Money journo Holly Thomas: My tips for cutting the cost of Christmas
Presents, decorations, food, wine and lots of jolly nights out around Christmas soon take their toll on your bank balance.
Overspending at this time of year is inevitable for many. A new study from American Express reckons each of us will spend just over £1,200 each. Ouch.
Worse still, many are still paying off debts from last Christmas.
Here are 10 easy ways to cut the cost of the festive season - without cancelling Christmas.
1. Make a list of who you need to buy for - and stick to it
It’s often when you forget someone that you end up busting a budget to find a gift in a hurry. So, keep a log of what you spend and write what you’ve bought on your list so you don’t forget - and end up buying more than you need.
2. Check out end-of-line bargains
Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been and gone - but don’t think you’ve missed all the bargains. You can visit an outlet village to snap up big discounts from quality brands. Even better there are lots of brands that have clearance or outlet sections on their websites. Check individual sites for details.
3. Use reward points
It’s believed there’s more than £7 billion worth of unused points, miles and cash back in the UK and more than half of us have experienced points expiring before we’ve had a chance to redeem them, according to For Good Causes. So dig deep in your purse or wallet and find the cards you have and redeem, redeem, redeem.
4. Buy pre-loved
If you’re buying for nieces and nephews, look on the likes of Gumtree where hoards of parents are selling stuff (to make room for more!). There's lots for sale at bargain prices - and some will take a reasonable offer. There might be the odd scratch here and there, but the kids won’t care.
If you’re splashing out on electronics for an adult, then consider second hand here too. The likes of Music Magpie sell refurbished electronics (including iPhones) at a fraction of the cost of a new one - AND they come with a 12 month guarantee.
5. Scour the web for discount codes
Look for valid codes that can slash the bill before you pay for online shopping. Check websites such as myvouchercodes.co.uk, vouchercodes.co.uk or hotukdeals.com to see if you can get a discount. You might find a discount of 5%, 10% or even 20%. Or it might be a code for free delivery.
6. Join a cashback website
Getting paid to shop sounds too good to be true. But it really is possible to earn as you spend — using cashback websites such as Topcashback.co.uk and Quidco.co.uk. These websites pass on some of the bonuses they get for generating lots of sales to retailers large and small. Quidco says that on average its active members pocket £300 each a year. Just don’t be tempted to overspend to “earn” more.
7. Use a cashback credit card
If you are the sort of person who can pay your credit card balance off in full every month, a cashback card is worth considering. If you’re quick you might be in time to apply for one to spend on over Christmas. You earn a percentage of cashback on your spend. Again, don’t be tempted to overspend to “earn” more.
8. Give alternative gifts
Rather than handing over a gift to a friend, instead treat them to dinner. It’s a nice way to enjoy the present together. Or split the bill and make it your gift to each other. If you go in January you can take your pick of offers from restaurants who want to get people through the door during a quiet month.
9. Delay present-giving
If you’re not seeing a friend or family member until after Christmas to exchange presents, use the January sales to buy cut-price gifts.
10. Online buyer beware
Before you buy from websites offering big discounts, look at the delivery section to make sure there are no nasty delivery costs or minimum spend rules. Equally, for those boasting free delivery, it’s worth reading the returns page. You don’t want to have to stump up huge returns costs if what you order isn’t quite right.