This can all add up. If you know what your regular outgoings are and how much you need to cover them, you can add up your Christmas expenses and make sure these aren’t cutting into the money you need to just live day to day.

“Sometimes you’ll have to wait an extra week to get paid over Christmas and New Year as well, so make sure you factor this into your planning if necessary.”

Logs on the fire and (and an affordable number of) gifts on the tree

When it comes to presents, Barry says it’s important to always ask yourself whether you really need something before you buy it.

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“There’s a lot of pressure and inducements to make purchases over the Christmas period,” he says.

“So it can help to make a list of what you want to buy people and then stick to it. Most people are happy with one present, do you really need to be tempted to buy more?”

He says being organised and trying to buy presents early can also help you budget and spend gradually rather than paying large amounts in one go.

“If you can buy gradually throughout the year then that really helps,” he says.

Above all, he says the old saying that it’s “the thought that counts” is as true as ever

“Think about your own attitude to receiving gifts,” he says.

“Are you really looking for someone to buy you something super expensive? You don’t need to spend lots of money to give a nice gift. There’s also a lot to be said for asking somebody what they want in advance and then buying that, rather than guessing and making a potentially unnecessary purchase.

“Another good approach is to club together with friends and relations to buy people something they really want for Christmas. You can all contribute a smaller amount and get a really good present between you.”

It’s beginning to look a lot like...

Any sensible person will try and get the best deals they can at Christmas. Retailers know this as well, which is why they’ll often advertise festive offers and discounts. However, Barry says you should check to make sure they’re actually as good as they’re made out to be.

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“It’s a good idea to look back through the year and see how prices have changed. It might be that something is being advertised as a great deal when in fact it’s not,” he says.

“When you’re buying online it can be a good idea to put things in your basket but leave it a little while until you actually buy it. There’s no need to rush and with a bit of a thought - and a bit more browsing - you might realise you don’t need that product.”

He’s making a list and checking it twice

Financial crime analyst Sarah Campbell says the amount of online purchases people make over Christmas can open them up to scams and fraud.

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“It’s a time when people are busily buying presents and they are expecting lots of deliveries,” she says.

“So be particularly careful of texts you might receive saying they are from DPD or Royal Mail and asking you to pay a certain amount in order to get a delivery. Don’t click on any links in these messages as they will take you to fake sites asking for payments.

Just ignore anyone who is texting, phoning you or emailing and asking for banking or card details. No bank or legitimate online retailer will ever do that.

Sarah adds it is important to make sure any websites you are buying items from are genuine.

“Scammers will try and create websites which look like well-known platforms, so you should always look out for any indications that a website is not legitimate,” she says.

“For example, check the web address to make sure it looks genuine, look out for bad spelling and grammar and any unconvincing branding or graphics. These are some of the key giveaways of fake sites or fake emails.

“If you’re making a purchase from a website you’ve never heard of before then you can look it up on a website like Trustpilot to see if other people have used it and whether it’s authentic.”