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Six Tips to beat Christmas Credit Card Blues

Ask most people to guess at the most depressing day of the year and they might choose the day they go back to work after the summer holidays, or the day when the clocks go back and it’s suddenly dark at five o’clock.

In fact, studies have shown that the ‘worst’ day of the year is ‘Blue Monday’ – which falls in January.

Why that day? Because for most people the glow of Christmas and New Year has worn off, it’s still cold and dark, the summer holidays seem an impossibly long way away – and it’s the day when the Christmas credit card bills arrive.

Many people are desperate to ‘have a good Christmas’ and with all the economic woes around it will be a stronger temptation than ever this year. But for too many of us this means too much spending that we can’t afford – with the inevitable gloom when the festive bills roll in.

Is there anything you can do to avoid this? To make sure you still have a great time without the attendant financial pain? Maybe there is – here are half a dozen simple tips to make sure that your happy Christmas isn’t followed by the bluest of Blue Mondays.

1. Spread your buying over a few months. Many of us sneer at the people who cheerfully say in August, “Christmas? All sorted thanks. All the presents bought and wrapped. Nothing to worry about.” But one thing is for certain – these are not the people who’ll be hiding from the postman on January 21st.

2. Save – if the idea of buying Christmas presents in your shorts and flip-flops is too much for you, then try and save something towards the cost of it through the year. This was the theory behind the old fashioned ‘Christmas Clubs’ which so many shops used to run. With the advent of the national chains the practice seems to be on the wane, but it could be yet another case of ‘Granny knows best…’

3. Shop online – it may not be in the best tradition of wandering the shops and staggering to the car laden down with bags, but shopping online has a lot to recommend it. You’re saving time, you’re saving the cost of petrol and parking and the chances are you’re working off a list – so there’s less scope for last-minute impulse purchases sending you over your budget.

4. Shop around – perhaps not so true for those special presents, but with some reports suggesting that the average family will spend £100 at supermarkets and off-licences on alcohol alone over Christmas, shopping around and taking advantage of special offers on the ‘essentials’ could lead to significant savings.

5. Set a limit – at the risk of sounding like Mr. Scrooge, set a limit on your spending. Many parents set a limit in order to be fair to each child and doing this means that you will know what your ‘maximum spend’ will be for Christmas – and you can budget accordingly.

6. Finally, be inventive. A quick search on Google will throw up any number of do-it-yourself Christmas present ideas that will save you money – and there’s no reason why children can’t make their own Christmas cards. This is an area where the old saying, ‘Look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves’ can make a lot of sense.

Christmas is always going to be expensive, especially for families. But with a little planning and preparation you can make sure you’re not facing a ‘Blue Monday’ on January 21st.


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