CHRISTMAS will be a struggle for many this year – but you can still have a very merry time without breaking the bank.
We overspend by an average of £740 in the run-up to the big day, according to the Bank of England.
But with families set to be worse off by an average of £3,000 this year and next, you'll likely have less cash to spare than you normally do.
You can avoid getting into debt trying to afford presents, food and parties by following The Sun's Squeeze Team expert Jonathan Chesterman's tips.
Our Squeeze Team is here to help you through a crippling cost of living crisis.
If you’re worried about how to make ends meet, are struggling to pay off your debts or don’t know how best to manage your cash, get in touch by emailing [email protected]
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Make a list – and check it twice
It's not just Santa who should be making a list and checking it twice this Christmas – you should too.
It's easy to get drawn into tempting offers, deals and discounts at the supermarkets and shops at the best of times.
But a simple trick can stop you from falling into this trap, Jonathan said.
He said: "Go through your budget to look at what you can realistically afford to spend over the festive period.
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"Making a list in advance of your Christmas shopping may help you to stick to it and prevent you from buying extras you may not need."
Apps can help you keep on track.
The Christmas Gift List app lets you set a spending limit on presents and tracks who you’ve bought for and which presents you still need to buy.
Set a present budget
Costs can start spiralling if you have a big family with lots of presents to buy.
Sit down with loved ones and set a budget this Christmas, Jonathan said.
He said: "We are all feeling the pressure of increased prices for essentials at the moment, so it may be helpful to discuss with your family and friends the best way to help those who may be struggling financially this Christmas."
Jonathan suggests using Secret Santa as a way of exchanging presents with friends on a budget, while keeping things fun.
You can use free websites like drawnames.co.uk and Elfster to help set up your secret Santa.
Don't be loyal
We all have our favourite supermarket we go to out of habit – or convenience.
But the supermarket just down the road might not be the cheapest.
Jonathan said: "Consider switching to a cheaper supermarket when buying food over the festive season and try looking for websites that compare prices between different supermarkets."
Trolley.co.uk for example compares the prices of 130,000 products across 14 major supermarkets and lets shoppers know which retailer is selling them for less.
While you're at the shops, make sure to download money saving shopping apps.
Cashback apps like Shopmium, CheckoutSmart, GreenJinn and ClickSnap are good ones to try.
They agree on offers with retailers and pass these on to customers.
You can pick up items at big supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury's.
Simply go to the store, buy the product under offer, take a picture of your receipt, upload it to the app and you can get your cash back.
Think before borrowing
If you're finding it hard to scrape together enough to cover Christmas costs, you might be tempted to borrow cash.
But as a cost of living crisis continues to squeeze budgets, you could find yourself struggling to meet repayments.
If you don't keep up with repayments or default on your debt, you could get a black mark on your credit record.
That means you could struggle to get a credit card, loan or mortgage in the future.
Think seriously about whether you can keep up with repayments before taking on any debt – or you might not be able to get a loan or credit card in the future when you really need it.
Jonathan said: "It’s worth pausing for a moment to think about whether your friends and family would really want you to suffer financially as a result of your generosity,"
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