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The days before Christmas are dangerous for overspending. Here’s how to avoid it

Pricewatch: This week will determine the duration and severity of your seasonal financial hangover

This time next week it will all be over bar the eating, drinking and – possibly – the shouting if random board games and ill-advised drunken charades go awry.

Now, we do know that Christmas won’t actually be over – it will still be Christmas Day – but the mad spending that characterises the build-up to the big day will be done and dusted and the sound of Slade and Shakin’ Stevens will start to fade to memory for another year.

But that will be then and this is now and the season to spend lolly is not over with the next seven days likely to be key to determining how long the financial hangover you’re facing will last.

This is where we come in – we’re here to help although you should probably bear in mind that these tips are as much for Pricewatch as they are for anyone else and writing them and following them are very different things.



The days ahead are dangerous times for overspending. That is because if you have left it this late to buy your presents (it’s like you never listen to us), then you might be starting to panic. And as we have long established on this page, a panicked shopper is not a wise shopper.

While it is too late to be super-organised, it is not too late to shop early. We have highlighted the notion of the last-minute man on this page before. He (and it is more often than not a he, let’s be honest) will leave the present buying until just hours before Christmas and then race around the shops on the afternoon of December 23rd or 24th spending left, right and centre, quite literally throwing money at a problem that is entirely of their own making.

Do not be this person. If you still have a lot of presents to get, set aside a couple of hours between 9am and midday on some day between now and Thursday and do your shopping in that window.

The timing is critical because in the early morning the streets and shops of Ireland will be serene – or at least not as insane as they are going to be as darkness falls next Saturday.

And if you are less stressed you will spend less and you will spend better, not least because by shopping as soon as the store doors open you will sidestep the advances of the canniest of shop assistants who can spot a panicked shopper a mile away and push sometimes unwise or expensive present options their way.

Do not just wander into town and hope the inspiration will hit you – it might but then again it might not.

So before you set off on your spending adventures, think about what you need and who you need to buy for. Do a bit of advance prep by scouring the websites of the shops you are thinking of visiting so you don’t find yourself racing around the shop floor like a gombeen looking for the pair of tangerine-coloured Uggs that sold out months ago. By looking online you might get inspiration from the comfort of your couch and you should be able to price the key items you think you might need before you go present hunting.

Another thing you need to do before you leave home is to make like Santa and make a list. Put the most important – and most expensive – presents at the top of that list. By getting the key presents sorted early in the day you can take at least some of the pressure off yourself, which might help you to shop smarter as the day continues.

Remember that the list – while essential – is not the be all and end all and if you see something that screams “BUY ME” at you then allow that to happen as long as it doesn’t blow your budget.

And before you go shopping it might be worth throwing your eye around your home to see if there are any presents that might realistically be passed on to others. Now, in times past, regifting was a dirty word but in the era of sustainability and circularity that we are living it, it has a certain cachet that it once lacked.

If you happen to have a George Foreman grill that you have never used, or a calligraphy set that you were given years back that is as useless now as it was when you first got it, you might be able to find it another home. The key thing is not to regift a present to the person who gave it to you in the first place.


Yes, you will have to have a budget. Now we know that Christmas and ‘budget’ are not normal bedfellows but setting one for the other is key, particularly in these last hours. The closer it is to December 25th the more likely it is that you will spend money you don’t really have on stuff that you are not really sure anyone will want. So before you allow that to happen, work out how much money you have to spend and how much you are prepared to spend on those who will be getting presents. And then stick to whatever budget you come up with.


As you go about your shopping – for everything from presents to turkeys – keep track of where your money is going. This is particularly important if you are spending with credit or debit cards on December 23rd and 24th. This year the two days before Christmas are a Saturday and Sunday and one bizarre habit Irish banks have retained from the days before computers did all the work is to hide – or at least not prominently record – the transactions that happen on weekends or bank holidays until the next working (for the banks) day.

Based on how the days fall, that means there is a good chance December 28th might see all those ill-advised purchases you made while in the throes of panic hitting your current account. And, trust us when we say that is one thing that does not bring joy to the world.


