With less than six weeks to go until Christmas, it’s time to start planning your shopping list – if you haven’t already – and staggering your spending so as to make your outgoings as manageable as possible.
But just as important as managing your money for the things you are going to buy is figuring out what you definitely don’t need to buy – and leaving it on the shelf.
Here are John Lowe The Money Doctor’s top nine things to avoid buying this Christmas, so that you can keep a little more money for the things that matter.
1. Lights and decorations
Don’t worry: I’m not the Grinch! Of course you should decorate your house as you see fit; but given that we use our Christmas decorations for no more than a couple of weeks each year, they really don’t experience much wear and tear.
As much as you can, avoid picking up new sets that you don’t need. While this may be hard to resist for adults, it can be even harder for children. If you simply can’t avoid the pester power when passing through the Christmas section of every shop, consider adopting a tradition where each child, or the family as a whole, selects one special ornament together each year.
2. Paper napkins
Think about it: do you use them during the year? Then why spend money on special sets, just to dress the table? If you feel the Christmas dinner is incomplete without them, buy a reusable set that you can simply wash and use again next year.
3. Baby gifts
For those with newborns or very young children, just be as frugal as possible. It is wonderful to celebrate your child’s first Christmas, or your toddler’s first trip to see Santa. But if you are feeling the pinch with a new child, remember that they won’t remember their first or second Christmas; there is no need to put yourself under huge pressure to provide the picture-perfect pile of presents.
4. A new outfit for every party
The office party; your partner’s office party; your family night out; your neighbour's wine and cheese night: you don’t need new clothes for each of them, no matter who’s putting photos on social media. Mix and match – and save your money.
5. Seasonal treats
Wrapping paper, Christmas cards, tree skirts, paper advent calendars...they all go on sale as soon as the holiday season ends. Get into the habit of snapping them up at 90% off and storing them for next year. Trust me: you’ll thank yourself.
6. A real tree
I know you love the smell – but is it worth spending up to €75 - €100 each December, when you could buy an artificial tree that doesn’t shed or need watering and can be used countless times over?
7. All those sweet treats
‘Tis the season to embrace excess – but just think how many boxes of chocolates, tins of biscuits and bottles of wine you typically end up amassing through work Secret Santa and friendly neighbours.
If you often find yourself with a glut of this type of food and drink, consider leaving that bit of Quality Street or bottle of Bailey’s on the shelf when you’re doing the weekly shop – it’s a lot harder to justify digging in once the cold light of January hits!
8. Pet presents
Your dog and cat don’t need advent calendars, or Christmas stockings, or elf costumes. They will appreciate their everyday treats just as much.
9. Christmas foods
Does anyone in your house eat Christmas cake? Or pudding? How about mince pies? Do they drink sherry, or do you buy it "just in case"? Do you really need those chocolates in the beautiful Christmas tin – or will the generic box beside it do the job just as well?
At the end of the day, just try not to get caught up in all the glorious branding. Be smart about how you spend – and you’ll have a much merrier and financially better off Christmas.