Today marks 100 days until Christmas, so here are 12 tips from MoneySavingExpert.com which you can do now to make sure you spend less on the big day.
We don't like tinsel and Jingle Bells before December any more than the next person, but like any major annual expenditure, planning for Christmas is crucial (see our 40 Christmas MoneySaving Tips for help).
The best time to start's January, but with 100 days to go till Christmas, there are still ways to save big. Here's how:
1. Don't pay for Christmas from December's income. Never just plot a Christmas lust list of everything you want. A typical family's Christmas spending is £835, too much for December's income alone. So work out now what you can afford to put aside in September, October, November and December.
Once you know how much you've got, ask: "What's the best possible Christmas we can have on that?"
2. Free £100 Amazon voucher in time for Christmas. The Amex Gold* charge card gives accepted customers who spend £2,000 on it within three months 20,000 bonus reward points – convertible into a £100 Amazon voucher. The points arrive as soon as you hit £2,000, so if your normal spending would cover that, just do it on the card and bingo, free Amazon voucher for Christmas.
But remember, 1) this is a charge card (minimum income £20k), designed to be fully repaid each month, so there's no interest. Fail to do that and you get a £12 charge and credit file default. 2) The card's fee-free in year one, but £125 annually after, so if you don't want to pay that, cancel before then (see our Credit Card Freebies guide for more).
3. Christmas and New Year Travelodge rooms for £21. If you're visiting relatives, budget chain Travelodge still has some £21 rooms for 23 December to 2 January. Go quick to bag prime dates (see our Travelodge Sale page for the full info).
4. 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 Amex Platinum Everyday* (min income £20,000) pays a HUGE 5% back, up to £100, on ALL spending in the first three months. After that, the cashback's up to 1.25%. So apply now and happily, the big cashback will cover all Christmas spending (fail to fully repay and it's 19.9% rep APR).
If your credit score isn't great, the Capital One Classic Extra* accepts some with older CCJs/defaults and pays 0.5% cashback on all spending. Though if you fail to fully repay, it's a monstrous 34.9% representative APR (full step-by-step help in our Top Cashback Cards guide).
5. Try some DemoHoHotivation. Our DemoHoHotivator tool shows how small sacrifices can save you large. For example, how much you can boost your Christmas cash by cutting out something like a daily cappuccino or weekly magazine.
We're not saying do it, just work out which use of cash gives you more joy.
6. Ban unnecessary Christmas presents? Christmas isn't a retail festival. Yet gift inflation sees people give to an ever-widening glut of extended family and colleagues. The joy of giving can be selfish if it obliges someone to buy you one back. Read Martin's Ban Christmas Gifts? blog and consider a No Unnecessary Presents Pact.
7. 40 tricks to boost online shopping power. Use the web's power to cut the cost of most gifts. Full info in our 40 Online Shopping Tricks, including:
a) Shopping comparison sites find the cheapest prices for all goods – MegaShopBot.com searches the best for each type.
b) Build secret 75%+ bargain basements with Amazon Discount Finder.
c) Map hidden Local eBay Deals with free tools and smartphone apps.
d) Keep an eye out for Photo Book and Canvas Codes.
8. 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 Tesco's 18 months 0%*. Yet even though it lasts more than a year (provided you make the minimum repayments), plan to clear it before next Christmas or you'll compound your problems. If you don't clear before the 0% ends, beware – it'll jump to 16.9% representative APR. (Full help in our Top 0% Cards guide or check your chances of getting it in our Eligibility Checker.)
9. Thriftsmas – crafty ways to make everything you need. The Old Style forum board's Christmas Prep 2013 thread's about how to thriftily spend time, rather than cash, to DIY. Gems include crafty cards, magic reindeer food (edible glitter and oats) and cute monkeys made from old socks as prezzies.
10. Got it and don't need it? Flog it now for fast Christmas cash. Many old items can be worth serious cash. Our MobileValuer comparison finds the best payer for any handset – you can get £100s. Plus see eBay Selling for tools and tips on getting the maximum value for any wares at the online auction giant.
11. Don't use Tesco vouchers for festive food. A £10 voucher is worth just £10 in-store. Yet you can triple its value (£10 becomes £30) on gift items such as jewellery, or use its in-store 'double-up' scheme to get 2x value year-round on selected items, including fragrance and clothing. (See our Reclaim and Boost Tesco Vouchers guide for more (some find £100+).)
12. Set up a Christmas cupboard, then pounce on the biggest discounts. Don't waste time and money, be a tactical Christmas shopper. Decide what you want, make a list, get a Christmas cupboard ready to put stuff in, then wait until what you're buying's at the cheapest price.
To find those kick-bum prices: a) Our free weekly email will include all the big bargains, vouchers and one-day sales. b) Regularly check our Vouchers, Hot Bargains and Sales pages for even more. c) Use the Forum WOW Deals Feed to track MSE forum users' best-rated deals, updated every minute.
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