The official Christmas countdown chat begins after Halloween on November 1, but with less than nine weeks to go until the Big Day, many people will be keen to get a head start on planning their festive budget, especially if their finances have been stretched a bit further this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The best advice to follow if you are worried about the cost of Christmas and cannot afford to buy gifts for family, friends, loved ones or colleagues is don’t.

Nobody will think any less of you if you simply say you are not doing presents this year - in fact, some may even follow suit.

This time of year is also when more people turn to credit cards to pay for gift s, but without good financial management some can stay in debt well into the new year.

In fact, data released after last Christmas revealed over a third (34%) of UK adults take their credit card debts into the new year.

Vanquis reports that they typically see a surge in applications for new 0% credit cards for balance transfers in January every year, as people hurry to transfer their credit card debts to lower interest deals.

However, all this can be avoided if you start thinking about how you will finance your Christmas now.

Planning, budgeting and organisation are key to enjoying the festivities with loved ones, without the stress and worry of mounting debt.

The good news is a recent survey of Vanquis customers found that lockdown has enabled 29 per cent of people to reprioritise and spend less ahead of this Christmas.

And nearly a quarter (23%) are confident they can manage Christmas due to the lockdown savings they have accumulated.

Whatever your circumstances, Thomas Allder, Customer Director at Vanquis has shared his five simple tips on how to plan your finances for Christmas, no matter what your budget is.

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Budget for a joyful Christmas

Not many people want to think about Christmas so early, but it will pay dividends. Work out how much money you can put aside now and over the coming weeks for gifts, food and social plans - only commit to what you can realistically afford over the festive period.

Give yourself the time to shop around

Don't leave Christmas shopping to the last minute. Panic buying is stressful and nobody wants to be ‘that person’ who gives random gifts of what was left on the shelves on Christmas Eve.

Write a list sooner rather than later of who you want to buy for and gift ideas for each person.

Planning ahead gives you the opportunity to shop around for the best deals and stagger your purchases and means you are less likely to forget someone. Remember Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer some brilliant deals.

Use credit wisely

Used wisely, credit can offer a lifeline at Christmas and also help build your credit score.

But used irresponsibly, it can escalate into long-lasting debt and higher charges. Be sensible with what you can afford to spend and how long it will take for you to pay it off.

Buy bigger items sooner and see if you can pay some of this off before Christmas, meaning you start the new year in a positive way with less debts hanging over you. Think about whether using credit will impact your financial wellbeing in the long-term.

Advance planning for hosting celebrations

If you’re hosting family or friends on Christmas Day or planning a party beforehand, there are ways you can host without breaking the bank at the last minute.

Start thinking about your recipes, decorations and games in advance, then keep an eye out for offers in shops.

There are plenty of things you can buy well in advance of the festive season that will keep well.

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Beware of festive fraud

Unfortunately, scams are just as rife at Christmas than any other time of the year. Fraudsters use a range of methods to trick people into handing over money, bank details and personal information.

From pretending to work for charities, fake delivery notifications and offering 'too good to be true' deals via email.

Don't click on suspicious links, say no to unexpected requests for your personal information and always check reviews before purchasing.

Falling victim to fraud could really damage your careful financial planning at Christmas.

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