Christmas is a particularly busy time for the police, and with so many public events and celebrations it’s easy to forget about everyday concerns.
Half of the British adults surveyed by price comparison service uSwitch were afraid that they will still be paying off Christmas debts by next December. With such pressure to splash out on gifts, food and drink, the festive season might be the most important time of the year to monitor and reduce your spending.
We understand that when the police community’s responsibilities multiply around Christmas, the last thing that most officers want to be distracted by is thoughts of budgeting. That’s why we’ve put together 10 simple Christmassy tips to help you through advent and beyond, so you can watch the pennies without feeling like Scrooge.
Spend less at Christmas
When you’re surrounded by festive cheer and office parties, here are some Christmas tips to help protect your pocket.
1. Share costs - If you are playing host for a meal or an evening, instead of taking turns to cook and buy all of the delicious snacks and meals, tell everyone that while you will provide a sumptuous main course, you would appreciate a helping hand when it comes to starters, desserts and drinks.
2. Beware of sales - This might sound counter-intuitive - “Surely everything’s cheaper in a sale?” - but if everything is cheaper, then it's easy to overspend and find that you have made a host of unwise purchases.
3. Stop when you’ve bought your gifts - Buying someone an extra gift along the way feels good, but it is important to know when to stop! There is always going to be a reason to keep buying, so decide how much you want to spend, and stick to it.
4. Secret Santa - This is a fun and cheap way of relieving some of the financial stress that can come with Christmas. Large families often mean an enormous amount of present-buying, so changing to a Secret Santa experience and just buying one special gift can save some cash.
5. Reduce your regular spending. It isn’t just festive fun that could do with a little extra thought - in fact, your average spending habits could probably do with some attention, too.
There are probably items in your list of regular outgoings that you often purchase but which do little to improve your day. Food, drinks and snacks while out “on the go” can make up a big part of the list, but there may be others, too. Magazines you don’t read, online subscriptions you don’t use, and gym memberships you don’t take advantage of can all be ditched to save funds.
Even if you only cut down for the Christmas season, you may be surprised to find how much your monthly fund increases.
6. Use a budgeting app. Need a little help organising your funds, around Christmas and beyond? Many people find using an app helps make things easier, so here are three popular examples.
Goodbudget - This budget tracker helps you track your account balance and save for large expenses. It’s based on the old-school but time-honoured “envelope” budgeting system, where you split your money into categories and spend from each “envelope”, and from nowhere else. The Goodbudget app also allows you to sync between devices, so that if you are crafting a budget with someone else, such as your partner, you can both be on the same page and taking from the same “envelope”.
Money Dashboard - This award-winning app aims to show you exactly what you are spending by offering, as the name suggests, a dashboard view of your finances. Positive reviewers compliment the app’s graphical arrangement and its automated budget tracking.
Wally - This colourful personal finance app again allows you to add your income and set savings targets, and also lets you take photos of your receipts. It’s still in Beta, but the app’s method of treating expenses as “experiences” gives it a unique twist on budgeting.
7. Try a money-saving app. There are also plenty of apps out there that have been designed to offer advice and find you deals, special offers and cheaper alternatives to popular products.
MoneySavingExpert - This cavernous website covers most areas of money saving that you can imagine, including deals and vouchers, travel, insurance, property advice, shopping, debt management and more. This is an excellent resource, and not just for Christmas.
Groupon - One of the best-known deal websites, Groupon shares activity-based offers and deals on goods that let you save up to 70% off the asking price. Perfect for gift-hunting!
VoucherCodes - The UK’s biggest voucher code website reveals discount codes for high street stores, restaurants, hotels and more.
PriceSpy - A price comparison app that shows the difference between thousands of products, plus users’ and professional reviewers’ feedback.
Idealo - Similar to PriceSpy, Idealo tells you where you can get an item online or in a shop for cheaper elsewhere. The main difference here is that the Idealo app comes with a barcode scanner without needing an extra plugin.
Cashback websites and credit cards
8. Use a cashback website. A cashback website such as Quidco or Topcashback offers rewards to members whenever they purchase goods or services. Around Christmas time, when most of us are spending more than we usually would, you have a prime opportunity to build up larger rewards through cashback services.
While users of cashback websites will know how much they stand to be paid back on each purchase, different websites will take different lengths of time to release the money. For this reason, you should remember that the cash isn’t yours until it reaches your account, and that it is only a bonus; not something that should drive your purchases. Disputes occur frequently between members and cashback sites, as well as between the sites themselves and the retailers, so there are times when you may not receive the money. However, cashback sites have grown in popularity and have been used by millions of people across the globe.
9. Use a cashback credit card. You can combine spending on a cashback website with using a cashback credit card, which will also pay a percentage back to you and help maximise the gains on every purchase. Websites such as Quidco, Topcashback and Kidstart also offer cashback credit cards, and in combination with the cashback services themselves you could be saving money - maybe hundreds or even thousands of pounds a year.
10. Download our guide. We hope you find some valuable advice in this guide - but there is a lot more we could tell you. If you have found some useful information but would like to read more, download our guide to Making the Most of Your Police Pay.