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. I couldn’t persuade them to let me do it on the 25th (of January) as I’d have liked. But The Martin Lewis Money Show, at 8pm on 12 November (or catch it on ITV player), may well be the earliest Christmas special in TV history. So as we’re now in the Thriftsmas spirit, here are some top tips for starters:
- Xmas Travelodge rooms £17 – £25
Visiting relatives for Christmas and can’t quite stand the idea of spending all day and night there? Budget hotel chain Travelodge has launched a room sale at £17-£25 for December to February. Crucially, this includes Christmas (though not New Year’s Eve). They do this in tranches, so when the rooms are gone, they’re gone.
- 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 5% off ALL Xmas 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 (min income £20,000) pays a HUGE 5% back, up to £100, on ALL spending in the first three months, then up to 1.25%. So apply now and happily, the big cashback should cover most Christmas and January sales spending (fail to fully repay and it’s 19.9% representative APR).
If your credit score isn’t up to that, the www.luma.co.uk/cashback Luma Cashback card pays a consistent 4% 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.
Though be especially careful – if you fail to repay IN FULL each month, it’s 35.9% representative APR.
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.
If you’re saying that won’t work, because you’ve no spare cash, then I’m afraid you may need to go cold turkey and massively cut back. Far better than a nasty debt-scarred New Year.
- Find cheapest prices with shopbotsWhatever 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, eg, 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. Read the full theory behind this at www.mse.me/banchristmas
- Don’t borrow for Christmas, but if you do, ensure it’s 0%
Christmas borrowing’s a bad idea. Far better to go, er, 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 0% SPENDING card.The longest is www.tescobank.com 18 months 0%, yet even though it lasts more than a year (provided you make the min repayments), plan to clear it before next Xmas or you’ll compound your problems. If you don’t clear before the 0% ends, beware. It’ll jump to 16.9% representative APR.
10. Don’t use Tesco vouchers for festive food
Many people save their vouchers for festive food. Yet Tesco offers two ‘boost’ schemes. The first is with its partners, where vouchers can be worth three times their normal value on gift items such as jewellery, or twice the usual value on train tickets.
It also has its Xmas double-up scheme, which gives twice vouchers’ value on selected festive items in-store and online, including toys, gifts, and Finest brand champagne and wine. So see if you need these before just spending in-store.
FREE tea/coffee every day at Waitrose
Sign up for special card at waitrose.com/mywaitrose to get a free regular tea or coffee every day. Simply walk in and show your card. You can choose from from Americano, cappuccino, latte, tea, mocha or espresso.
Amex user? Free £5 for writing a TripAdvisor review
Sign up at www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Amex-c0 and connect your Amex to your Tripadvisor account (just click connect). Just submit a review before 31 Dec and £5 will be credited to your Amex account within 90 days.
For further tips watch THE MARTIN LEWIS MONEY SHOW: 12 SAVES OF CHRISTMAS on ITV, 8pm on Tuesday 12th November. www.moneysavingexpert.com