Being Mindful with Money – Seasonal Spending and festive finance

This November you may be feeling the impact of the Cost of Living crisis. Numerous newspapers have already published articles to draw attention to shoppers’ reduced spending and budgeting limits on what is considered their normal Christmas shopping habits.   

At Money Advice Scotland, we don’t believe in telling people how they should or should not be spending their money. Instead, we aim to equip consumers with the tools they need to manage their money and have positive feelings about their finances.  

As buying increases over the Christmas season, we want to discuss a few key points in order to help you feel in control over your festive finances.  


Black Friday and Cyber Monday  

Black Friday traditionally started in America as the first Friday after Thanksgiving. This would be when many started their Christmas shopping and resulting in huge increases in road traffic and overall calamity in stores. However, it is now a term known worldwide and is synonymous with sales and discounts. Black Friday has become such an event that we now even see discounts occurring in the week before the initial Friday and sales also extend to the following Monday, now known as Cyber Monday. In the UK boxing day was often considered the biggest shopping day; however, it is now rivalled by Black Friday.  

There are several factors to be aware of across the Black Friday weekend as it can be easy to get swept up in the excitement of discounts and sales.  

A good way to be mindful when spending is to consider if the item is one you were going to buy. It can be easy to add additional items to your basket just because they have a great discount, we all enjoy the feeling of finding a bargain! Just remember it is not really a bargain if you had never intended to ever buy that item in the first place.  

If you are in search of a particular item, checking prices can be useful to make sure that you are getting the best deal. Money Saving Expert recommends tools such as Google Shopping, PriceSpy and PriceRunner. You can read some black Friday tips from MSE here.


Credit Offers and Buy now pay later-  

Buying gifts, Christmas meals and the general uptick in spending over the festive season, coupled with the increase in the cost of living, means that this season is undoubtedly going to be difficult for many.  

As you shop and spend this year it is going to be likely that spreading the costs seems like one of the most feasible and tempting options for affording the varying costs of Christmas. 

Christmas credit offers are not a new payment option. Services such as catalogues like Studio or Park have often advertised themselves as a way of spreading the cost of Christmas over the entire year.  

In-house credit services are also available from many retailers such as Very offering VeryPay.  

These services can be very enticing; however, it is always good to remind yourself that these are forms of credit regardless of how they are advertised. It is important to ensure that you always read the terms and conditions of any credit agreement, even if these are interest-free deals. 

Over the festive sale season, further discounts are also advertised using BNPL or instalment payment options. 

We recently wrote a blog on Buy-Now-Pay-Later services which includes details such as what to be aware of when using these services. Much of what is included in our BNPL blog is relevant over the Christmas period. You can read our blog here.


Be aware of seasonal advertising -  

The festive season is a key time when retailers begin to increase their marketing and advertising. Many of us enjoy waiting for the seasonal adverts to begin to see what big retailers, such as John Lewis, have created.  

However, it can feel overwhelming with new products, gift guides, sale offers and festive discounts being advertised everywhere. You might find a digital detox helpful if you feel the number of emails and app notifications is too much. We think that this guide from MSE on how to do a digital detox is really useful.

With the bombardment of sales and discount notifications, it is also good to be wary as to whether the advertised price is genuinely a good deal or not. Interestingly, the consumer group Which? researched several of the advertised deals for Black Friday and Christmas sales. They found that many of the products had been the same as the discounted price, if not cheaper at other times of the year. You can read their findings here.

As always, we do not want to discourage consumers from making purchases; however, being aware of the varying marketing and advertising tactics that appear during the festive season can certainly help us have a little bit more insight when we are Christmas shopping.   

What to do if I am struggling?  

If you are simply feeling overwhelmed by the number of adverts and sales notifications you are receiving, unsubscribing from emails can be a very helpful way to quiet the noise of festive spending.  

For further resources on budgeting and money management, our financial wellbeing team have a number of short and insightful e-learning modules that un-pack these topics further. You can check the different modules out here.

You can find out more about accessing free money advice here.