This is a crucial warning. I’ve just had it confirmed that Christmas will be on December 25 this year. You may be thinking “that’s not a surprise”.
Yet if that’s true, why are so many skint in January, as if it crept up on them?
Don’t get me wrong, I hate grottos and jingle bells in September as much as the next man – bah humbug! Yet this isn’t about celebrating early, it’s about urgently preparing your pocket now for the big day to save £100s. Here are my top ten.
1. Try some spending DemoHoHotivation.
Small spending sacrifices can make a big difference.
If you buy a can of Coke and a packet of crisps costing £2.50 every working day, and you stopped now and saved the cash, you’d have £162.50 (£2.50 x 65). The same works with a daily coffee, cigarettes, or catching the bus when you can walk.
I’m not saying you should give it up, but that you can make an active choice. Would you prefer the cash at Christmas or the daily treat? For a full tool that’ll add up all the savings, try demohohotivator.com
2. Bag five per cent off ALL Christmas shopping.
Capital One’s Aspire World credit card (capitalone.co.uk/aspire) pays a big five per cent cashback (up to a maximum of £100) on ALL spending in the first 99 days (up to 1.25 per cent after). Therefore apply now to use it for all your normal spending and Christmas shopping to get serious cashback on your spend – though that’s not paid until January. Do remember to set up a monthly direct debit to fully repay the balance to avoid the 19.9 per cent rep APR.
If you have a poor credit score, you can still get three per cent cashback with the Aqua Reward card (aquacard.co.uk/creditcards/ reward-card), up to a maximum of £100 a year. It’s designed as a credit rebuild card - where you use it each month to boost your credit score – and it even accepts some with older CCJs or defaults.
Though you must ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS fully repay or it’s a huge 34.9 per cent representative APR.
3. Put money aside each month from now.
A typical family’s Christmas spending is £600, which is too much for December’s income alone. Work out your likely spend and put a quarter aside in September, October and November to spread the cost.
4. Don’t use Tesco vouchers for festive food.
A £10 voucher is worth just £10 in-store, yet you can triple its value (so £10 becomes £30) on gift items such as jewellery or breakdown cover. Plus, I suspect in November it’ll relaunch its instore ‘double-up’ scheme, letting you get double value on selected items, possibly including frozen food. Plus you can boost this by reclaiming lost old points. Some people find £100s worth – for full info on how, see moneysavingexpert.com/tescoreclaim
5. Got it and don’t need it?
Flog it now for Christmas cash.
Many old items can be worth serious cash. As a simple rule, if you haven’t used it since last Christmas, consider flogging it to build up extra cash, whether that’s on eBay or at car boot sales.
With old mobiles, don’t just send it to the first company you see advertised on the telly - there can be price differences of £100s depending on the handset, so compare, or use my mobilevaluer.com tool to do it for you.
6. Comp for crimbo prezzies.
If you’ve nowt to sell, try comping for a bit of fun – sourcing and entering hundreds of competitions using web gadgets. From cars to five-star USA holidays, MoneySavers have won it all.
There are no guarantees, but why not try it? A number of websites are dedicated to showing you how.
It’s about putting in the hours, systematically entering hundreds of competitions, rather than doing the odd contest. This way, you’re statistically more likely to win big.
7. Time to ban Christmas presents?
Christmas isn’t a retail festival.
Yet gift inflation sees people give to an ever-widening range of extended family and colleagues.
So maybe it’s time to ban gift giving to the ever increasing list of extended family, colleagues and friends. Read my full manifesto on it at moneysavingexpert.com/banchristmas
For a less militant stance, you could agree a ‘no unnecessary presents’ pact with friends, to donate to charity or a secret Santa.
8. Buying for a friend? Note it down.
If you’re buying a present, remember only the person who bought goods has statutory rights to take it back and get a refund if it’s faulty. So if you give a gift, technically the recipient can’t return it. So use a gift receipt, or if it’s not available, note down that it’s a gift (preferably on the slip the retailer keeps) to transfer the rights.
9. Get a Christmas cupboard.
If you’re buying gifts, put them aside in a ‘Christmas cupboard’.
Then when discount bargains or vouchers appear, or shops do their one-off sales as Debenhams, John Lewis and Next have just done, you can pounce, grab the bargain, wrap it and pop it away.
10. Don’t borrow for Christmas, but if you do, ensure it’s zero per cent.
The longest zero per cent spending credit card for new cardholders is Tesco’s 16-month zero per cent. Yet, as with any credit card, you need to plan repayments. You should plan to clear it before next Christmas, but definitely before the representative APR jumps to 16.9 per cent. For full help, see moneysavingexpert.com/0%cards
Extra ways to save money
● Don’t pay to call 0800 numbers from mobiles.
Freephones aren’t – er – free from mobiles (yet), they cost up to a nasty 40p/min. Yet 0800buster.co.uk lets you ring them via a local number, so they’re part of your inclusive minutes.
Full how-to at moneysavingexpert.com/0800buster
● Get an instant 30 per cent off Odeon cinema voucher.
To get a voucher for 30 per cent off Odeon tickets, go to moneysavingexpert.com/cinema
It’s valid on any film Sunday to Thursday until October 18, 2012.