Barclays shares 12 ways to avoid debt this winter – ‘could save hundreds’

Martin Lewis gives financial advice on dealing with debt

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A typical UK household spends an extra £700 during December according to the Bank of England, and with a turbulent economic climate this may be an unaffordable expense for many this year. Barclays experts shared exclusively with Express.co.uk their top winter savings tips and how to enjoy a money-savvy holiday season without breaking the bank.

Alice Jones, head of Money Mentors at Barclays, shared her expert tips on saving money during the winter. 

Check bills

During the colder seasons, household bills inevitably pick up – be it due to heating, food or simply looking for entertainment indoors which can add up.

Ms Jones noted that now is the perfect time to get one’s financial life in order by doing the admin they’ve been putting off and checking their tariffs to ensure they are getting the best possible price. 

She shared: “Using comparison sites will help you compare and switch deals – alternatively, it’s always worth calling your existing supplier and asking to be put onto its cheapest deal, which in some cases can save hundreds. 

“By taking your household bills through a much needed winter review, you’ll have a better picture of your finances, and can rework your budget accordingly.”

Charity shops

Holiday festivities are expensive and there’s usually no way of avoiding them, but Ms Jones noted that simply going to high street alternatives, like charity shops, for one’s Christmas shopping can save plenty. 

Ms Jones commented: “From second-hand decorations for the Christmas dinner table, to an outfit for a Christmas party, you can get great quality items at a fraction of the cost – and know that you’re helping shop more sustainably at the same time. Equally, if you have anything that’s sitting in your attic, consider donating it in return.”

Unique Christmas giving

For those with large families and celebrations planned, Christmas presents are one of the biggest expenses that need to be planned months in advance. 

Ms Jones suggested savers look for unique alternatives to the traditional Christmas gifting: “For example, why not opt for Secret Santa with a set spending limit? That way you’re not buying everyone a gift, and having a budget means you’re less likely to go overboard. Similarly, this Christmas is a great chance to opt for something more sustainable – could you make something for a loved one instead of buying them a gift.”

Avoid impulse purchases

While some may think ’tis the season to buy a bunch of non-necessities, Ms Jones suggested savers avoid these impulse purchases by committing to a 24 hour thought process before buying an item.

This can allow savers to really consider if they want it, need it and if they could not get a better deal or cheaper item somewhere else. 

Set a New Year’s savings challenge

By the time January 1 comes around, most people have arranged their New Year’s resolutions and are filled with motivation to achieve them.

However, very few of these make it past February simply because there’s never really a plan or preparation backing them, just a goal. 

Ms Jones recommended that setting a New Year’s savings challenge could set one up for a better financial future not just next year but for all the years to come. 

Additionally, creating a concrete plan beforehand can go a long way in ensuring that one sticks to their resolution. 

She suggested: “Why not use the New Year as a time to do just that, by aiming to put away £1 for the first week of the year, £2 for the second week and so on. By the time next winter rolls around, you’ll have over £1,000 saved, which could go a long way to cover next year’s festivities.”

Millennial finance specialist at Barclays, Zainab Kwaw-Swanzy also weighed in on the topic of new years, sharing how revellers can bring in the new year in style without leaving their budgets at home.

Start budgeting now

Ms Kwaw-Swanzy suggested a simple way of slicing food costs for any event: “If you are hosting a New Year’s Eve dinner, why not ask your guests to bring a contribution?

This should give one a minimum budget, from which they can calculate a maximum they are financially comfortable with plus a little bit of leeway, however, it’s vital that they stick to this budget on the night.

Style creatively

Many people plan their holiday event outfits before they seeing whether they can afford it, and while many holiday occasions do require a bit of ‘suiting up’, it doesn’t have to break the bank. 

Ms Kwaw-Swanzy shared: “Why not head to a local charity shop to scour the rails? Many will have a real festive focus at this time of year, with a number of party outfits on offer. Alternatively, you could always arrange a clothes swap with your friends or family members? That way you get the chance to wear something new without spending anything.”

Consider a potluck

Ms Kwaw-Swanzy suggested a simple way of slicing food costs for any event: “If you are hosting a New Year’s Eve dinner, why not ask your guests to bring a contribution? 

“Whether that’s crisps and dip, a side salad, dessert, or cocktail kit, in the end it spreads the cost and puts less pressure on you as the host. You could also suggest this to friends or family if they’re hosting, as it’s a good chance to flex your cooking or baking muscles!”

Plan transport ahead of time

Transport costs can tick by in single pounds only to add up and result in a three figure sum by the end of the month.

“Whether that’s booking a taxi in advance, and agreeing the fee, or arranging a carpool for those you’re celebrating with, getting organised will help you stick on budget and avoid any costly surprises. Alternatively, it’s always worth asking if anyone in the group is planning to drive. Now is the time to ask, before others grab all the spare seats!”

Be open about the budget

In the flurry of Christmas cheer, many people who may be better off than their peers forget about the financial difficulties when planning extravagant New Years celebrations. 

Being open about how much one can spend is a simple way to ensure costs don’t get extortionate accidentally and will make the entire affair far less stressful. 

Ms Kwaw-Swanzy added: “The likelihood is that someone else is also worrying about the rising costs, and will thank you for bringing it up. From there, you can come together to agree on the most budget-friendly option for celebrating.”

Don’t feel pressured into going overboard

The holiday season comes with a lot of pressure both from family, friends and society in general, acknowledging that one doesn’t have to maintain the standards other people want can be key in sticking to budget. 

“New Year’s Eve can come with a lot of pressure, and it’s well known that many people simply prefer a cosy (and cheap) night in over a big night out. If this is you, then feel empowered to push back and turn down the offer of a big night out – there’s nothing worse than the feeling of regret on a night out, and there’s certain to be many more opportunities for partying come 2022.”

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