Christmas doesn't have to mean over-indulging and overspending. Follow our guide to make it through the festive period debt-free
The last thing you need in January is a heavy debt hangover from Christmas. Start now and you can spend and save clever and win at both Christmas and new year.
1. Work out a budget
Key to not overspending in the run-up to the festive season is to work out a budget – and stick to it. After all, there's no point in starting off the new year in debt just for the sake of one day. According to moneysavingexpert.com, by the time you tot up the cost of presents, food, travel and decorations, the average Christmas spend per household is about £500.
Once you've worked out how much you're going to spend, it'll be much easier to resist buying items on impulse that you don't really need. A good way to work out how much food you need to buy is to use the website lovefoodhatewaste.com, which will help you calculate just the right portion sizes.
Read more money-saving advice from the experts:
- How to save money this Christmas with your discount shopping cards
- How to manage your finances: five key points to consider
- How to make money from your hobby for a better work/life balance
2. Use points and cashback
Christmas is a great time to use any of the points you have collected through the year. Boots Advantage points can be used to spend on the 'buy two get one free' offers they have around this time of year. With Tesco Clubcard points you can get three times their value in discounts on bicycles, jewellery, train tickets and more.
The best value supermarket card is the Iceland Bonus card (a prepaid card you use in store) and, in the run-up to Christmas, it's even better. Usually Iceland adds on £1 for every £20 you upload to the card but, in the pre-Christmas period, you will get £1 for every £10 you upload. Check out the rules at iceland.co.uk/bonus-card.
3. Borrow wisely
Do everything you possibly can to not borrow for Christmas, including getting as much as you can for nothing (check out the article on the MoneyMagpie website on how to do Christmas for free). But if you have to borrow, do it as cheaply as possible.
The ideal is to go for a credit card that offers 0% on purchases. If your credit rating is good enough, there are amazing deals around with 0% periods of up to 27 months, which would enable you to pay off the debt bit by bit without paying extra in interest.
If your credit rating isn't so hot, join your local credit union for reasonable and flexible loans. Generally, it will want to see you saving first, so join now in order to qualify for a small loan. Find your nearest credit union at findyourcreditunion.co.uk.
4. Switch accounts
Want to make an instant £150 for Christmas? Simply move your current account to one that rewards you for switching. This has been made much easier and quicker by the Current Account Switching Service, which guarantees all your standing orders and direct debits when you switch. It's also all supposed to be done within seven days of your application, so you can still do it in time for the festive season.
Banks offering incentives include HSBC (£150 now and an extra £50 if you stay for a year) and M&S Bank, which is offering £185 in vouchers.
5. Find hidden Amazon savings
Amazon is the easy one-stop shop for your Christmas shopping, from DIY to DVDs, handbags to hardbacks. But did you know it has discount pages in which you can potentially make huge savings?
Keep an eye on Amazon's own deals-of-the-day page, and make use of moneysavingexpert.com's Amazon discount finder, which allows you to input various parameters (what you'd like to buy, price range etc). It will then create a custom Amazon search results page for you. It's also worth using the Amazon price tracker at camelcamelcamel.com, which alerts you when prices drop.
6. Sell for Christmas
Now is a great time to declutter and make money online for Christmas by selling all the things hanging around your home. According to gumtree.com, the average household has £2,589-worth of household items sitting around unused and unwanted. So raid your cupboards.
Get instant cash on books, CDs, DVDs and games by swiping the barcode with the app at ziffit.com. Then put clothes and gadgets on eBay. Find out about more ways to sell unusual or bulky items at clearyourclutterday.co.uk.
7. Save on your turkey
Just because a turkey isn't from a higher-end retailer doesn't mean it won't taste as good. So shop around before buying a bird. A free-range turkey from Waitrose that serves eight costs around £51.90 but cheaper turkeys from stores such as Aldi, Iceland, Lidl and Morrisons have scored highly in taste tests. Christmas puddings from Aldi and Lidl have also done well in taste tests, sometimes outdoing more expensive brands.
From turkey to Christmas pudding, you can save money on your Christmas dinner this year.
8. Get baking
If you're handy in the kitchen you can also make money for the festive season by making Christmas cakes and sweets and selling them at car boot sales and markets. There are a number of other ways you can make money for Christmas too, which you can find in the free eBook Make Money for Christmas on moneymagpie.com (PDF).
9. Cut postage costs
To avoid having to send your Christmas cards first class, make sure you post them before the last Christmas posting date for second-class letters – this year it's Tuesday 18 December (go to postoffice.co.uk for the full list of Christmas last posting dates for Royal Mail and Parcelforce).
For larger items, if they weigh more than 2kg, you can make significant savings by using a courier instead of Royal Mail (many of which will collect items from your home). To get started, go to interparcel.com, which books delivery slots with a wide range of couriers and then sells them on to the public. Input the details of your parcel and where it's being delivered to on the website, and you'll be presented with a wide range of delivery options to choose from.
Cut the costs of delivering your Christmas parcels.
10. United you stand
The best way of all to save money in the run-up to Christmas is to get together with friends and family and agree how much you won't spend on each other this year. Maybe agree with the adults that you won't buy presents for each other, just the kids. Or make a plan to go out for dinner together as your 'present' to each other. Try a Secret Santa with work colleagues or even family members, where you each just buy one good present for one person rather than lots of small gifts.
If you can persuade them, get the family to agree to having a 'Christmas Day + 2' where you don't actually have Christmas until the day after Boxing Day (or maybe even later), once everything is on sale.
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