Keep your festive finances on track
WITH only six weeks left until Christmas, you may be thinking about starting your Christmas shopping. The National Consumer Agency has a Christmas budgeting tool and useful money-saving tips on www.consumerhelp.ie to help you keep your spending on track. Last year, in the run-up to Christmas, there were more than 5,000 visits to the Christmas budget planner and money-saving tips.
CHRISTMAS BUDGET PLANNER
The Christmas budget planner helps consumers draw up a realistic budget as they start planning for Christmas. It sets out the main costs associated with Christmas such as gifts, food, drink and decorations and includes some of the less obvious costs that people may forget to budget for, such as Christmas nights out or increased heating and electricity bills
MONEY SAVING TIPS
• Christmas cooking does not have to cost a fortune. Look out for cheaper own-brand goods, particularly to use as ingredients in items such as stuffing, mince-meat, ham glaze etc. Remember that shops are only closed for a day or two, so don't buy more than you need, to prevent waste.
• Heating and electricity costs can increase at Christmas. Christmas tree lights and lighting around the house are expensive to run.
Try putting lights on a timer and you can make simple changes such as regularly turning off lights, switching off appliances and buying energy-efficient light bulbs.
•Research is a great way to keep on top of your budget. If you have a present in mind, shop around, both in-store and online. Inspiration is very cost-effective at Christmas. Think of ways that you could help limit your spending on presents including 'Secret Santa'. If there is an expensive item that you really want to give to someone, consider splitting the cost with a friend or relative.
• Shopping without a list or in a panic is not a good idea and could lead to expensive impulsive buys. Make a list (and check it twice!) including everyone you intend to buy for and how much you will spend.
• Think about a present for family or friends that you could make rather than buy. If you're good at baking, biscuits that double up as tree decorations are thoughtful and effective. If you enjoy photography, you could compile an album or frame a particularly nice photo. Hand-made gifts and cards are appreciated, and if you have children, getting them involved is a fun and inexpensive activity to while away a cold winter evening.
• Make sure you know your rights. If you buy something in a shop and then change your mind, you are not entitled to a refund, but in some cases, the shop may give you a refund or allow you to change the item. They may ask for proof of purchase such as a receipt or a gift receipt if you are returning something someone else bought for you. You can learn more about your rights www.consumerhelp.ie
• Ask about terms and conditions if you are buying gift cards or gift vouchers. What is the expiry date? Are there any charges?
• Try not to get stressed out about the presents you have to buy and how you are going to be able to afford them. Christmas is a time for enjoying family and friends.
• Check out the money-saving tips and Christmas budget planner on the National Consumer Agency's website www.consumerhelp.ie.