Christmas on a budget - my tips on how to take care of your money over the holidays
As a PhD student, the festive period can be a financial struggle for me. For the last few years, I’ve been an undergraduate student, and then immediately became a postgraduate research student. So to say that money has been a struggle is a major understatement.
Christmas in particular can be a very stressful time, with many obligatory dinners, drinks and parties, with friends, families and colleagues. So it’s always been extra important for me to carefully manage my finances so I can still afford my everyday expenses, like rent, bills etc. And then of course there is the added cost of Christmas presents.
These are some of my tips for trying to plan and get through the Christmas period without feeling too stressed, and knowing you’re going to make it to the new year!
Use a budgeting app
I’ve been using Monzo for two years now, and it has been absolutely amazing for keeping track of my spending. During the lead up to Christmas and New Year, I find that people always want to catch up or meet up more often than usual. There may also be people who you haven’t seen in a while who want to go for drinks before the New Year. This means that I always have so many more meals and drinks out than usual, and Monzo makes keeping track of this SO much easier. I set a budget at the start of each month, and can see exactly what category I’m spending too much money on. It’s usually eating out, and I can then schedule accordingly.
Plan in advance
This leads on from the point above, but using a budgeting app makes is so much easier to plan in advance. Take your income, and however much you want to save out of the picture. Then look at your net income and remaining balance. How much can you spend? What are your likely plans? I try to schedule plans with friends at least 2 – 3 weeks in advance, so I know roughly how many events I’m expecting to have in the coming month.
In the Christmas period, you might have to buy gifts for people. Try to plan in advance what you want to get, and how much you want to spend. Are there any obligatory gifts, such as a work secret santa, or relatives who may be coming round to visit? Consider the maximum amount you’d want to spend, and then try and get gifts planned in advance. I love writing lists, and I list out literally everything I need to buy, including presents!
Start in November
Again its all about forward planning, and when it comes to shopping for gifts, try and start as early as possible. I write out a list of all the things I plan to buy, and for whom. Try and hit as many sales as you can, so that I you have all your Christmas shopping done! Spreading out your costs over weeks makes it easier to plan. Higher costs are likely to come, involving Christmas meals and drinks more building up in December. It’s never too early to start planning, and I’m one of those people that have my presents wrapped and labelled before December even starts!
Brunch over dinner
If you’ve got a lot of meals planned with friends, why not schedule a brunch rather than dinner or drinks? Brunch is usually a lot cheaper than dinner, and I find it much more fun, because if you haven’t got any plans for after, you can talk and catch up for much longer! Coffees and brunch dishes usually cost a lot less than alcohol/mocktails and dinner dishes. It’s nice to be out during the day as well, especially during the winter months when it gets dark early. Brunch usually means you can start eating anytime between 10am and 2pm so you can still have a weekend lie in! If your town or city doesn’t have 24 hour public transport, brunch can also be a lot cheaper because you won’t have to get that uber home, but instead get the bus or train back.
Home meals and teas
If brunch isn’t really your thing, you could always invite a friend round to your house for a home cooked meal! These are often are lot cheaper than eating out, and you can have any leftovers the next day! It’s also nice to have friends visit your home, and often it’s a much more relaxing environment than being out in a busy restaurant or bar. If you’re a fan of afternoon teas, you can still go out for tea, but order a cream tea instead, for a fraction of the price!
Watch the drinks!
Alcohol can get VERY expensive, and easily build up to a large bill on a night out. In London, a pint can cost around £5.50, and cocktails are usually in the region of £10 and up. Why not save money and yourself from the hangover, and get a mocktail or soft drink instead? If you still want a drink in your hand, get a sparkling water or soda for every other drink, and you’ll not only stay hydrated and be less likely to have a hangover, but you can save yourself the money and have a night out at half the price!
Combine social gatherings
There’s a lot of individual friend catch ups which I have planned, and a nice thing to do might be to combine them! If they already know each other, that’s great, but if not, why not introduce new friends to old ones! This can also be a lot cheaper and easier for you to plan. You can make what would’ve been 4 meals out into just 1, but have just as much fun!
Remember: Organisation is key!
Thank you so much for reading, and I hope that you find some of these tips useful. Please let me know what you think, and any tips or tricks that you have to help you stick to your budget during the holidays. Share and comment down below or on Twitter/Instagram
See you in the next one,
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