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Monday, December 14, 2015

Indebted to you... Top 10 Tips

According to various estimates, nearly 20 per cent - one fifth of the UK population is having to resort to getting into debt to fund their Christmas. They are either going into their overdraft - or beyond it - using a credit card, or going to a loan or payday lender.

Christmas is a time for giving, but it should not be a time to get into debt. No family should ever have to feel that without borrowing, they cannot provide.

I know times are tough, but with careful planning throughout the year, and a little bit of crafty money-saving sparkle, families CAN have a good Christmas without having to face a Red Letter January when the credit card or banking bills come in. No expenditure is worth getting into debt over. Especially payday lenders whose rates of interest can be so punitive.

People of Britain. I implore you. Find the true meaning of Christmas and learn that giving is awesome, but only if you can afford it.

And here are my top ten tips to help you afford it.

1) Start in January
Buy presents in the January sales. Buy decorations, trees, Christmas crackers, Christmas cards and wrapping paper for 50%, 60%, 70% off. Work your way through the year to get little items here and there when you see offers. I appreciate this can be hard when children need the latest 'fad', but for longer-term ideas such as Lego or certain dolls, buy ONLY when you see a deal on - and this is often not in November or December.

2) Bake as much as possible
Buy core ingredients and make and ice your own cakes, Christmas puddings, cupcakes, tray bakes and savoury treats. Pop over to my cooking on a budget blog - TheCrunchMunch - to get ideas and recipes for using up leftovers to create cheese straws, salads, puddings, cookies, etc.
The original outlay on dried fruit, flour and sugar may be high, but you can use these more than once - I can get about five cakes and a Christmas pudding out of one 1kg bag of self-raising flour. Try it.
Bake your own Christmas cookies - either for eating or for decorating the tree. Or both. See my Crunch Munch blog here for a simple, 3-ingredient recipe for peanut butter cookies.

3) Make as much as possible
Even the least artistic person can make their own gift and create decorations.

  • Try making your own cards using scraps of paper, or repurposed Christmas cards from the year before. To find out how, look at my blog on CardMaking
  • Make your own gift tags - they can be as fancy or as plain as you need be.
  • Make your own decorations - use newspapers to create roses - see this picture here - which can be given as presents or used to decorate the room. 
  • Create paper chains out of scraps of brightly coloured paper. 
  • Use scraps of paper to design tree ornaments - you can use newspaper papier-mache to build up on a cut-out star, for example, which can be painted or decorated with cheap glitter glue to make it look pretty.
  • Knit pretty items throughout the year for presents. Try embroidering small gifts, or painting on cheap canvasses from Poundland, or creating a Scrapbook of photo memories for parents or best friends.
  • Buy some cheap sets of plain glass candle holders and decorate with glass paints or stickers to create something bespoke.

Beautiful roses made by yours truly. Photo credit: Instagram - SimoneySunday
4) Reuse, recycle
Always keep wrapping paper for the next year. Try not to tear it all up, fold it neatly and store it. Or you can roll up larger pieces and use the cardboard insides of a toilet roll or kitchen towel to keep it neat.
Keep Christmas cards to cut up for gift tags, or to repurpose for your own Christmas cards.
Cut the ribbons out of your cardigans or blouses to use for small gifts or gift-tags.

5) Make a list
And check it twice. Always get it as early as possible from your nearest and dearest, to give you time to shop around for the best possible price. See if you can use the Black Friday deals to get yourself a good deal online - for example, I got my husband's hair clippers for 50% off and no delivery fee by shopping online and looking at various deals.

6) Use voucher sites
There are many sites you can go to that will show you various deals, coupons and voucher codes that you can either print out and use in-store, or use online to get discounts on your shopping.
Here's a few to get you started:
Always, always shop around to find the best deal, whether in-store or online.

7) Shop around
^ See above. Always do it. Never accept the first price or the first offer you see. Don't get rushed into making a 'bargain' purchase.

8) Holiday planning
If you do go abroad for a holiday, consider using this as a time to get some presents for Christmas (or birthdays or both). I do this regularly when on the annual holiday. There may be some silk clothes or ornaments that can be bought for a song overseas  - and which would cost a lot in the UK. For example, I bought a 100% silk kimono for a friend that cost the equivalent of £5, and when I checked prices on Amazon, I found out that it would have cost me about £68.00 + P&P if I had bought online.

9) Leave items in your basket
Online retailers sometimes will give you a discount price on a particular item if you do not checkout immediately. Of course they do cotton onto this and it does not happen as often as it used to, but several times I have been sent an email offering a 'repriced' item which is cheaper than the original price. However, BEWARE if the item is coming from the US or Europe - changes to the Euro or $USD often mean that the seller could put the price UP on exports. So I would caution that this only works if you are buying from the UK.

10) Take cash, not your card
By only taking cash with you to the shops, this really trains you to buy what you need - and to only buy what you really need. A card is too much temptation. Stop taking it out. I never used to use a credit card when I was broke. 
Yes. I ONLY use it when I HAVE money. I NEVER used a credit card as a student or when I was in a very low-paid job or when I was made redundant. I only used cash for the essential items - and waited for the others, or looked around until I found what I wanted cheaper, elsewhere. This discipline has stood me in great stead and kept me out of debt, even in the hard times where I had to walk 6 miles to work and back one month when I was so broke. 
YES. There was a time when I walked six-seven miles into work and back from CENTRAL LONDON to Streatham (my old place of residence), because I could not afford the bus fare that week. 
People do what they can to survive and by looking after the pennies, the Christmas pounds will look after themselves. 

Please promise me that in 2016, you will have a DEBT FREE CHRISTMAS!


Gorilla Bananas said...

Ah Mermaid, I knew a family who used to buy their Christmas presents early. The children ALWAYS found where they were hidden months before Christmas! (They also found out where their parents' contraceptives were hidden, but that's another story.)

I wish you hadn't told me about walking 6-7 miles home from work. I would have gladly paid your bus fare to save you that indignity.

Old Tarf said...

Excellent Article and some very good advice. We know what we are getting!! I am hoping to get a goat or something similar sent to Unicef or Kiva this year. I have a wonderful Loving Family and great Friends, so, I do not need anything else.

Old Tarf

Mermaid of Moorgate said...

A KIVA loan! Now that is a brilliant idea. Next time Pops that's what we'll do - do a small loan on your behalf.

And thanks Cousin Bananas, but I did manage to lose some weight and get fit for free with the walking!