How not to overspend this Christmas as a contractor
It’s not been the easiest of years for contractors, with COVID and IR35 each wreaking their fair share of havoc on incomes. Combine this with the excitement many of us are feeling about this Christmas, after the, to put it politely, - damp squib that was Christmas 2020, and it’s no wonder some contractors are feeling nervous about the possibility of overspending. Let’s face it, Christmas often sees us whipping out the credit cards and blowing the budget which can be bad enough on a good year.
So, how do you avoid overspending while still keeping Christmas merry and bright? It might seem like an impossible task but the Kingsbridge elves have some festive tips for you.
Set a budget… and stick to it!
Setting a Christmas budget is crucial if you want to make sure you don’t overspend – and sticking to it is essential. A good idea is to do is to make a spreadsheet that includes:
- Each person you need to buy for and the maximum you plan to spend on them. Remember to include people like the children’s teachers, care home staff, cleaners and anyone else who falls outside the category of family and friends as often these get left off the budget but they all add up;
- Any Christmas food and drink you need to buy (especially if you're hosting) and list your maximum spend;
- Any ‘extras’ you might need, such as wrapping paper, Christmas cards, stamps (if you have a lot of cards to post these can easily cost a lot) etc.
Depending on your Excel skills, you could set up formulas and conditions so that you can tot up your expenditure and see easily where you are over and under budget. Remember, if you go a fiver over budget on Great Aunt Enid’s gift, it’s not a problem if you got a good deal and went a fiver under budget on your best friend’s baby’s present.
Another good tip is that if you use collaborative software such as Numbers or Google Sheets, you can share it with, for example, your partner so that you can both keep it up to date and prevent accidental overspending.
Consider making gifts
Granted, it’s a bit late in the day to be knitting jumpers for everyone (unless you’re a very fast knitter, of course) but making gifts can save you money while enabling you to give a really thoughtful present to your loved ones. Of course, what you make depends on your skills and hobbies, but some ideas include:
- Knitted beanie hats (children and baby sizes are particularly quick to make)
- Knitted washcloths (easy even for beginners and you could pair these with a nice soap or bubble bath)
- Christmas biscuits (gingerbread is a festive favourite)
- Jams or chutneys (pair with some nice cheese or scones)
- Pinecone bird feeders (these are great for nature lovers)
Of course, if you have a particular craft that you love then you don’t need us to tell you what to make, but we can tell you that people will appreciate the time and effort you’ve gone to.
Secret Santa’s not just for the office
We tend to think of Secret Santa as strictly for certain friendship groups and work colleagues but it’s worth remembering for family too, especially if you have a large extended family who all buys for each other. It can reduce the number of presents you need to buy. Of course, you have to get everyone on board but if you have a family WhatsApp group or similar then that can be a great place to start.
Secret Santa works best if everyone is in the same room together so it’s probably best to restrict it to family members you’ll be gathering with over Christmas, and it’s also a plan to set an appropriate budget. While a cap of £10 is fine in the office, your siblings may not be too impressed with a low budget. Finally, it’s probably best reserved for the adults in the family. Children and teens who aren’t responsible for their own gift-buying won’t necessarily get much out of the experience.
Shop around for the best deals
It’s so tempting to just buy in the first shop you come to or use the site you have free next day delivery with. However, a little bit of research may see you save money. Some top tips include:
- Google the item you’re looking for as it will bring up lots of different retailers – you may well find one with a better price;
- Use offers wisely. For instance, you’ll often find 3 for 2 offers in bookshops. This can be great if you have lots of children to buy for as you can bulk buy kids’ books and make savings.
- Take advantage of sign-up offers. If there’s a 10% voucher for signing up to the newsletter then sign up to the newsletter – you can always unsubscribe later.
It’s also worth looking out for refer-a-friend deals as you can get discounts and vouchers for recommending services to your family and friends. So, if you use a great wine retailer who has a refer-a-friend offer and you know Auntie Sue is looking to buy a bottle of champagne for someone, refer her and you’ll get some money off your next purchase (or similar).
Our refer-a-friend offer here at Kingsbridge is particularly good. When you refer your friend, they get 10% off and you get a voucher of up to £40 from Voucher Express if they buy. To find out more and get referring, visit our site.