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After the planning - before the memories - Christmas arrives in just 20 days. Households everywhere are looking forward to a day when they can put normal life to one side and focus on family, food and all-round festive fun.

But it's possible to have too much of a good thing. However tempting it is to forget our everyday worries, keeping an eye on the finances is vital if we want a New Year that's not full of money problems.

So it's alarming to hear predictions of Christmas debt. HSBC, for example, tells us we're planning to spend an average of £526 on Christmas. That's slightly less than last year, but still too much for many families' budgets - and insolvency trade body R3 estimates that four million people in the UK will cover the cost of Christmas with a payday loan.

The key word in all this, of course, is 'budget'. Set aside £44 a month (£1.44 a day) and you're free to spend £526 on Christmas without any worries about January's bills!

Of course, it's a bit late to do that for this Christmas (you'd need to set aside £26 a day!) but numbers like these really highlight how planning ahead generally makes life a lot easier.

Saving starts with a budget

To get the most out of your money, you need to know how much you can afford to save every month. Set yourself unrealistic targets and you might lose interest in the whole thing.

So it all starts with a budget. How much money comes into your household every month? How much goes out on essentials? Subtract the second number from the first and you get your 'disposable income', which is how much you can spend on non-essentials - and put aside in savings.

thinkmoney could help

This isn't something you have to do on your own. The thinkmoney Current Account comes with a built-in budgeting service that's designed to get all the essential bills paid.

It's actually two accounts: when your money comes into your Salaries Account, our Money Managers put aside enough for all the bills you've told them about before they move the rest of your cash to your Card Account.

In other words, you know the money in your Card Account really is yours to spend - without worrying that you're using the money you need for life's essentials, from your mortgage/rent to your utility bills.

Figure out how much you can realistically put in your 'Christmas pot' every month. Times that figure by 12 - and you have your budget for Christmas 2013.

Quick and easy to apply

Apply for a thinkmoney Current Account today.

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