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Christmas time, mistletoe and . . . sleepless nights, stress and spending.

Nobody wants Christmas to be a time of worry and yet for many people in the UK, the festive period can be one of the most stressful times of the year. Sure, the premature Christmas ads, crowded streets and inclement weather all play a part in this, but if there's one thing that causes more headaches in the build-up to Christmas, it's money.

This year, make those sleepless nights and January blues disappear once and for all – and have yourself a merry, stress-free little Christmas.

It's time to get real

Everyone would like a lavish Christmas – the types we're all used to seeing in the movies – but in real terms, sometimes it's just not possible. That's where budgeting steps in.

It's never too early to look ahead to Christmas, especially when it comes to planning your finances. If you haven't done so already, start by mapping out your finances in a simple spreadsheet, highlighting what's coming in and going out each month, and how much is left over for non-essential spends.

If you've got some money left over, great! If you start saving now, you should be able to enjoy a lovely Christmas. However, if things are looking tight, you may have to be prepared to reign it in a little.

Cutting back at Christmas may not feel like the most enjoyable thing ever, but if it saves you running into money trouble later down the line, it's by far the lesser of two evils. The good news is, even the smallest of changes can make all the difference, just check some of the tips listed below for inspiration:

  • Go easy on the Christmas lights – not only will this save you a few quid in the short term, it'll also help to reduce your bills in the future
  • Stick to your budget – even if you've seen the greatest offer ever, if it costs more than you can afford to spend, leave it on the shelf
  • Ditch the bird – rather than spending a lot of money on a turkey, you could cut the cost of Christmas dinner and opt for something a little cheaper such as chicken or duck.
  • Get crafty – instead of buying a set of baubles, fairy lights and tinsel, why not make your own decorations instead? Not only will this save you a few quid, it'll also give you and your family a great excuse to get creative

Shop around

The great thing about the competition that exists between retailers is that it enables you, the customer, to shop around for the best deal. From high street stores to independent boutiques, everywhere will be trying to put your cash into their coffers during the build-up to Christmas – and the power is in your hands to make your money stretch as far as possible.

Take one of this year's most-wanted gifts – the PlayStation 4 – for example. While some retailers are offering the console, plus one of this year's biggest games 'FIFA 17' for around £249.99, other outlets are pushing the exact same deal for £259.99. Sure the difference may only be £10, but it doesn't take much for these small amounts to add up.

Be sure to be a savvy shopper this Christmas and research each and every gift online before you buy. You never know, you might just save a small fortune!

Secret Santa

Chances are, you won't be the only one in your friendship group or family that wants to reduce the cost of Christmas. If this is the case, why not club together with your nearest and dearest and create a list of rules that each and every one of you has to stick to when buying presents?

Kind of like organising a secret Santa, start by setting a budget before deciding who will buy for who. Not only will this help to keep the Christmas cheer flowing throughout December, but the fact that everyone will be trying to out-buy everyone else means that the presents you give or receive will be really imaginative. No more deodorant sets or ill-fitting jumpers? Merry Christmas, indeed.

Remember, if you're struggling to save in the build up to Christmas, our blog can offer a solution to help you enjoy the festive period. Full of helpful hints and money saving tips, be sure to check it out the next time things get a little tight!