If you dread checking your bank balance in the New Year, you aren’t alone. Last year saw shoppers put over £8.5 billion on credit to cover the cost of Christmas, and given the staggering cost of gifts, food, and socialising, it’s little wonder why the festive season leaves so many of us in debt. But there’s no need to let money worries put a dampener on your celebrations, with this; our 5 IDEAL ways to prevent Christmas taking a toll on your bank balance.

SAVE ON THE COST OF FOOD

The Christmas food bill is where a lot of the money goes over the festive season. Indeed, the average household spends on average £174 on food and drink for 25 December alone. However, there are loads of ways to save on the food shop, as well as the booze and even the energy all that cooking expends. It doesn’t have to mean you’ll be eating turkey nuggets and drinking Lambrini either. By applying a few little hacks, like doing your shop as late as possible (Christmas Eve in the aisles, anyone?) or conversely, doing it waaaay ahead of time, can save you a stocking. Moreover, be sure to take advantage of supermarket loyalty programmes and other Christmas deals. And remember, prices for alcohol escalate closer to Christmas, so buy your booze before this happens.

TURN CLUTTER INTO CASH

Kill two birds (a turkey and a partridge, perhaps?) with one stone this year by turning your old junk – probably pressies from previous years gone untouched – into cash for Christmas. If your attic or storage space under the stairs is brimming with clutter, now is the perfect time for a good clear out, as Christmas will no doubt accumulate much more. Not only will this help you to raise some extra cash for Christmas, but it’ll make it much easier when the time comes to dig out the decorations from the back of the loft, too.

In the age of the sharing economy, there are loads of ways to sell your unwanted stuff, and plenty of selling platforms ready to help you shift and sweeten. Sites like Zapper allow you to sell books, DVDs, CDs, and other electronics, and you can get a quote for your goods instantly. If you have heaps of clothes you never wear, then Depop is a great way to get a decent price for them.

If you’re looking for something more general, then online auction sites like eBay are great all-round platforms for selling a whole range of different items. And don’t neglect the tried and tested, age old tried methods like car boot sales; especially good if you have lots of low-value knick-knacks you don’t think are worth selling online.

MAKE YOUR OWN GIFTS

Have you got a secret talent or hobby? I think we all do, lurking somewhere. You could be using it to make some extra cash. If you’re a dab hand at arts and crafts, for instance, you could try selling your handiwork at craft fairs or Christmas markets. After all, there’s no other time of year where people are as frivolous and frisky for tat. Greetings cards will sell well at this time of year, but you could also peddle pottery, woodcrafts, knitted toys and accessories, paintings, or even jewellery — whatever floats yours – and more importantly, the customer’s – boat. Even if you’re not going to sell these items, you could give them as gifts.

MAKE SOME EXTRA MONEY ON THE SIDE

If you aren’t creative or artistic, there are still lots of other ways to put your time (and hands) to good use. Many paid survey sites will offer a small fee or gift vouchers in exchange for completing online opinion polls so, if you’ve got a little time and a lot of opinions to spare, these offer a great way of making some extra pocket money. Money Saving Expert has a round-up of the best sites, along with some helpful tips to help you get started.

If you’re looking for a way to make some extra money over the festive period, you could also consider matched betting. Don’t let the name fool you as there’s much less risk involved than there is with traditional gambling. In a nutshell, you use maths to balance the outcomes of your bets across different sites, which allows you to use promotional offers to make money. The process can seem a little complicated but, once you get to grips with it, it’s surprisingly straightforward, and you don’t need to be a maths whiz, either. That said, there is some risk involved and as with any type of gambling, be sure to do it responsibly. Take a look at this guide to making money with matched betting from OddsMonkey to learn more.

USE VOUCHERS TO REDUCE THE COST OF GIFTS

By far the biggest drain on our finances over the festive season is the cost of Christmas shopping. No one wants to be a Scrooge, so how can you find gifts that your friends and family will love, without breaking the bank?

The simplest way to save money on your Christmas shopping is by making the most of vouchers, offers, and discounts. Many high-street retailers, including Boots and Marks & Spencer, offer 3 for 2 offers on a range of gifts. If you have a loyalty card, be sure to bring your vouchers with you when shopping, and don’t forget to spend any points you’ve accrued over the course of the year, too.

It’s also easier than ever to save money on your online shop. Plugins like Honey will automatically apply voucher codes at the checkout, saving you the time and trouble of trawling the net searching for offers. The best part? It’s completely free to install.