Splurge or Scrooge – Christmas Spending

[Image - Viktor Hanacek]
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Christmas is undoubtedly one of the high points of the year for most children. But with the cost of Christmas rising every year, it may not be such a magical time for parents.

From the moment the first advent calendar window is popped open, until the last present is unwrapped, the festive period is a magical time full of excitement and anticipation, but it’s also increasingly tough on our pockets.

This year’s Christmas Spending Survey, conducted by the Money Advice Service, suggests that the average UK adult will spend around £530 on Christmas this year, and that almost half of Brits will rely on credit cards, overdrafts and payday loans to see them through the festive period.

You may think that the cost of Christmas is unavoidable, and that splurging on the latest bike or games console is part and parcel of being a parent, but it is possible to keep your spending under control during the festive season without channelling Ebenezer Scrooge!

The Money Advice Service (MAS) have plenty of tips and advice on how you can keep yourself out of the red during December and beyond…


Firstly, it’s crucial that you have a budget in place to cover the cost of Christmas. Spend some time in the run-up to the festive season looking over your finances and figuring out how much you can afford to spend on your kids and your wider circle of family and friends.

If your children have their eyes on a gift that is beyond your budget then suggest they ask for vouchers from friends and family so they can purchase it themselves in the sales. That way they get what they want for Christmas, but you don’t feel compelled to overstretch your budget to accommodate it.


The best way to ensure you have enough money set aside to cover the cost of Christmas is to put money away throughout the year. This is often easier said than done, but it may just be possible if you get organised.

There are tonnes of useful budget planners available online, or you can use an Excel template to figure out where your money goes. Putting as little as £20 a month in a separate savings account for Christmas could prove useful, so it’s definitely worth working out where you can cut back throughout the year.


Another way to cut costs at Christmas is by getting creative. Stores like Hobbycraft offer wallet-friendly craft supplies that can be used for homemade gifts and decorations. Knock up some hot chocolate (with marshmallows, of course) and get the kitchen table decked out for a marathon crafting session with the kids. They’ll have a wonderful time getting creative, and grandparents, aunts and uncles are bound to appreciate personalised gifts made especially for them.

Glorious food!

You should also ensure that supermarket offers don’t suck you dry in in the run-up to Christmas. There’s no denying that it’s the season to eat, drink and be merry – but do you really need to buy two jumbo tubs of Quality Street on the first day of Advent?

Christmas festivities often consume the whole month of December but in reality, Christmas only lasts for three days and by keeping this in mind, you could save a lot of money. Try to stick to your usual shopping list and budget in the weeks before Christmas, and don’t be lured by BOGOF’s and money-off offers. If you think the temptation of supermarket offers might be too much for you then do your weekly shop online instead.


Finally, it’s worth keeping in mind who you actually need to buy gifts for this year. The Christmas Spending Survey revealed that more than a third of people received gifts that they didn’t want or use for Christmas last year. The average value of unwanted gifts is more than £50, meaning that across the UK, £2.4bn worth of unwanted presents were given and received last year.

Before you pay out on a present for a friend or family member you should ask yourself if it’s something they will really appreciate, or if you would be better off getting them something different.

The below infographic was created by the Money Advice Service to highlight the cost of Christmas and where it might be possible to save money this festive season: