We know how it is. A typical Brit would rather eat Brussels sprouts all year round than talk about money troubles at Christmas. The trouble is, we’re playing a dangerous game of pass the parcel with our festive finances – and all it would take to ease the pressure is an honest chat about our spending.

Last Christmas was tough for most of us. A lot of people were kept apart from loved ones, family and friends. It’s only natural that we’d want to blow a little more cash on making this year’s festivities a bit special. Overspending won’t bring us any closer together this year, though. In fact, it could end up driving the wedges between us even deeper. With the pressure on to keep pace with each other’s festive shopping sprees, we’re risking more than just our own cash when we don’t talk openly about what we can afford.

This Christmas, all the standard spending warnings apply. That means keeping our plans and wishlists realistic, sticking to our budgets and – most importantly – being honest with ourselves and each other about our money situation.

Make a list; check it twice

Planning well in advance is Rule One in the run-up to Christmas. Believe us – any money decision you have make in a hurry is one you’ll probably regret later. No, working out budgets isn’t a lot of fun – but it does make you take an honest look at what you can afford.

Start by working out what you’ve got coming in, then you can look at how to spend it. Don’t fall into the trap of loading up on short-term loans or other kinds of debt to get you through the season. A good rule of thumb is the 50/30/20 system. 50% of your income goes toward essentials like food and rent or mortgage payments, 30% is for fun stuff and the remaining 20% is your savings. If you can keep to those percentages, you should be able to avoid most of the dangers of overspending.

With that “fun” 30% firmly in mind, start listing out the people you’ll be buying presents for. Don’t get carried away, and remember that a cheaper but well chosen present will always be treasured more highly than an expensive piece or momentarily trendy tat.

Don’t fall for fake bargains

It’s always a smart move to shop around for the best bargains on offer, and the earlier you start looking the better your chances of landing a good deal. Just remember that not every discount is as deep as the sellers are pretending. A few minutes spent hunting around online will help you sort the real deals from the rest.

Quick side-note: we said it last year, and we’ll say it again now. No one actually needs a next-gen console just yet. They’re still incredibly difficult to get hold of, and the scalpers have been charging insane prices for them. Most of the games are still coming out for the previous consoles anyway, so there really aren’t enough unmissable exclusives to make it worth paying over the odds for the new machines.

Forget the Silent Nights and get talking!

We all feel awkward talking to friends and family about money, and it’s doing real and unnecessary harm to our finances and relationships. Don’t be too embarrassed to set spending limits with your loved ones. That moment of awkwardness will pass quickly, particularly when you realise that so many of us are in basically the same boat.

Talking to your nearest and dearest about your money situation is the most important “opening up” you’ll do this Christmas. We’re heaping up debts unnecessarily, and we’ll all feeling the pressure to keep up when we see those around us throwing around cash they really shouldn’t. When you talk honestly about the Christmas you can afford, it’s not just your own pocket you’re protecting.

It really is the thought that counts this time of year, so think about this: what would a heaping helping of tax refund cash mean to your family and mates this Christmas? With RIFT’s Refer a Friend system, you could earn cash rewards every time someone you refer claims a tax refund with us. More importantly, though, you could be massively lightening someone’s load at a financially critical time.

Find out about our Refer a Friend scheme and get those referrals in now for cash bonuses, the chance of winning £500 in Christmas cash and, best of all, the warm glow of helping your mates claim a much needed tax refund.