Has Christmas left you with lots of debt?

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The festive season is already over - but hundreds of people across Leeds will be left counting the cost of Christmas for months to come.

With many people left in debt because of the spiralling costs of gifts, bills, food and holidays, we take a look at how you can avoid getting into the same situation next year.

It might seem like the dust hasn’t settled from 2015, but the best thing is to start planning now. A typical family Christmas costs around £820, which is a massive amount of money to find out of just one month’s wage.

But if you factor in needing the money by the start of December, that’s just £74 a month - and even less if you become a bit more bargain savvy.

Start by making a list of who you need to buy for and have a think about what they would like. Gifts sets, beauty products and fragrance sets can all be bought in the January sales.

Boots, for example, reduces its festive products by up to 70 per cent while John Lewis offers reductions of up to 50 per cent from Boxing Day through to January 18. Many other stores will be offering similar discounts.

Just remember to make a list of what you’ve bought - and where you have put it - to make sure you don’t end up buying twice.

The sales are also a good place to pick up your Christmas cards and wrapping paper for a fraction of the price. You could even pick up a reduced cost tree or some new decorations, and if you save your Christmas cards from this year you could turn them into next year’s gift tags, with the help of your little ones, some thread and a pair of crinkle craft scissors.

Food shopping is another one of the big expenses of the festive season, but even this can be paid for in advance. Most supermarkets offer a savings card - Asda will give you an extra £6 if you save up £144 over the year, Morrisons stamps give you an extra £3 when you save £97 and Tesco gives £1 for every £49. Tesco also offers its Clubcard Christmas Saver, where shoppers can opt to save their vouchers throughout the year.

Local butchers might also offer a savings plan, just ask what they can offer you.

If you do a lot of shopping online anyway, then why not think about joining a cashback site? These websites give you back a certain percentage of what you have spent. If you save what you’ve earned throughout the year you could have a nice little windfall by December.

Finally, just remember that prices creep up as Christmas approaches - so if you aim to finish your Christmas shopping by the end of November, you’ll not only have picked up the best bargains, but it also means your final wage of the year is left free for those all important Christmas parties.

WHERE TO STASH YOUR SAVINGS

The best plan is to transfer your Christmas savings into a separate account as soon as you get paid.

Set up a direct debit or standing order - if you don’t see it you’ll be less inclined to spend it. Speak to your bank or use a comparison website such as Money Supermarket to find the best account for you.

You could also pay monthly into a Christmas savings club, but just remember you will have no protection if the firm goes bust, and you could end up losing all the money you’ve paid in.

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