‘Twas the night before Christmas, well… almost
You’re tired, stressed and your bank account looks as if it’s done 10 rounds with Joe Frasier. Yet still we plunge into the crowded high street to buy more food and presents. Are we brave or just plain foolhardy?
The good news is that it’s still possible to cut those last minute Christmas costs and you don’t have to take our word for it. For these final tips before Christmas (watch out for our New Year advice) we’ve turned to the man himself, Santa. In this exclusive interview he gives us the snowdown on saving dosh without cutting back on the Ho! Ho! Ho!
Money Fight Club: Santa, thank you for taking time out of your high pressure schedule to speak with us. What do you think is the most important tip you can share with our readers?
Santa: “Well my most important tip is actually a direct quote from one of my favourite carols. You know the one, it’s called ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’. In it are the words ‘He’s making a list, And checking it twice.’ One of the easiest ways of overspending is buying too much. You may have started buying Christmas presents and even Christmas food a couple of months back – possibly even longer. Before you go out and spend more check exactly what you already have in the house and what you still need, including what presents you’ve bought already and who they’re for. Write a list. Check it twice.”
Money Fight Club: Good one Santa. Now, as you’ve already mentioned, last minute Christmas costs can be a real problem. But we all worry that we won’t have enough food and treats for the holiday, so we overdo things. How can we avoid falling into that trap?
Santa: “But that’s a load of nonsense when you think about it. Even the North Pole has a couple of convenience stores where you can buy emergency last minute items. Christmas Day falls on a Thursday this year and even the big shops will be open again on Saturday morning. Realistically, how much food do you actually need? I tend to work out how many meals and how many people will be around to eat them. Last year I got caught out and planned an early Christmas Eve supper for Mrs.Claus and a few of the elves, only to find they’d made other plans and were going to a karaoke night down at the Nose & Antler after they’d finished packing my sleigh. Underestimate rather than overestimate. You can always make meals go further by cooking a few more potatoes, some rice or a big bowl of pasta. I keep a couple of crusty loaves in the freezer that can be heated up at the last minute if the elves bring a few friends home on Boxing Day.”
Money Fight Club: But we want our friends and family to have a lovely time. Buying gifts and planning great meals is all part of entering into the Christmas spirit.
Santa: “I hate to pull age and rank but I’ve been ‘doing’ Christmas for a number of years now and I think we can lose sight of what makes the holiday period special. It’s a chance to spend time with the people we care about. When I get back home on Christmas morning all I want is a nice up of tea and the chance to kick these black shiny boots off. Sitting by the tree with Mrs.Claus is good enough for me. Time was that Christmas presents amounted to a satsuma, some walnuts and a small toy, all of which fitted comfortablly into a clean sock tacked to the mantlepiece. How many times have you sat and watched young children play happily with the box the expensive toy came in?”
Money Fight Club: So, how do we stop ourselves getting caught up in the last minute spending panic if we do visit the shops over the next few days?
Santa: “Chances are you haven’t totted up what you have left to spend this month. Don’t rely on visiting a bank ATM and working with the ‘available balance’. What bills will need to be paid and particularly what standing orders and direct debits will be coming out of your account, not only before the end of the month but before your next pay cheque? Secondly, think about the things that money can’t buy: such as the longer than usual phonecall with an older relative you won’t actually see over the holidays. What about gifts in kind, such as babysitting vouchers for friends and family with young children? Calling in a babysitting favour at some stage in 2015 will mean a whole lot more than another present on Christmas morning. It’s not well known but me and Mrs.Claus have children. They’re all grown up now but I give them all a ‘voucher’ each Christmas equivalent to one day of Dad’s DIY. They’re bright kids but they can’t put up a set of shelves for toffee.”
Money Fight Club: Okay Santa, we know you’re keen to get back to your workshop. One final tip?
Santa: “My final tip would be about planning your trips to the shops both in terms of where and when you go. Most stores have varied opening and closing hours in the final countdown to Christmas. Check exactly what these are and plan your retail foray like a military campaign. Even at this time of year stores can be far less crowded when they first open or late at night. It’s easier to spend rationally if you’re not being jostled by loads of other shoppers who are all spending like mad. And I know I made the case for convenience stores earlier but don’t use them for longer shopping lists. Convenience stores can work out more expensive. Smaller, local stores run by the major supermarkets can charge a price premium on a lot of products. So use them sensibly for one or two last minute items and certainly not for a big shop.”
Money Fight Club: Thanks Santa. Merry Christmas.
Santa: “Right back at you and a prosperous New Year to Money Fight Club members.”
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