When you are making your spending decisions, pay close attention to when you might see those who will be getting presents from you this year. Obviously if you are buying for people you plan to spend time with on Christmas Day itself or if you are buying presents that need to be under a Christmas tree on the big day you have little choice but to shop now.

But if you are going to be exchanging presents with people after Christmas Day you might be better off waiting until the winter sales start to bag budget-friendly bargains. Oh, and while we appreciate this tip won’t be for everyone, the most wonderful time of the year to buy Christmas decorations will be from next Tuesday on. Retailers will be falling over themselves to get rid of the things, so you could save yourself a few bob for next year by being a bit canny on that score.


Chances are you will fancy a night out or two over the next 12 or so days and we all know that doesn’t come cheap. You may well like to go out with groups of your friends – it is not unheard of at this time of year. The designated-driver notion is not new but it is a great way to save a few bob and we have a way to make it more rewarding for everyone involved – although arriving home in one piece after a night out is a reward in itself.


Let’s say there are five people in a group and each of them spends €30 on cabs to and from nights out or parties over Christmas. If there are five social occasions and each person takes on the role of designated driver for just one of those nights out, then a total of €750 is saved. That could be thrown into a kitty – it’s something the likes of Revolut is good at – to be used to either part-fund a holiday, a weekend away or a few wild nights out in the new year.

And then – of course – there is babysitting. It might not work for everyone but if a group of friends are planning a few evenings out, they could adopt a designated carer system as well. Rather than three or four families finding and paying for a babysitter, the children could all come to houses or a rota basis with one couple doing the minding for each night. It might save another couple of hundred quid.

Another way to save on socialising is to turn things on their head. Rather than going out for dinner and drinks with your pals, go for lunch instead. Lunchtime menus are cheaper, day drinking is good craic, the atmosphere about the place is less feral and there will be ways to get home that don’t involve taxis. Oh, and the very fact that you are on the tear in the afternoon is likely to put a limit on how much you drink, which will make the recovery process faster and less painful.


Research published last week by Kantar Worldpanel suggests this Christmas will be a “record-breaking festive period, with Irish supermarket shoppers spending an unprecedented amount”.

And how much is that?

Grocery sales in Ireland are expected to surpass €1.4 billion for the first time ever in December, according to Kantar, with the busiest day of the year set to be Saturday, December 23rd.

Last month we totted up the cost of Christmas and when we looked at food we reckoned a family made up of two adults and three children could quite handily spend more than €350 on the fare for the days around Christmas. That price does not include any alcohol. We totted that up separately.

One of the reasons we spend so much over the Christmas is that we eat a lot. Irish adults will consume about 6,000 calories on Christmas Day alone and we are not going to knock anyone for that – although it is one reason we are glad it is not Christmas every day.

But overindulgence aside, many Irish people shop like they are heading into a zombie apocalypse in which all retail outlets will shut up shop for good They are not going to do that and most will be open again on the 26th or the 27th, with some shops around the country likely to stay open on Christmas Day.

Please bear that in mind when you are buying enough milk and cream to stock a dairy.

If you do your big shop on December 23rd you need to stock up for only four days, so work out how many people you need to feed and what their appetite for leftovers is. Then make a list of what you need. And buy only the things that are on the list. Don’t be buying a wildly expensive and absolutely massive ham – a normal-sized one will be grand – 2kg tops. And when it comes to turkeys, think big as the bone densities of a 14lb turkey and an 8lb turkey are pretty similar, which means the meat-to-bone ratio of the bigger turkey is better. Stock up on the cheap things that everyone loves – potatoes, sprouts (we’ll not hear a word against them on this page) and stuffing.

We have said this on many, many occasions but will never tire of saying it: One of the reasons we spend too much at Christmas is because we are tracing an illusory notion that has been sold to us by generations of advertising men and women who have managed to convince us that there is such a thing as the perfect Christmas.

Chasing that dream sees far too many of us putting ourselves under far too much pressure to deliver – for ourselves and our families.

We spend mountains of cash on tableware and trees and presents and decorations and matching pyjamas and all the rest. But the best way to have the best Christmas is to relax and spend less money and more time with the people you like and love.

And have the happiest of Christmases from Pricewatch ... we’re off to do all our shopping now!