I love Christmas, I love my family and I love buying them presents, as such I can easily get carried away with present buying…and that’s no good for anyone.
It’s not just presents either, Christmas parties, food, drink, transport and those big ass tins of Quality Streets, mean that we spend a colossal amount of cash at Christmas, when we only really budget for Christmas presents.
So, here are some top tips and ideas to try and save spend less without being a Scrooge.
Plan, Prepare and Organise
Going out to do your present or food shopping without a plan will be a sure fired way to spend more than you need too. Laziness and frugality are not friends.
If you’re intent on saving money this Christmas then you need to get organised. For present buying, write a list of all your giftees, their intended gift and a budget for that gift. If you’re not sure what you intend to buy then put in an amount you want to stick too and then stick to it.
Now do the same with your Christmas food shopping. What are you going to eat, and what you need. Firstly check the cupboards to see if you have or are missing any vitals like stock and gravy or if you still have that jar of mince left over from last years mince pies…set a realistic budget and then stick to it.
As for social outings…so far I have five Christmas events planned in December; a work do, a trip to the Manchester Christmas markets with friends, the annual pub golf tournament back in Surrey, a surprise birthday party and a trip to Manchester cathedral with my wife for some bad ass carolling! Then there’s New Years and I expect a few cheeky trips to the pub over the Christmas period…and until I just wrote that all out I wasn’t aware I was doing quite as much. So, while you’ve got the budget sheets out, make a note of all your Christmas related social events that you’ll also have to put money aside for.
As we have often said, there’s no point holing up for winter and trying to spend nothing. It’s boring and it’s bad for your health. If you manage the budget and remain aware of your finances then you can have a social life. It’s all about discipline.
In conclusion: have an idea of how much money you need, then see if that’s realistic. If it isn’t you’ll need to make adjustments and by that I don’t mean getting a formal overdraft extension or applying for a credit card.
I’m not really one for the High Street any more, generally because I find it filled with idiots, so it’s no surprise that I favour the Internet for my Christmas shopping. That’s not to say that I don’t mid the odd trip to the Christmas Markets or a nip into town to get a few things and have a Christmas themed coffee with my wife, but by and large I find the Internet easier. Which may or may not be to do with my unwavering loyalty to our new overlords, Amazon?
Now even if you’re one of the aforementioned idiots who enjoys shopping in the local shopping centre or High Street (sorry for the idiot comment, I’m sure you’re lovely and in no way an idiot), the Internet is still the best place to start, mainly from a research point of view.
Again, this comes back to taking the time plan before you start buying;
- Use price comparison sites like Kelkoo to find out where the cheapest place to buy it is (don’t forget to look at P&P as well – a cheaper item may be more expensive with P&P)
- Is it cheaper online? If there’s an online discount it’ll usually tell you then and there
- Use a cash back site to buy your presents. Sites like QuidCo will give you cash back on your purchase through them, so if you’re buying a lot online it could save you some dollar
- Click and collect? If you’d prefer to venture out then it might be easier to buy online and pick it up from the store. This way you don’t pay postage and it’s guaranteed to be in stock
- Search for voucher codes (which [shameless plug] you can find here)! A great many popular retailers have voucher codes which you enter at the online check. These will usually get you free postage, X% off or 2 for 1 promotion – combined with cashback sites, you could be onto a winner!
Be sure to check delivery dates in time for Christmas Day. Any retailer worth their salt will clearly advertise latest order dates in time for Christmas Day. Be sure to check.
It doesn’t just have to be presents, why not do the Christmas food shop online? Sites like MySupermarket are great for comparing prices and getting the cheapest shop possible from the top supermarkets. It also means you get what you need, avoid the crowds and avoid a potential assault charge being made against you. Yay!
Do It Yourself
We wrote a nice little piece last week about making your own gifts – they’re cheaper, more fun and far more impressive. Go have a look at it, here. I’ll wait.
Right, suitably inspired?
It’s a particularly good idea when the kids break up for school, since they’ll love lending a helping hand.
Again, it doesn’t stop with the presents. More often than not, cooking from scratch is much cheaper. Especially at Christmas when we buy so much food and even though it’s not a pleasant prospect when you’re trying to keep everything else organised a solid plan will see you through. Plus things like mince pies and Christmas puddings can be done well in advance. Check out BBC Food for some inspiration…
Go to the Outlets
A decent alternative to the High Street are the outlet villages and shopping centres. Near to us we’ve got Cheshire Oaks, not only is it a day out and something different, but you’ll be able to pick up well known brands like Next for less.
Likewise, shopping in places like TK Maxx is worthwhile. They stock well known brands, but without the pricey tag. They also stock home ware, toys and cosmetics as well.
Check Your Loyalty Points
Clubcard points, Nectar card points and Boots Reward points etc – check them and see what you could get with them. Taking some time to check the websites to see what you can exchange your points for could result in a completely free present. Huzzah!
Again, this is an example of being proactive and not leaving it until the last minute. Even if all you get is a tenner of your shop – it’s still a tenner saved.
Use Your Credit Card Correctly
A lot of folk tend to handle the financial onslaught by sticking it all on a credit card. Which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with credit cards per say, it’s just how they’re misused when the problems occur, and if you can afford to repay the amount.
If this is your plan of action, make sure that the credit card has 0% interest or as low an interest that you can get. There are quite a few knocking around at the minute with 0% for a very long time. If you have a spotty credit history then this may affect your chances of getting 0% for that period of time. It’ll be in your best interest to clear the bill by the time the 0% interest period is up, so make sure that, firstly this is realistic and secondly that you have a Direct Debit set up to make monthly payments (don’t pay the minimum payments).
If you are using a Credit Card, then it may be worthwhile using one which pays you to use it, so you earn cash back on your purchases.
As I mentioned, it’s how you manage a credit card which is important. If you do apply for a new one, make sure you don’t make multiple applications in too short a time period, as this could do more damage to your credit score.
Buy, Sell, Go Second hand
Mass present buying means that we accumulate a lot of new stuff over Christmas – especially the kids. Which means it’s the perfect excuse to clear out a load of junk!
Nearly new sale and sites, car boots sales, eBay, Gumtree – there are loads of places for you to sell your stuff that you no longer need and while you’re there keep an eye out for any potential presents. My wife, Mum and sister love old, retro and vintage stuff so these kinds of places are ideal for me.
All in all, the first tip – get organised – is the main tip to saving money. If you get organised, it gives you plenty of time to find what you need and to think of some creative ways of getting your gifts. Leave it to the last minute and you’ll panic buy tat – which no one wants and is expensive.
It’s so easy to get carried away at Christmas, so try not too. Ask yourself if you really need to buy luxury brand mince pies or will the standard ones suffice (does any one really like mince pies that much?), would your brother really want the t-shirt that say’s ‘Female Body Inspector’? What ever you do, have an awesome Christmas and keep everything in perspective!