Presents, decorations, turkey... How does your shopping list look like?
In the year of rising petrol prices, fears of a slowing house market and the recent credit crunch, Britain will start to prepare for a month of traditional overspending.
Some will not be deterred by the economy blues. According to market research company Mintel, people in Britain will spend an average of £355 on Christmas presents, and one in three of people surveyed said they would be "splashing out" during the season.
How are we budgeting for the festivities, then? Four BBC News readers gave us an insight on their Christmas budget. Some of them have changed their habits and found innovative ways to avoid the January financial hangover.
We will be following them right up until the end of the month and into the new year to see if they make it.
TRACY HOLLAND, TEAN, STAFFORDSHIRE, 42
We're a happily married couple with a 10 year old daughter. We have a few pets: two dogs, one cat, three guinea pigs and some pond fish (all are rescued).
Due to the rising costs of mortgages and fuel, not to mention other increases, we are finding it's necessary to find more and more ways of cutting corners to cope with Christmas without getting into even more debt.
My health means its difficult for me to work and we only have my husband's salary to pay all our bills.
My mum always told me to 'cut your cloth according to your pocket' and we are trying to do that.
We are finding eBay a godsend. But you have to plan wisely, otherwise you can end up spending more than your budget, and so defeat the object of shopping there.
For people who don't feel comfortable receiving presents from there we either give money (not more than £15), vouchers or gift cards (again not more than £15).
Bethany, our 10 year old daughter, is wonderful about not having a lot of presents. We explained that due to the rising cost of the elves' wages and reindeer food that Santa's reluctantly had to ask parents to pay for their children's presents from now on.
She said it was understandable and she won't ask for a pony (thank goodness!)
TRACY'S SHOPPING LIST
Beth's presents: £80
Our presents: £30 (£15 each)
Our parents: £60 (£15 each)
Christmas Dinner: £30
Christmas Tea: £20
Other food (for the rest of the holiday season): £50
Wrapping paper: £3 (buy only value long rolls at £1 each)
Christmas cards are also a nightmare. Last year these cost us close to £20, so I decided to revive an old hobby of mine and make them myself.
They may not look as slick as shop bought ones, but they look nice and only cost about £1, meaning I spend on all the cards the same as one would cost me in the shops.
Each section of Christmas is budgeted; even our daughter's wish list for presents is sorted through so that we can allocate an amount to spend in total.
A lot of what we used to like has now been dropped just so we can afford the staples like turkey. We have frozen value vegetables, and substituted the seasonal ones as they are too costly now.
Everyone comes to us, so we don't need to factor in travel costs.
My parents also help towards Christmas food as they feel it's only fair as they stay for the whole Christmas. We do not wish it, but their generosity is greatly appreciated and the money is used for 'other food' for the rest of the break.
MATT DAVIES, 19, WORCESTER
I am a second year student at Loughborough University, where I am studying for a degree in Air Transport Management.
I also work part time as bar staff at Loughborough Students Union. The eventual plan is to either work as an airline pilot, or in broadcast presentation, very different, I know.
Christmas is not something that I can afford to 'splash-out' on and due to other commitments have not really thought about presents yet, I have managed to buy 2 CD's and 1 DVD in spite of a trip to Oxford Street specifically for Christmas shopping!
My biggest expenditure this month will be nights out every night next week, with mates, during the final week of term, including Students Union staff party and end of term party.
Once I return home to Worcester for Christmas, this will continue, but will cost more, given the lack of student drinks prices!
I don't really have a budget planned for Christmas presents. Based on the higher tuition fees of £3,070 a year and nearly £4,000 for a student house, money is tight!
Therefore there is little money left for food and going out, let alone Christmas presents, I therefore plan to spend £100 maximum, money I don't have.
I tend to be quite good at budgeting, in spite of about £21,000 debt by the time I graduate, so I don't think that in the future I will find myself in debt to simply pay for Christmas, but who knows?
KERRIANN MCLACKLAND, 30s, WOOTTON BASSETT
I'm a property lecturer in my early thirties and live in Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire with my husband Lee and two year old son, Rory.
