The information provided in this article was accurate at the time of publishing and should be read in the context of the date it was published. Views in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the view of Scottish Friendly.

Choosing a Christmas tree

It’s that time of year. Christmas is almost upon us and the festive season, with all of its financial trappings, is in full swing.

It would be difficult to argue against the fact that the season has become a hugely commercial enterprise. Indeed, for many households the Christmas period is a time when finances are put under enormous strain, with already tight monthly budgets being stretched to the limit as people try to walk the fine line between celebration and frugality.

To help out, we here at ‘Scottish Friendly Towers’ have put our heads together to come up with our favourite Christmas money saving tips and ideas to make your budget stretch that little bit further:

Make a list and check it twice

Plan your Christmas shopping before you leave the house. Aimlessly wandering around the shops will lead to buying presents on impulse. Because you haven’t done your research, it is these last minute purchases that push your finances into crisis.

Secret Santa

Should you have a large circle of friends this could be an idea that is not only frugal but also fun. We all know how it works: everyone willing to participate puts their name in a hat and you draw a person to give a present to. We all do it at work, but the tradition can also be extended to family and friends. In the digital age the draw can be organised online using sites like Elfster or boogspace. Create a group online and around Christmas organise a get-together for some festive frolics in someone’s house.

Children only

Many of us may have tried the ‘self-made’ Christmas present experiment or even issued a rule of not giving each other presents. Should you decide to apply the ‘children-only’ rule still set yourself a clear budget for each child to ensure you don’t spend more than you can afford.

Size matters

While on the subject of buying presents for children, remember that small children can have more fun opening presents than playing with what’s inside. Try packing inexpensive presents in a large box filled with colourful balloons – saves money and will almost certainly have a memorable impact for the children.

Cashback Christmas

Some savvy shopaholics may also want to sign up to cashback sites. They get paid for sending traffic and give some of this to you, so this could be a win/win situation. Also consider online trading site eBay. Some sellers often specify items must be collected in person which will impact on the amount of bids they can get for an item. In a nutshell, the internet is a maze of opportunities to bag a bargain for Christmas.

Use that Christmas jumper!

While most of us dream of a white Christmas, the snow could be an inadvertent drain on your finances as households turn up the thermostat and heating costs go through the roof. Keep a careful eye out on how you run your heating and where possible choose to wear a warm jumper and thick socks rather than live in sub-tropical conditions indoors. Besides, cuddling up with a loved one is what Christmas is all about, right?

Food for thought

Supermarkets are a great source for gifts as well as food. Often gifts that you would like to buy on the high street can be found cheaper in the supermarket. Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s often have some of the best prices DVDs, games and books, for example, FIFA 15 on the PS4 is only £44 at Tesco compared to £47.98 at Zavvi.

Get organised for next year

The best time to start shopping for Christmas is Boxing Day. The sales are on and decorations are discounted, so while it may not save money this year, hiding the presents away now will make a big difference next year… failing that of course, you could always choose to start saving money now for future Christmases (wink, wink!).

Have a great Christmas.

No advice has been provided by Scottish Friendly. If you are in any doubt as to whether a savings or investment plan is suitable for you, you should contact a financial adviser for advice. If you do not have a financial adviser, you can get details of local financial advisers by visiting Advisers may charge for providing such advice and should confirm any cost beforehand.