“Managing money during the festive season can be a challenging time for employees, but some careful planning could allow individuals to enjoy the holidays without getting into debt.” says Jonathan Watts-Lay, Director, WEALTH at work, a leading financial wellbeing and retirement specialist.
Here are some top tips to share with employees below:
- Set a budget – Create a detailed budget that includes all expenses, such as gifts, decorations, food, entertainment, nights out, travel, increased utility bills, and clothes, and stick to it. There are many free budgeting apps available which can help track spending on groceries, eating out, entertainment etc.
- Use online shopping hacks –Price comparison tools can be used to find the best deals on gifts. Idealo finds the best price online for a particular product and CamelCamelCamel allows you to track the price of Amazon products. Consider installing browser extensions like Honey that search for discount codes during online check-out.
- Beware of Black Friday – Black Friday is on the 24th November, and Cyber Monday is on the 27th These are supposed to be days when people can get amazing deals, but the discounts being offered should always be checked as they are not always as they appear. Ideally, it’s best to find out the pre-sale prices, so you know if it really is a special offer!
- Consider other ways to reduce costs – Discuss and agree on spending limits with family and friends, and consider alternative gift options like homemade gifts or experiences, which can be cost effective and more personal. Leave credit cards at home to avoid overspending, and for those who aren’t seeing family until after Christmas, they could buy their gifts in the sales.
- Maximise workplace benefits –Individuals should take advantage of any employee discount schemes offered for discounts on for example, groceries, dining and even gift purchases.
- Beware of energy costs – Energy bills can rocket over Christmas due to the increased use of cooking appliances, heating, washing and technology. So, individuals should make sure they do all they can to be energy efficient. Small changes such as turning off lights when they aren’t needed, washing clothes at 30 degrees instead of higher temperatures, making sure the dishwasher is only used when full, and cutting down on the number of times the kettle is boiled can add up to make a difference to energy bills.
- Understand borrowing methods – Borrowing to pay for Christmas should only ever be a last resort, but credit cards are useful for the protection they give for purchases over £100. For those considering using a credit card, they should choose cards with 0% finance or cashback. Those who have an outstanding credit card debt, could consider a balance transfer to a lower interest card. This would allow them to save on interest payments, pay off debt as quickly as possible and on time to avoid missing out on 0% interest offers and incurring extra charges. However, it’s important to be wary of ‘buy now and pay later’ deals and to understand the terms and interest charges if repayment isn’t made on time. Individuals should always speak to their provider if they are unable to make a payment.
- Split cost over pay packets – Those who have a credit card could consider splitting the cost between two pay packets. For example, if a credit card statement date runs from 1 November to 1 December, anything spent on the card in November will be due for repayment in December. But anything spent in December would be due for repayment in January. All credit cards have different statements and payment dates, so it is important to check with the provider when planning to split costs.
- Budget now for 2024 – By making a few small changes, individuals could get to next Christmas in a much better financial position. Ditching takeaways, taking lunch to work, not getting coffee when out, switching supermarkets, and learning to budget can all make a huge difference.
- Automate savings – Another option is to consider setting up automatic savings transfers, which round up transactions to save small amounts, but can really add up. For example, when purchasing something for £4.20, the bank rounds it up to £5, and 80p goes into your savings. Two transactions like this per day could help to save £584 over a year*. Some workplaces offer payroll-deducted savings schemes for effortless saving.
Jonathan Watts-Lay also comments; “Whilst the festive season can be an exciting time for many, it can also be a stressful time for those who are worried about their finances. Proactive employers are actively working to remove the stigma around money worries and encourage their employees to not suffer in silence and access the support available. Key to this is offering financial education and guidance to help employees understand their finances including ways to manage a budget, make savings and manage debt.”
He adds; “Employees who are struggling should be aware that they can contact free services such as MoneyHelper, Citizens Advice or National Debtline.”