Life

Seven spending tips to help reduce the cost of your family Christmas dinner

Worried about hosting a festive feast on a budget? Vicky Shaw finds ways or families to trim back on the cost of those trimmings

A quarter of households' Christmas spending will go on food and drink

FOR many families, Christmas is one of the few times of the year when all loved ones are gathered around the table. But while it's great to get everyone together of course, those hosting a big Christ-mas gathering may be a little worried about the cost of having so many mouths to feed.

Around a quarter of households' Christmas spending will go on food and drink, research from Go-Compare Money suggests.

With a few weeks still to go though, it's not too late to start planning and thinking ahead about ways to help cut the cost of the festive feast, rather than panic-buying at the last minute and blow-ing the budget.

Here are some tips from MyVoucherCodes.co.uk spokesperson Anders Nilsson, for cutting the cost of Christmas dinner...

1. Make the most of bargains and yellow stickers:

While you've still got some time, have a browse around the supermarkets to buy reduced items, particularly if you're able to make use of items by putting them in the freezer for a few weeks so they'll be readily available when you need them.

2. Plan buying any meat in advance:

In the run-up to Christmas, many people will be shopping for turkey, chicken, gammon and beef – potentially leaving some shoppers struggling to get the bird or joint they want, and finding themselves limited to the stock that's left.

But if you're planning to freeze your meat, you could buy it further in advance and potentially have your choice of what's available, and buy in the sizes that you need. Just ensure you have the space in your freezer to store it. Another option could be to find out from your local butcher or supermarket if they will take orders in advance that you can collect closer to Christmas.

3. Consider alternatives to turkey:

While many people have a big, traditional turkey in mind when picturing their perfect Christmas, if you don't think you're going to eat your way through it all (or, if you're really honest, none of you even like it that much) then an alternative option, such as a chicken, could work out less expensive (and easier to cook!).

4. Get your hands dirty:

Instead of buying pre-sliced veg and microwave veg packs, get stuck in – peel and chop your own potatoes, slice your own veg and only use what you need. If you've got all the family round, there will be more people available to help out!

Likewise, don't buy pre-made pigs in blankets, stuffing and all the other extras you like with your Christmas dinner. Buy the ingredients and spend a little time making them from scratch.

5. Only use what you need:

It's so easy to go overboard and cook enough to feed a small army at Christmas, but by doing this it's likely that a lot of food will go to waste. If people are still hungry afterwards, there's likely to be plenty of other snacks and food in the kitchen that they can tuck into.

6. Ask guests to bring a dish:

If you're entertaining others at your home for Christmas, you could ask guests to help out a bit by bringing drinks, crackers, or even preparing a dish or two if they live nearby. This may seem a more agreeable option for some, than asking guests to make contributions to the cost of Christmas dinner in cold, hard cash. Just be sure to decide ahead of time who's preparing what dish, so you don't end up with three bowls of roast potatoes and no veg.

7. And ahead of next Christmas, consider growing your own:

While it's too late in the year to start growing your own veg for the table now, you could always get a head-start on next year and start working on your own small vegetable patch. It doesn't have to take up a lot of space in the garden, and you can grow all sorts of veg, some of which you may be able to freeze to keep for longer.

GET YOUR FINANCES ON TRACK

With the frenzies of Black Friday and Cyber Monday out of the way for another year, many people's bank balances may be in need of a bit of TLC. To get them back on track, why not take a look over your finances now and perhaps consider starting a new savings habit?

Rachel Springall, a finance expert at Moneyfacts.co.uk, suggests making the most of free mobile apps to help with budgeting. While it may be too late to save enough to cover the cost of this Christmas, starting now could help with next year.

"If consumers saved £120 a month for the next year then they would have more cash saved than the average cost of this year's Christmas spend, which American Express estimates to be £1,206 per person," says Springall. "The determination and commitment to put cash aside should make next Christmas much more affordable – and possibly less stressful – than this one."

If you do frequently have spare cash which could be put away, Springall suggests: "One way to get into the habit of saving monthly would be to commit to a regular savings account, as these are designed for consumers to make frequent deposits.

"They are more rigid than easy-access accounts, and harsh penalties can be applied if payments are missed or withdrawals made, so they are most suitable for savers who need a strict savings plan."

Remember, though, the golden rule of saving towards a goal is not to dip into any pot, unless it's totally unavoidable.

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