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How to avoid spending a fortune at Christmas

Money is tight for most families at Christmas time and most of us feel the pinch.Mum of one Wiz Wharton is no stranger to setting budgets and has even written a book about it.She advises us that we sh...

Money is tight for most families at Christmas time and most of us feel the pinch.

Mum of one Wiz Wharton is no stranger to setting budgets and has even written a book about it.

She advises us that we should pick up presents when we see them and spread the cost of Christmas.

"Buying throughout the year is a fantastic strategy. One of the things I do throughout the year is put spare change into a box and when I emptied it out a couple of weeks ago I had about 190 in there. It went a long way to buying presents.

If you're not that well prepared there are still other things which you can do right to the last minute. If like me you have a large circle of friends who are also parents one of the things I did was operate a variation on the Secret Santa idea. Basically we put all our childrens names in a hat and each parent chose one child to buy a present for. Children get so many gifts at Christmas and the novelty wears off incredibly quickly, " she said.

However, the mum and author admitted that many of us are our own worst enemies.

"People do feel pressurised into spending more money but it's very much about how we feel about ourselves and I think if you ask most people it really is the thought that does count. I bought 10 books for 9 and split them into five gifts so it worked out at less than 2 a gift. Books are really a lovely gift. It's such a hugely exciting time for children but I think along with that goes the pressure for parents to spend a lot of money," she added.

Many financial advisors including urge shoppers to only spend a certain amount on friends and family and not to go over that figure.

Wiz Wharton agrees: "Don't feel embarassed about setting a limit. I think people will completely understand that you've got a lot of presents to buy at Christmas. If you can do your shopping online there are lots of reasons why that could save you money. Online retailers don't have the overheads of renting the properties so they can offer things at a cheaper price. Not having to go out and trawl the shops with a pram or baby in tow is much less stressful."

But how should we address the budget issue?

"You just need to say things are a bit tight this year and I've got so many things to buy, I don't want to go into debt, is it ok if we set a limit. This is what I'm going to have to do, I hope you don't mind. I'd be completely surprised if people said that's not good enough and if they did then they're not really friends are they," added Wiz.

She also said children need to learn the value of money and realise that Mum and Dad have to work hard to buy gifts. With that in mind she urges us all not to go into debt this Christmas.

She added,"The problem with visa cards is that you don't really know how much you are spending and you are just handing over this plastic card. If I shop on the High Street I always leave my cards at home and I take cash with me. There's nothing like handing over real money for making you realise how much you are actually spending."

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