The festive holiday is around the corner and a time when many of us will start Christmas shopping in earnest. For me, by about the middle of November, I start to think about how I’m going to save money at Christmas.
Having been a stay at home mum and freelance copywriter for a number of years, I’ve had to become quite savvy with my cash, especially when it comes to buying Christmas presents. It’s not always been easy and I have been known to quite literally count out my pennies to see if I can afford to buy a gift.
With little cash coming in and my bank account draining, there are ways to save cash and sniff out a good bargain here or there. Hooray!
Make a List
Make a list as early as you can – and check it twice! If you have an idea on who you’re buying for and what gifts you’d like to get them, then write it down, pop it in a spreadsheet or make a list on your phone. Whatever way you prefer to keep track of presents, just make sure you do to try and avoid panic-buying and last-minute purchases.
This goes the same for food, Christmas wrapping, decorations and anything else you may need to celebrate the big day. Once it’s all down on paper, you might see some things that you could do without spending the money on.
Brave Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Now you’ve got your list, keep an eye online for Black Friday sales for any slightly more expensive purchases that would be helped by a hefty discount. Last year I purchased a Kindle Fire in the Black Friday sales and made a huge saving. But be careful and know your prices as some deals aren’t always what they seem.
Brave Christmas Eve Sales
Okay, this is one I don’t do all that often but it is definitely worthwhile considering it.
The thought of leaving the majority of my Christmas shopping until the last minute when I’d rather be watching Muppets Christmas Carol with a mince pie fills me with dread.
But one Christmas, having given birth 10 days before, this is exactly what I did. Admittedly, less out of strategic Christmas budgeting and more because I’d not prepared for Christmas at all. But it paid off as I managed to get 50 percent off some gifts and stocked up on wrapping paper, cards and decorations for the next year. Marks and Spencer tend to really go big on the pre-Christmas sales so make sure you keep an eye out as you can make some amazing savings.
To be honest, I regret not raiding the Christmas Eve sales last year as it was nice come December to pop into the loft to get down everything I’d purchased the year before. It made Christmas pretty stress-free and less expensive too.
Second Hand Toys
I scour Facebook and other online second hand stores for toys that I know the kids will love. At the age they are currently, they wouldn’t know if something is brand new or not. Last year I saved over £50 buying a number of toys second hand and they still remain some of the most-played with gifts.
Sell Unwanted Items
As above, perhaps that unwanted gift you received last year is just what someone else is looking for. Sell any items of clothing, toys or home items online to earn a bit of extra income in the run up to the Christmas season. It’s pretty easy to do and online market places such as Facebook provide a brilliant way of shifting unwanted stuff.
Not everyone expects an expensive gift, sometimes it’s the thought that counts. The gifts I’ve received that have been handmade or baked are often the ones I remember and love the most. Perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to put your knitting skills to good use. There are so many amazing options, from baking brownies, homemade gin, chutneys – the list is endless and doesn’t have to be expensive either.
Don’t Forget Your Loyalty Cards
If you own a loyalty card then check whether you have points that can be spent on gifts. By saving all year you have a decent pot of cash to spend on gifts by the time December rolls around.
Some credit cards offer cashback of up to 5 percent on every purchase you make. But you must make sure you pay off the balance in full every month, only then would it be worth signing up. Just make sure it’s affordable and can be paid off as the interest from an unpaid bill will negate any 5 percent saving you would have made.
There are plenty of discount codes about so if you haven’t already, then sign up to Groupon or VoucherCodes as there are some decent discounts available. Too Good to Go is a great app as you rescue food at discount prices that otherwise would have gone to waste. For example, a box of breakfast pastries, cold meats, eggs and cheese sausages and more could be snapped up for around £2 instead of £11. Too good to ignore!
And that neatly leads me on to….
Be Clever with the Food Shop
Every year I start looking at what food I can get early on that will last over the festive period – i.e. the non perishables and food with a long shelf life. This way my Christmas food shop won’t make me weep into my mulled wine.
We purchased our box of crackers the year before with a use by date into the next year. Christmas puddings, if they last a year, are purchased in the sales and stored in our pantry. The same goes for chutneys and alcohol.
Don’t get seduced by the big brands. The supermarket premium labels are often just as good or better *ahem, Aldi mince pies*. Check out Aldi and Lidl for deals. They offer a pretty good cheese selection too!
Don’t Go Overboard
It’s so easy to go overboard at Christmas. It’s a trap I’ve fallen into time and time again. But the years when I’ve spent less on gifts and food didn’t hinder the enjoyment of the day at all. For the past couple of years we’ve decided to go for a turkey joint instead of a whole bird. It seemed ridiculous to spend so much when we had so little, and not many of us eating too.
Stick to your list and if you’re tempted by those 2-4-1 deals – then think about whether you really need it. Sometimes these deals are good for buying presents for the following year but make sure you aren’t buying something just because it’s cheap.
Same goes for the food shop. No good buying a bag of 30 satsumas if they’re just going to go mouldy the the fruit bowl.
Ultimately, Christmas is about spending time with family and friends. The goal isn’t to spend as much as possible and buy as many gifts as you can. By being a bit more savvy with your spending and organised, you can get the Christmas you all want and can enjoy.