Christmas is nearly here! Well, kind of. Think of it as three – potentially four – paydays away. It’s really not that many when you consider you’re gearing up for the most expensive day of the year. Having said this, it is just one day. I hate to sound like Ebenezer Scrooge, but, is one day really worth ruining the first part of 2017 for?
Money Saving Expert gives some really awesome tips on how you can save as an individual – which we’ll dip into here – but there are also a few things you can do as an employer to help your team save for their upcoming festivities.
We can’t emphasise this enough. The average family spends nearly £800 on Christmas in total. That’s a big hit on your November pay packet. However, that’s £200 per month if you start in September. It’s still a lot, but it’s much more manageable. People always roll their eyes when I start Christmas shopping immediately after my September birthday, but believe me, come January, I’m the smug one.
Do whatever suits you best; physically take out the cash and store it in a hard-to-reach place. Start your actual shopping now. Or, if you’re fairly disciplined, keep an eye on your bank account daily, and maintain constant awareness of the £200 you need to protect this month.
Encourage your team to start early
As an employer, you can encourage good saving habits throughout your organisation in the build-up to Christmas. There are many financial education tools (e.g. Nudge Global’s services) which you can include as part of your benefits offering. This helps people to be aware of what they spend vs. save, and curb their behaviour accordingly. We tend to save more attentively if we’re aiming towards a goal, and Christmas is a big one. A September email about the small sacrifices your employees can make, will potentially save them a lot of money before the big day. Do they really need a £3 coffee every day? That’s £273 between 25th September and the 25th December. Why not put the kettle on instead, put those three coins in a jar, and see how they multiply?
Budget > Gifts
Plan your gift-giving around your budget, not vice-versa. I’ll let you into a secret; if you can’t afford that PlayStation/diamond ring/squash racquet – you don’t have to buy it. Just manage the recipient’s expectations in advance. They might be relieved that they don’t have to get you something extravagant in return. When you ask someone what they’d like for Christmas, tell them what your budget is. I’ve mastered the following: “Dad, think of something you’d like for Christmas…around £30.”
It’s also a great time of year to remind your colleagues that they can save money through workplace savings and discounts as part of your employee benefits scheme, which will alleviate the cost of gift-buying.
Top tip: You probably don’t need to get a present for your brother’s partner’s mum. And she probably doesn’t want to have to give you anything. Just make sure you’re on the same page.
Sometimes, people don’t want to get involved in the office Secret Santa. However, for a lot of people, this yearly ritual comes as a big relief, as they are safe in the knowledge that they do not need to get individual presents for everyone on their team. Implementing a £5 spending cap is also a good thing. It brings out people’s creativity, and it sets everyone’s expectations for silly, frivolous presents – nobody anticipates grand gestures through Secret Santa; it’s definitely just meant to be fun.
Outside of work, it’s worth suggesting Secret Santa among your friends. There are apps available which send you texts telling you who you’ve got to buy for, which helps if your mates are dotted about all over the place. This gives you the same peace-of-mind as at work; I don’t need to buy a load of individual presents, just the one.
Fun fact: People who are born in December or early January really don’t appreciate getting a “joint Christmas and Birthday” present.
Kids don’t fixate on brands
When it comes to presents, young children in particular tend to be all about quantity over quality. The bigger the better. You might offer discounts and cashback through your reward and benefits scheme, and now is the time to really push this. Sending out well-timed communications about what’s on offer means that people can either get a great deal on something which is normally much more expensive (for example, your scheme might promote a weekly “Hot Deal”), or they can start looking early at which children’s retailers offer cashback.
However, if you are dead-set on making a big purchase this year, websites like CamelCamelCamel allow you to enter your desired item, and your ideal maximum spend. It then notifies you as soon as an Amazon retailer lowers the price to your limit.
Speaking of “Hot Deals”, Black Friday had a few good years, but it’s time to bid it adieu. We’re onto you, retailers! Don’t think we didn’t notice your sly price increase in the two weeks before Black Friday, only for the prices to be “slashed” back down to what they were at the end of October. It might be worth keeping an eye on if you're after something specific, but you’re probably better off getting deals through your own rewards scheme.
Another top tip: Don’t sign your Christmas cards from your pets. People know your cat didn’t buy that card.
Don’t be a food snob
You don’t need to be a brand snob when it comes to your Christmas dinner. In blind taste tests conducted last October, The Telegraph reported that budget supermarkets – notably Aldi, Morrisons and Tesco – frequently out-performed their luxury counterparts in everything, from the turkey to the champagne. “The best of everything” doesn’t necessarily come with a hefty price tag, and the chances are that your own cooking skills will mostly dictate how well the meal goes. So, no pressure…
So, if your rewards scheme doesn’t already offer discounts and cashback from supermarkets, now is the time to get this introduced!
If you’re planning on visiting family and friends afar, book your travel now. Christmas bookings are being released around about now, so the cheaper tickets will be snapped up quickly. You could end up paying more than twice as much if you leave it until December.
Top tip: Don’t splash out on your Christmas party outfit. You’ll probably get red wine spilled over it anyway.
Start saving for Christmas 2017 (I know, but hear me out) in January. My 2015 New Year’s Resolution was to never spend a £5 note. Whenever I came across one, I put it in a jar (labelled “Tattoo Money”, which drove my mum crazy) and come Christmas – over £200!