When you claim money from the government – which millions of people in the UK do in one form or another – it’s likely that you rely on this extra cash in order to keep your life running smoothly. Being able to pay for your rent and bills comfortably is of huge importance, especially for those who have others dependent on them, such as parents or carers. Christmas is also a notoriously expensive time for everyone who celebrates it – there are not only presents to buy, but decorations and food too, not to mention the hassle that closed businesses can bring when you have limited time to get things done. For this reason, it’s important to keep a close eye on your cash this Christmas, so that your festive season is not spoiled by any nasty surprises. Here’s our handy guide to when benefits are paid over the Christmas period and how to save money at this time of year.
In 2015, Christmas falls on a Friday, with Boxing Day on Saturday, meaning that the bank holiday is carried over to the Monday. This is a great combination which means 4 straight days off for many workers. However, this also means that it’s 4 straight days where no financial transactions can take place due to the banks being shut for the holidays. Benefits this December will be generally paid on the last working day before the bank holiday (Thursday 24th December.) This applies if your payment is due on 24th, 25th or the 28th of December 2015.
For those who live in Northern Ireland, have children, and fall within the child benefit income bracket, your child benefit will be paid on the 30th December if it is due on the 29th. This is a day later than usual, so ensure that you have the money set aside to cover the extra day if you rely on this cash to see you through to the end of the month.
If you are unsure about when you are usually paid, then it’s always advisable to visit your local council or jobcentre to better understand your payment schedule. As much as money can be a worry, especially if you struggle to make ends meet, it really is beneficial to know every detail of how much you can expect to be paid into your account and when. This way, it’s easier to budget and you won’t be caught out without enough cash to pay for the things you really need.
Saving money over the Christmas period isn’t always easy, even when you specifically set money aside for the various expenses of the holiday. There always seems to be more things you need to buy, sometimes right up until Christmas day itself! Christmas is such an immersive holiday that it’s easy to forget the odd little thing here and there, which results in spending money you hadn’t planned to. If you can, try to finalise your plans for Christmas day itself as soon as possible, so you can plan travel, food and present expenses in advance. For instance, if you’re seeing family on the day, you may need to factor in travel expenses like fuel or train tickets, but you could save money on postage costs as you can bring presents and cards with you. Planning this out beforehand is the key to avoiding last minute surprise expenses.
As for saving money for the rest of Christmas, you may find that using comparison sites for your supermarket shop – like mySupermarket – can be useful. This can help you to see which supermarket is best when it comes to the cost of your festive food. You could even order what you need in advance to be delivered on the day of your choosing, freeing up more time for you to prepare for the big day on the 25th. Cooking some festive dishes from scratch can also save money if you have the time to do some preparation in advance. This can include things like bread sauce and pigs in blankets, which are often much more expensive when bought ready-made.
Decorations can be made rather than bought, although of course many families re-use decorations from previous years. When out shopping at Christmas It’s often hard to resist picking up the odd decoration or two to get into the spirit of the season, so make sure you set money aside for this if you really want to buy something fresh for your seasonal decorations.
In order to budget, especially when you have lots of different amounts going in and out of your account at different times, (i.e. benefit payments, bills, wages, seasonal expenses etc.) you need to know exactly when money is due to arrive and depart your bank account. If you have direct debits (appearing on statements as D/D) and standing orders (appearing on statements as S/O) then these may come out of your account without you being aware, as you don’t need to physically approve the transaction at the time. If you visit your local branch, you should be able to obtain a list of all outgoing direct debits and standing orders so that you know the exact dates they usually fall on. Remember that they may be a few days out if they fall on a weekend, so check with the company you’re paying or with your bank to ascertain the usual withdrawal date. If you see any payments which shouldn’t be there, cancel them with your bank and with the company they’re going to, or there may be some confusion.
Listing all the things you need to buy in advance, and budgeting a certain amount for each item can help you to work out where best to go to buy them. For instance, if you have budgeted a certain amount for your Christmas turkey, you’ll be able to shop around the supermarkets to find the most for your money, thus saving plenty in the long run when applying this to all your holiday outgoings. Merry Christmas from us all at Guarantor My Loan.
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