How to cut down on Christmas spending without cutting down on the fun

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Christmas is always an expensive time. But, if you spend a bit of time budgeting, and make some savvy cutbacks, you could spend rather less than you think! Find out how to cut down on Christmas spending without cutting down on the fun.

Save money on Christmas cards

If you want to know how to cut down on Christmas spending, a good starting point is by reducing the number of cards you send or sending e-cards. Do you need to give a card to someone in the office you see every day?

  • A first class stamp is currently 64p and a second class stamp is 55p. For 20 people that’s a minimum of £12 on postage. Cards can cost around £4 for a pack of 10, so the overall cost of cards for 20 people is likely to be £20 or more.

SAVVY TIP: If you have an inclusive phone package, you could ring people you don’t see instead. If you prefer, you could send an e-card. There are several sites that let you do this for free, or sites such as Jacqui Lawson, which charges an annual membership of £9 (in December 2016) and you can send as many cards as you like.

Save money on decorations and wrapping paper

You can also cut down on Christmas spending by getting stocking fillers, wrapping paper and decorations very cheaply at pound shops (such as Poundland and other pound shops), value supermarkets (such as Lidl and Aldi) and markets.

Save money on Christmas presents

Don’t buy things at the last minute in a panic as that’s when you tend to throw money at the problem. Some friends and family members are always easier to buy than others. If you’re stuck, either ask them for some ideas or buy their presents earlier when you’ll feel under less pressure. Agree a limit on how much you’ll spend with friends if you’re on a tight budget. Everyone’s feeling the squeeze so don’t be embarrassed about it.

SAVVY TIP: Make the most of sales and discounts but don’t get sucked into buying something just because it’s a bargain

Here are some tips on presents that cost less from SavvyWoman users and some of my Twitter followers:

  1. 1. Set aside money throughout the year: Work out how much you can spend on everyone. Don’t go above your limit.

2. It really is the thought that counts. Put together a scrapbook of special times together.

3. Use 3 for 2 discounts from supermarkets and loyalty points.

4. Search online before you buy: there can be quite a big difference in the price.

5. If you have family members who work for a retailer or company, use their discount.

6. Do a ‘secret Santa’ with a group of friends; so you set a limit or buy one present between you.

7. Make gifts: handmade biscuits or chocolates usually go down well.

8. Use old Christmas cards as decorations or gift tags.

9. Don’t worry about spending the same on each child when it comes to stocking fillers or even having the same number of presents. Concentrate on finding them something they’ll like.

10. Buy in the sales if you can. If you’re not going to see friends or relatives until after the new year you don’t need to buy their present by Christmas Eve when you’ve got a million other things to do.

Save money when shopping online or on the high street

Wherever you decide to buy you should know your rights and, if you’re buying face to face, haggle. Many retailers will give you a discount, especially in the current tough environment. And if they won’t give you money off, ask if they’ll give you an upgrade or throw in extras for free.

  • Know your rights. If you buy online or over the phone you have better protection than if you buy face to face but some retailers either don’t seem to know the rules or fob off their customers. The law says if you order something online and it doesn’t arrive, you have the right to get your money back from the retailer (not the delivery company or postal company).

Save money on food shopping

Don’t go crazy for Christmas food. You see people pushing trollies around that on Christmas Eve are piled high. Unless the weather is so bad that we’re actually stranded in our homes, the shops will be open again a couple of days later.

  • Be especially careful about things like fresh fruit and vegetables as they won’t keep for long. Also watch out for buying bottles of liqueurs that you’ll go off mysteriously once Christmas is over (but well before you’ve drunk it all!).
  • Make use of supermarket offers, but check them carefully. All the big supermarkets are aggressively targeting shoppers with discounts and special deals. But check exactly what you’re getting. The small print can mean they’re nowhere near as good as they look. Also, some people have contacted me to say that offers that are being advertised in a store aren’t being applied at the till.

Set a budget

Keep an eye on what you’re spending. If you bank online you can very easily see what you’re spending. Otherwise sign up for one of the free smartphone apps that lets you track your spending as you go along (the spendometer from The Money Charity is one option).

Involve your kids and tell them that there’s less money this year. Lots of parents feel very guilty or that they have to make up for a difficult year. Try not to but do explain to your children that there’s less to go round, or that Santa won’t be able to bring such big presents, depending on the age of your child!

SAVVY TIP: If you have a good credit record, switch to a 0% balance transfer deal credit card if you can, but bear in mind that around 50% of people who apply for credit cards get rejected.

Related articles:

What can you do with Christmas presents you don’t want? Return? Regift? Recycle?

Christmas shopping; your questions answered

How to make some extra cash; generating income without too much effort.

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