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The kids have only just gone back to school, the leaves are starting to turn on the trees and the Indian summer we were promised for September doesn’t seem to be kicking in. The festive season probably seems like ages away, but now’s the time to start thinking about Christmas.

No, we haven’t been eating too many of last year’s mince pies! We’re not suggesting you put your tree up yet and dig out your reindeer jumper, but preparing for Christmas early is the best way to save money on your shopping. It’s a good idea to work out how much you’ve got to spend and work out a budget based on this – here’s how you can do that.

Planning the budget

First things first – you need to work out who you need to buy presents for and how much you’re prepared to spend. Write down a list and try to include everyone – from your kids and your partner to your family and any friends you buy for. Make sure you don’t forget your Secret Santa present at work if you take part in this. You might not know what you’ll buy yet but you’ll probably know how much you’re going to spend – there’s usually a limit of £5 or £10.

Next, write down how much you’re prepared to spend on each person. This can be hard, especially if you’ve got kids to buy for. Be strict with yourself though and set a realistic spending target. Add up the spending goals for each person to give yourself a total cost for Christmas presents.

This is how much you’ll need to save up over the next few months. If this amount seems completely unrealistic, you’ll have to scale back your estimates. See if there is anyone you could be spending less on – remember it’s about buying a thoughtful gift, not spending more money than you can afford.

It also might be worth putting your list of everyone you’re buying for in priority order. For example, is it more important that you afford the presents for your kids? If it came to it, could you agree with your partner to spend less on each other or could you pull out of the Secret Santa draw at work?

When you’re planning what you’re going to buy for everyone, make sure you’ve got your spending targets in front of you. You really need to try and make sure that you stay within your limits for each person – otherwise you’ll end up over budget.

Saving up

You’ve got just under three months until Christmas so depending on when you want to have all of your shopping done, that’s how long you’ve got to save up. We’re not trying to scare you – it’s important that you know how many weeks you need to save for so you can work out how much you’ll need to put aside each week.

Let’s say you earn £250 a week after tax. Imagine that you wanted to have all of your Christmas money saved up by early December – that gives you ten weeks to save. If you were looking to save up £400, you’d need to put aside £40 a week of your £250 earnings.

Take a look at your current household budget (if you don’t already have a budget, you should consider making one). See if there are any places where you’ll be able to cut back to make the savings, like if you could stop going to the gym for a few weeks.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to put aside enough each week, you’ll need to go back to your original spending targets for each person and adjust these until you get an amount you can realistically save each week. It might be hard to save up enough to afford all of your Christmas shopping but it will be even harder if you leave if until December.

Later in the week, we’ll be publishing some tips on doing your Christmas shopping early so check back then if you’re looking to get ahead on present buying.

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