There’s no escaping the fact that Christmas is approaching; TV is awash with adverts for perfume, kids’ toys and the latest consumer technology, street decorations are going up, and temperatures are plummeting.

With the economic situation continuing to put a strain on household finances, however, it can be a little harder than usual to get in the festive spirit. Whilst it may be tempting to simply stick everything on credit cards and worry about debt management later, this approach will come back to haunt you. You can still have a great Christmas without adding to your debts if you put some basic money-saving ideas into practice.

First of all, set a limit on what you are going to spend. That should cover gifts, food and drink, decorations, and any trips or activities you’re planning for the festive season. Be realistic, work out what you can afford, and keep a record of what you spend. Otherwise, you may find that you have spent more than you thought, meaning the infamous New Year blues will end up being even worse than normal.

There is no shame in making your own presents. In fact, many would argue it shows a more personal touch than simply buying some mass-produced item from your local high-street or shopping mall. Many people make their own jams or chutneys to give to friends and family, but if your creative talents lie elsewhere, then there are plenty of other options. If you’re into arts and crafts, you can make all sorts of personalised gifts. Or if you’re into photography, the same applies. Making your own cards and decorations is also a great way to save money, and the end result will be a far more unique and personal Christmas experience.

If you receive shop-bought presents that you don’t want and you have a receipt for them, don’t just leave them to gather dust – take them back and exchange them for something you will use, or store credit.

If you’re looking after the food over Christmas, don’t serve things just because they’re traditional if you know they won’t get eaten. If no-one in your house likes sprouts, or Christmas pudding, substitute them for things people will enjoy!

Finally, due to the weather and the amount of time spent at home, energy bills tend to be highest around Christmas. Therefore, if you haven’t already checked you’re on the cheapest tariff, now is the time to do so. You may also be eligible for things like free insulation from your supplier, so be sure to ask them about this.

Knowing that you haven’t overspent will ultimately help you relax and enjoy the festive period, and some of these ideas may even help you reconnect with the true spirit of the season.

This article was contributed to us by Emily Turner, who is a personal finance writer from the United Kingdom.

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