We bought our home a year ago with a 100% mortgage into which we also rolled some debt accrued from studying and other spending in our early 20s such as cars.
In order to service the mortgage we both need to work full-time, so we incur a full-time childcare cost.
Fortunately, we currently have a fixed rate mortgage which means that we haven't been really affected by recent interest rate increases.
However, our budget is already stretched and recent increases in fuel prices have been felt.
This will mean that our Christmas will be on a strict budget and the main casualties will be presents between Lee and I, parties and other social events.
As Rory is only two, we are lucky in that he doesn't appreciate the cost of presents and will be just as happy with a cheap toy as an expensive one.
KERRIANN'S SHOPPING LIST
Presents (immediate family) £90
Presents (extended family) £120
Tree and decorations £40
Food and drink £60
Parties etc (including baby sitter) £75
We are also fortunate in that our parents are very generous and help out wherever possible especially with treats for Rory.
In order to make our money stretch we have been buying presents during the last couple months so we have been able to take advantage of some of the autumn sales. We have also saved our loyalty card points during the course of the year to spend on Christmas.
In terms of actual plans for Christmas we will be away for both Christmas and New Year visiting family in Sussex and Scotland. Although this makes travel costs our biggest expenditure, it does reduce our expenditure on food and drink.
ANNE GALL, 63, PORT TALBOT
My name is Anne, I am known to friends as Welsh Dragon. I am not Welsh, being born in Nottingham and brought down to Wales to live after World war II. My hobbies include photography, walking, travelling and of course, my computer.
I am buying gifts mainly for my immediate family: my daughter, son and son-in-law and for my friends.
Four children will each get something small. My godson in Sweden loves Thomas the tank so I bought him an engine for his set.
His sisters I have got arty stuff and the youngest girl loves doing jigsaws, so I got one of those. These presents have already gone out to Sweden.
I have designed myself a budget on how much I have to spend. I put £5 a week away from the beginning of this year and this has enabled me to buy the gifts without having to use my credit card or bank account funds.
For Christmas dinner it will be just the four of us, my daughter, her husband my son and myself.
I will cook a turkey which I have got already frozen while on offer, with vegetables, baby potatoes in their skins, roast pots and parsnips.
We will also have a bottle of wine, stuffing for the bird, and cranberry sauce, and for afters it will be ice cream in this house as I am the only one who likes the traditional Christmas pudding.
The rest of the day we will relax either listening to CD's watching television or putting a DVD on or even maybe falling asleep after our meal.
As for the evening, this has yet to be planned, but we will no doubt stay in and open a few cans or bottles.
Read a selection of your comments on this story:
Christmas shopping seems to have cost me less again this year, mainly due to me starting it earlier than last year but also because the cost of presents - particularly toys and electricals - has come down. Many stores have had sales of up to half price throughout November and December, and by shopping around and using the internet to search and/or buy I've managed to get some good bargains, ensuring everyone receives a nice present but for less money. Ebay is useful and I've ordered some lovely presents from the US, which works out cheaper even with shipping because of the excellent dollar rate at the moment. I'm pleased to say I'm almost finished now and just have a couple of little gifts left to buy. Overall, it has been much less stressful than last year!
Natalie, Leeds, UK
I work in I.T. and although its presumed to be a highly paid job, I have not had a pay rise for the past eight years. I seem to change job to job but as everyone is worried about joblosses, a payrise is never on the cards.
So, every year my budget is smaller, and this year I am having to wrap 1 or 2 lumps of coal, in used newspapers.
I will be listening on my radio with my used single candle and eating my chicken....
Matthew Field, Aldershot
I myself am budgeting for Christmas, I haven't even started yet, my family I won't see till the end of January so I can buy their pressies then, I am getting my boyfriend a pressie and his mum only wants a plant, we're not really traditional so we might have chicken or toad in the hole.
I am starting early next year around June time, I think. I don't have any kids so I can't buy for them but I am not looking forward to Christmas this year.
