Christmas is coming. Stop, wait! I dislike Jingle Bells blasting out of shop speakers in early November as much as the next man.Yet this isn’t about celebrating early, it’s about pre-planning to slash festive costs, so you have a better Christmas at a lower price.
This year, I’ve been given an ITV special to run through all this. So as we’re now in the Thriftsmas spirit, here are some top tips for starters:
• Christmas Travelodge rooms for £17 - £25 for December to February. Crucially, this includes Christmas (though not New Year’s Eve).
• Don’t set up a Christmas lust list.
Too many people list every lusted-for item – huge trees, massive festivities. Sadly, this tends to lead to debt or disappointment.
Instead, the right thing – boring, sensible, but ultimately productive – is to do a budget to work how much you can afford to spend this Christmas. Then, work out the best Christmas you can have on that cash.
• Bag five per cent off all Christmas shopping
Cashback credit cards pay you each time you spend on them. So do normal spending and set up a direct debit to repay in full each month to avoid interest and you’re quids in. The cashback’s usually paid on the anniversary of opening the account.
The www.americanexpress.co.uk Platinum Everyday card pays a huge 5 per cent back, up to £100, on all spending in the first three months, then up to 1.25 per cent.
If your credit score isn’t up to that, the www.luma.co.uk/cashback Luma Cashback card pays a consistent 4 per cent cashback on supermarket and fuel spending (up to a maximum £9 a month). So it could still be helpful – and, crucially, it allows some with poor credit scores to get it too.
• Don’t pay for Christmas from December’s income alone. A typical family’s Christmas spending is £820 – too much for December’s income alone. If you’ve not saved for Christmas, there’s still time to spread the cost. Put some cash aside from November’s income to help. If needed, you could also pay for a few things on an empty credit card in December then clear it in full in January, so there’s no interest too.
• Find cheapest prices with shopbots
Whatever you’re buying, whether electricals, games, books or CDs, don’t go straight to your normal online retailer. It’ll just give you one price. Instead, use a shopping robot or shopbot, which scans a raft of retailers to find the cheapest price including delivery.
I’ve a handy tool at www.megashopbot.com that compares the best results from the best comparisons for each type.
• Try some DemoHoHotivation. My www.demoHOHOtivator.com tool shows how small sacrifices can save you large. For example, how much you can boost your Christmas cash by if you cut out a cappuccino or weekly mag. We’re not saying do it, just work out which use of cash gives you more joy.
• Ban unnecessary Christmas presents?
Christmas isn’t a retail festival. While presents for kids or spouses under the tree is a lovely tradition, we seem to be under constant pressure to buy for an ever widening circle of friends.
This can be just tick-box giving, tat we know they don’t really want, and will just become landfill fodder.
While there’s a joy of giving, remember it can be selfish if it obliges someone to buy you something back – perhaps the real gift’s to release someone from the obligation of buying you a present.
• Don’t borrow for Christmas, but if you do, ensure it’s zero per cent.
Christmas borrowing is a bad idea. Far better to go cold turkey, and have a more austere time (Christmas is just one day, after all). Yet if you’ll borrow anyway, at least do it right. The cheapest way is on a zero per cent spending card.
The longest is www.tescobank.com 18 months zero per cent, yet even though it lasts more than a year (provided you make the min repayments), plan to clear it before next Christmas or you’ll compound your problems. If you don’t clear before the 0 per cent ends, beware. It’ll jump to 16.9 per cent representative APR.
For further tips watch The Martin Lewis Money Show: 12 Saves of Christmas on ITV at 8pm on Tuesday November 12.