Christmas is always expensive – but this year many families will have to pay more for it. UK households are struggling with higher food prices, fuel bills and interest rates due to the cost of living crisis, while taxes are also rising.
Although the average household in Britain spent an extra £1,000 in December last year compared to a normal month, according to YouGov data, most households can save money this year.
Follow our tips on how to look after pennies this Christmas and turn them into extra pounds.
Participate in competitions
December is a favorite month for ‘compers’ – those who enter competitions to win prizes. Many big brands launch festive giveaways to reward loyal customers and attract new ones. It’s possible to win gadgets, vacations, cash prizes, toys and more. Use search terms like ’12 Days of Christmas’ and ‘Advent Contest’ on social media to find some of the running contests.
Most are free to enter, though you’ll need to set aside some time each day to be in with a chance of winning. Sometimes you need to purchase a product and enter the code online, uploading the receipt as proof of purchase.
January is a big month for holidays so it’s worth keeping an eye on the big travel companies’ websites and social media pages. It’s also the month when you’ll see many brands offering the chance to win a year’s supply of products like loo rolls and cleaning supplies. So keep your eyes peeled for competitions after Christmas.
Use local sales groups
Kids tire of toys quickly and there are always cheaper options for toys, games and clothing on platforms like Facebook, Gumtree and Vinted. Most are used, but some may be new or like new.
If you’re looking to save money on food and drink, use resources like Olio and Too Good To Go. These apps aim to stop food waste by giving away surplus food for free or charging a small fee – you can pick up anything from vegetables to sandwiches.
In the week leading up to Christmas last year, Morrisons supermarket extended a ‘magic bag’ offer via the Too Good to Go app. Currently priced at £3.09, the bags are filled with £10 worth of food.
Spend loyalty points
If you shop regularly with the same supermarket, you may have earned points through its loyalty scheme. Sainsbury’s has the Nectar Card, Tesco has the Clubcard and Morrisons has its Morrisons More scheme.
When you spend in-store or online, you can earn points with either the physical or digital version of the card. Some shoppers choose to save their points throughout the year and use them to get money off their Christmas food shop.
A quick way to earn up to £200 is to switch banks and it’s very easy to do. Open a new account online with the bank of your choice, then request a full switch from an existing current account. Current Account Switch Service (CASS) means this process takes about seven days.
Your money, direct debits and standing orders will be transferred from the old account to the new account. Your old account will normally be closed. Notify individuals and organizations about your new bank details. But don’t worry too much if you forget, any payments accidentally made to your old account will be automatically transferred to your new account for the first three years.
Andy Webb details the best switching deals in the market today at Metro Money.
‘I will start looking for competitions from September. I’ve won hampers, holidays – prizes worth thousands’
Customer service adviser Emma Richardson, 43, from Essex, is paying for Christmas this year with the help of competition gift prizes.
She recently won three football training tops for her children aged 23, 16 and 13. Emma won £200 in Tesco vouchers via the Coca-Cola app and will spend them on turkey and other food for Christmas Day.
Other hits include a Christmas jumper and an advent calendar, as well as M&S hand cream, which she uses as a stocking filler. Last month she won a 50-inch 4K TV and sound bar system worth £1,000 in a Fanta competition.
‘There’s a lot of football-related competition at the moment because of the World Cup,’ says Emma.
‘I’ll be keeping my eye out from September for competitions to help with Christmas. Last year I won a hamper from Cadbury and Costa Coffee and hope to win a hamper this year.’
She recommends looking for local radio contests and following big brands on social media to see when they’re giving away prizes. Emma contributes tips to websites including Kamper de Kock’s Superlucky blog, PriceFinder and Locwax, and she is a member of several competition groups on Facebook. ‘For me, it’s about the buzz of competitions and the thrill of winning,’ she says.
‘I either go online for free or buy what I use anyway. This year I won £1,000 easyJet vouchers over two months, which I will use for a family holiday to Majorca next year. I have been participating in competitions for several years and have won thousands of valuable products and experiences.’
Be careful with credit
A credit card can help you manage your money by spreading the spending on purchases. If you have a credit card that offers zero percent interest on purchases, you won’t pay any interest if you repay the full amount before the offer expires. Barclaycard offers zero per cent interest on purchases for up to 25 months – the longest deal currently on the market.
NatWest, HSBC and M&S have zero per cent buying periods of more than 20 months. So if you spend £500 on things at Christmas, you can pay it back gradually over two years without paying any interest.
Make sure you use the card properly – you must make minimum payments each month. And make sure you have a plan to pay the full amount before the offer ends, or else you’ll face charges.
More: 6 expert tips to save money on your Christmas dinner
More : 10 expert tips to save money on travel this Christmas
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