Rebecca White, Basildon, Essex, UK
The best way to cut corners is to start early, I started my present buying in October, mainly on the internet, it is surprising how cheaper certain items are in October compaired to December. I have only a few more presents to buy which I will get nearer the time (sweets/chocs) and that is it.
Sharon Adams, London
My partner recently lost his job, and as we haven't moved in together yet we also have what adds up to a pretty hefty travel cost between us, what with rising fuel prices and extortionate train fares. He has been spending as little as possible on presents for family; as his mum works in a shop she has been able to get a few things for aunts and uncles at discount prices.
My expenditure is roughly as follows:
£175 on a present for the boyfriend
£65 on presents for mum
£20 on cards
£10 on wrapping paper and other assorted oddments
£40 on presents for aunts and uncles
£40 on presents for friends
£40 contribution to the boyfriend's petrol
£40 on food
Adds up to more than I thought, but luckily I had some of the stuff in advance, so I haven't had to buy it all out of one month's wages, which would be impossible!
We're also going out in London at new year, the insignificant other is treating me to the hotel and I will probably pay for club entry and half the petrol.
We aren't very well off but we still manage to enjoy ourselves for very little cost; most weekends we can find something fun to do that only costs the petrol and very little more! At least being skint makes you be creative, and get experiences you might not otherwise have discovered.
Kitty, Coventry, UK
we bought our cards at Matalan, 24 for 2 then they were on offer at 3 for 2, plus our family no longer buy christmas presents for adults, just for children, other presents i've bought through the year as i've seen stuff so i've had to buy very little except for children and then it's something small but it's the thought that counts
I stopped buying presents for parents, brother, sisters etc. years ago, so now I only buy for my children and my husband. This year we have decided not to buy too much for each other, although I spend over £100 each on the children, and I give a maxiumum of £10 each to my two nieces and nephew until they are 18, then it stops. After all, adults are old enough to appreciate that Christmas should not be a debt-fest.
We usually stay at home and watch telly, we can`t really afford to travel long distance to see relatives. I buy a special bottle of wine for Christmas dinner, and only buy a small turkey crown, the vegetables bought in season are not expensive. I hate Xmas pudding and Xmas cake and nobody else in the family likes them so that`s another saving, but we do seem to eat a lot of chocolate over the holiday.
Also this year I have decided not to bother with Xmas cards and I will send e-greetings instead.
Now the children are older I also avoid Xmas fayres etc. as they can cost a lot, and I am not attending any work functions this year.
I think there is far too much pressure to eat and drink to excess, and I find it ridiculous that a few weeks later in the New Year we are being bombarded with diet and healthy living advice!
I also think that when shops are pushing the guilt trip on you (if you don`t spend a lot of money on your loved ones you are mean), remember that the shop assistants working there don`t earn much money and they probably couldn`t afford the lifestyle portrayed by the media!
It`s all a big con.
Siwan Leach, Eastbourne, UK
It's easy to budget, just don't spend too much. I don't need to overindulge in order to have a good Christmas and although I am a Christian, I find this time of year too overrated and over commercialised.
Just have fun with friends and family. What's so expensive about that?
Tina Kaponi, London, UK
My husband and I are budgeting for christmas as we are planning to move in the next 2-3 years and want to have as much saved up in order to make the move smooth.
I started early with my plans - I bought all my cards, wrapping paper, ribbons etc in the january sales and put a big note on the calendar reminding me not to buy them again.
More recently I have made four advent calendars for my hubby, sister and parents and they have all (without any prompting or threats) said they were the best ones they had ever had and were far and away better than the chocolate ones you get.
If anyone wants to have a go, I painted festive scenes on a baking tin, attached ribbon to the top to hang them and then cut out 24 figures and items from card and stuck magnets to the back. The recipent gets a new magnet every day and builds up their own picture to their own taste. My Mums was a christmas tree with magnetic decorations, Dad's was a nativity scene with magnetic figures, my sisters was a snowman with various magnetic accessories and my hubbys was a map of canada with iceburgs, which may not make sense to most but he was over the moon!
I also try to find time to make food presents for certain hard to buy for members of the family (the in-laws spring to mind), in fact tonight I am going to make chocolate covered marzipan sweets just as soon as I have finished work!
