Don’t be drastic on the plastic this Christmas time

With the possible exception of your summer holiday, chances are that Christmas is your most expensive time of the year.

On top of buying things like decorations and food, there is the task of buying suitable presents for your family and friends not to mention the cost of nights outs and buying new outfits for parties etc.

If you’ve got deep pockets or a bulging wallet this won’t be something that fazes you, but in reality most of us are making ends meet on a weekly or monthly basis.

Indeed, since the start of the economic downturn in 2008 most of us have had to tighten our proverbial belts, and dispute assurances that the UK has recently exiting the double dip recession, times are still hard.

Research conducted by HSBC in 2011 found that the average Brit spends £560 during the festive period and that figure is likely to rise this year.

Of that figure, £378 went towards buying gifts for loved ones, while the remainder was spent on food, drink and entertainment.

But you don’t have that sort of cash available how do you survive Crimbo and ensure that you have bought gifts for everyone you need to?

Well, it seems that many people need to turn to debt management. Indeed, HSBC’s study found that some 21 per cent of Brits have to borrow money when Christmas comes around.

This was most common amongst people aged between 35 and 44 (22 per cent), whereas the most common form of festive debt for 18 to 24-year-olds was found to be overdrafts (13 per cent).

With this in mind is it really any surprise that so many people overstretch themselves and run into serious debt management issues down the line?

A separate study conducted by YouGov last December found that 11 per cent of British adults lose track of their spending at Christmas and 31 per cent fall into some kind of debt.

And if the findings of a survey carried out by price comparison website MoneySupermarket.com last month are to be believed, this year’s figures could be even worse.

Some 53 per cent of 2,075 people questioned were worried about how they are going to afford festive fun and frolics.

Kevin Mountford, head of banking at MoneySupermarket said: “UK households have continued to feel the pinch in 2012, and many may fear the worst with the cost of Christmas still to come.

“It is good to see that slightly less people are worried this year however there are still many dreading the festive period creeping upon us. Sadly, financial worries tend to take the sparkle out of Christmas, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”

While the big day is only a few weeks away now, that doesn’t mean you can’t try and save some money up for when you start your Christmas shopping. Mr Mountford suggested taking a ‘jam jar’ approach to saving, meaning that you should gather up all the lose money you can and pool it until it is needed.

He added: “Christmas needn’t be a financial headache. If you can’t afford to borrow to fund the festivities or don’t have any savings, don’t despair. Using vouchers and searching online for the best deals won’t make you a Scrooge – many of us are already feeling the pinch and doing Christmas on the cheap needn’t prevent you enjoying the occasion.”

Indeed, many items can be bought cheaper on the net than on the high street. For example, a pair of Sony MDR-V55 headphones which cost £89.99 in Currys can be bought for £62 on Amazon.