That’s right, a Christmas article. In January. We’re sorry. But this isn’t actually about the joy of the festive season, but rather, its often difficult aftermath. Because somewhere along the line, the message of Christmas got corrupted. What once was about spending time with family and loved ones is now just about, well, spending.

According to research conducted by Debt charity StepChange, only around 30% of us can afford Christmas comfortably. As for the rest, it was revealed that about a third of people plan to borrow money to cover the cost, and spend the rest of the year sorting out the mess. This year we’re starting early, and giving our bank balance a good once over, with these; our 5 IDEAL steps to regaining control of your finances after Christmas.

CREDIT CARD CAUTION

When turning to credit cards to fix any financial problem, huge caution should be taken. Indeed, StepChange identified that borrowers will, on average, manage to repay their debts only by around September 2020. That’s no way to live. And that’s just a couple of months until the next round of present buying, mulled wine drinking and the rest.

It’s not difficult to find companies offering loans for Christmas or giving you options to buy now, pay later on gifts. However, many of these organisations charge extremely high interest rates and may push you into debt. Although the pressure is on to create a memorable Christmas, it’s just not worth enduring those months of bills afterwards.

Worse, if these debts become unmanageable, is that borrowers are put at risk of legal action or bailiffs – something which certainly ruins the festive season. So, with debt repayment and shopping habits next time around, credit cards should be approached with caution.

DEBT CONSOLIDATION

For those already in this situation, with the threat of legal action to recover money owed from credit card bills or other debts, there are reputable debt consolidation companies out there, as well as firms offering IVA advice for people who may need to default on that debt and enter a repayment arrangement. It’s reported that 40% of people in financial hardship wait about a year before seeking help, which only exacerbates the issue. Talking about debt is difficult, but the sooner it’s addressed, the better.

HAVING A SOCIAL LIFE ON A BUDGET

Just because January means for so many a time of frugality and abstinence shouldn’t mean it’s one lived isolated and without meaningful connections made and maintained. You just have to do things a little differently at the start of the year.

During this time, it might be prudent to swap the booze for a brew. This could be in the form of inviting a friend round for a cuppa at yours or meeting for a coffee out and about. Either way, the accumulative cost will be way less than several cocktails and the rest.

And remember that there are plenty of cheap events out there at this time of year to help you get out and about for less. In fact, some of the best are free; all the event asks for is your engagement. As we’re sure you already know, the majority of museums and art galleries in London are free to enter, with restrictions only existing on select exhibitions. So, that’s a month of the V&A, the Science Museum, Design Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Tate, the National Gallery and so many more.

There are enough conversation starters and searching questions to pose in these places to keep your social life active until next Christmas. Of course, this magnitude of completely free ways to keep you busy isn’t confined to the capital. Check out this list of the best free stuff to do, UK-wide, here.

A YEAR OF GOOD HABITS

We can fall into so many bad habits with our spending which, when viewed on their own, don’t amount to much and therefore go unnoticed, but when combined can quickly add up.

Christmas, for instance, can often see those subscriptions mount up – festive songs you wanted on Spotify, family movies on Netflix, last minute deliveries on Amazon Prime – so during the quieter months it’s sensible to do an MOT of those subscriptions to see if all of them are still necessary. 

What’s more, the binge eating of the festive season and all that getting fed by the family can result a little laziness with the cooking, eating out and takeaways when you resume normal service after Christmas. Instead, adopt a healthy, sustainable approach to your lunches and dinners in the new year; check out our 7 IDEAL tips and ideas for budget meal planning for inspiration!

DO IT DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME

Christmas 2020; we don’t think anyone wants to contemplate that just yet. But after making this year one of sensible spending, it’s vital you make sure you end it with the same approach, rather than slipping into the same old mistakes of borrowing and blowing money you don’t have. Bookmark this useful page on ways to enjoy Christmas on a budget, ready for 11 months down the line, and remember to refer back to it! Job done.

 

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