Lydia, Bracknell, UK
Why is there such a need to buy expensive presents at Christmas? Why does TV show adverts for phones, TV´s etc for presents, costing so much. I am a Brit, moved to Finland where I see the difference! I feel there is no need to buy presents for your partner, surely words & actions all year round are enough? My 1,3 & 5 yr old boys don´t notice that all their toys etc come from charíty shops, they just appreciate what we give them, materially or not. We have great fun making decorations & cards & even cakes for christmas saving money. My close relatives prefer to receive nicely framed photos, or a homemade video of the kids, rather than expensive gifts. I don´t expect to receive any Christmas gifts as I just don´t want anything & have told people to give their money elsewhere, my husband feels the same. I prefer to do things for people rather than buy them items they may not need or even like. Surely this is the way to go? I am not a scrooge, but what is the point of spending !
money for the sake of it?
ollipop, kangasala, Finland
i usually start saving with park hampers in January for high street vouchers. This year i received £800. I only have one child and the majority of that goes on spoiling him at xmas. The rest goes on family and friends presents and a few new pairs of jeans for myself. I'm awful with money - I juggle everything around, rob peter to pay paul. I don't care that I get in a bit of debt for xmas. we are only here once so we may aswell enjoy it whilst we can.
Amanda Neal, Wrexham, Wales
Christmas in our house has always been Food, Family, and Friends. Gifts were really never high on the list. If my parents did not have much in the way of extra funds it was never made a issue. This is the way we celebrated an amazing time of year. We filled the house with conversation and laughing. During the course of Christmas eve and Christmas day guests and family members would leave to go to their repective church services and than back for more enjoyment. This tradition continues now. Working in the hospitality industry means we work when others play. So in my house we have what is affectionally know as an orphans Christmas. Who ever has no place to go to celebrate is more than welcome at my house. It amazes me every year there is alway enough. Every year the mircle of the loaves and fishes is reenacted at my house as it was in my parents before. Try it you will be amazed at how much fun it is and how little stress they is for a season that was never ment to be anythin!
g else than a joyous celebration. Merry Christmas to all. Jean
jean, Banff, Canada
I'm slightly dreading it for the presents I havn't already bought, I knew this year was going to be tight so I began buying back in July! I'm lucky I did, I hadn't added Gad bills into my budget, Until mid November I've had my heating off and was walking around with several jumpers and numerous pairs of socks.
I only work as a Temp, It's a lovely job and pays pretty well, This is also my first Christmas in the house on my own, My Mother passed away a few months ago this year when I was still in college.
My sister is pretty easy, she only wants vouchers, My Boyfriend, Well i bought that back in July so I've paid that off. Ebay I've picked up things for close friends but I have a few left to go. I'm invted to a friends for food, Food around the house will be slim, But I'm very good at surviving on pasta!
Philly, Westmidlands, Birmingham
I bought all my kids' presents at boot sales over the summer - they are far to young to know!
I am a chap who likes to party, and party well! Christmas, bless our Lord Jesus, will be no exception.
Because I like to party, I spend nearly all of money on that!! I'd rather have a good time than see friends/family happy with their presents. I will be spending roughly £5 on each family member that I like, and that will be on a blow up flamingo doll. They're great.
The rest will be on booze, booze and more booze for myself. As I see it, you have to look after Number 1 at this time of year, and there's no point in getting into debt for buying presents for people you don't really like.
Tim Pardoe, Shirley, Southampton
To save money this year I have taken the unprecedented step of denying any knowledge of having relatives. This simple action removes the need to send out hundreds of cards which will only be glanced at once and then placed alongside thousands of others. There will be no need to buy 'something nice' for dozens of nephews and neices, instead I will be able to indulge in my own favourite drinks and foods.
Lastly of course are my own wife and children. To solve this expensive duty I am going to buy, or better still rent, a canoe and paddle to Panama. Anyone know how far it is?
Steve Pearce, Thatcham, UK
Bah!! Humbug, gruel for me again this year!!!