Budgeting at Christmas

This blog post by one of our administration assistants Terry gives some great tips on budgeting over the festive period.

DO YOU think that capitalism is finished?  Some people do!  The Prime Minister of economically stricken Iceland has said that the free market model pursued by many governments the world over since the 1980’s is now unsustainable and needs to be rethought. 

Budgeting and making ends meet can be difficult enough as it is, but with the festive season in December, the pressure can be on.  How do you afford Christmas and meet your other financial responsibilities such as paying your rent?  Fear not – our Budgeting Megastars have a few pointers to help keep the festive season under control: 

TALK to your partner, friends and family.  They are probably just as stretched as you are.  Agree a limit to what you are going to spend on each other: you can then have fun getting something for this value. 

MAKE A LIST and stick to it.  This helps stop impulse buying. 

CHECK OUT CHARITY SHOPS.  The South West is chocka with charities running all sorts of shops.  You can find some lovely gifts for a small amount.  Agree with friends that this year, all your presents are going to come from charity shops. 

MAKE GIFTS.  Speak with your support worker about doing some painting, craft or other activity to make something.  These can be charming gifts for somebody. 

LOOK FOR DISCOUNT SHOPS.  Bookstores like the Works and Book Extra have remaindered titles for just a few pounds.  Poundland increasingly stocks toiletries and remaindered books. 

DON’T  forget your key commitments.  If you have bills to pay, these must take precedence.  The same is true if you pay rent to Second Step.  If you think you are going to have a problem, speak with your Housing Worker early. 

GO SECOND HAND.  Visit a church or other community jumble sale or Christmas Fayre.  Look at second hand records stores and bookshops with your support worker.  Who knows what you’ll find.

CHECK OUT THE ALTERNATIVE SHOPS.  Bloom and Curll Books on Colston Street, , Beware of the Leopard in St Nicks Market, Rough Trade Records, Specialist Subject Records, Dreadnought Books and The Hydra Bookstore (political and environmental books at Café Kino) are all known for their relatively cheap stock, or have remaindered sections.  You never know what you might find.   Shops are constantly coming and going….. it is good to check the internet or pick up a free local newspaper like B247 to see who is trading near you! 

GO EASY ON THE CHRISTMAS MEALS.  You can have a nice meal with your friends at a community café rather than an expensive restaurant.  For example, in Easton (Bristol), the Kebele Base Co-operative (14 Robertson Road) run a cheap vegan café on Sunday evenings.  Some church groups or religious institutions provide free or cheap meals at this time of year – ask your support worker to consult the internet. 

SHOP ONLINE.  This will help you find deals and compare prices.  But be careful not to get bedazzled by what’s available.  Be disciplined.  You could try a website like Freecycle, which aims to put people getting rid of items in touch with people wanting them. 

DO YOU NEED ALL THAT FOOD? Lots of food is wasted over the holiday season as people often overestimate what they will need whilst the shops are closed.  Plan your meals – it’s fine to include biscuits, chocolate and treats – and then get what you have on your list. 

GO EASY ON SEASONAL CARDS.  Agree with friends that you will make cards for them, or you can find very cheap cards at Poundland.    Lots of people like to get cards from charity shops, as they raise money  for a good cause in the community.  But if this is too expensive, then perhaps you can plan for next year by getting reduced cards in January and popping them in a cupboard till next December. 

ASK  for help.  If you have debts or problems budgeting, speak with your support worker straightaway.  They can help you access a charity like The Debt Advice Foundation which can help you sort out your finances. 

ESCAPE from the festivities if you need to.  It is okay to say that you don’t want to do Christmas.  Some people drop out completely.  One gay novelist told a magazine that he goes to Japan for the whole of December!  You need not do anything so extravagant: in this internet age, it is perfectly possible to find music and entertainment which is not Christmassy. 

PLAN for next year.  After the festive season is over, why not cut up your cards, so you keep the front cover.  (You can put the rest in the recycling, of course!).  Then, next year, you can use these cards with their Christmassy images as labels or gift tags. 

SAVE for next year with a reputable savings scheme.  Why not support the local community by saving with the Bristol Credit Union, or a member-owned bank such as the Co-operative or Tridos Banks?


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