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48 Xmas MoneySaving Tips

Act now to slash costs

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Jenny | Edited by Steve N

Updated 23 Jan 2017

Christmas may only just have gone but now is the perfect time to start saving for the next round of festive fun. We've a sackful of tips to help you prep like a pro.

We show you how to get cheap fancy perfume, bag hidden local eBay bargains as gifts, spread the cost and much more (it works for Chanukah, Eid and others too).

Plan for affordability, not desirability

Before you start planning, consider this: many list every lusted-for item, gifts for all, and a corking meal, then only afterwards consider: "How will I pay for it?" That's a recipe to be broke.

Instead, calculate your budget (see our free Budget Planner), and ask: "What can I afford to spend on Christmas?" Christmas is one day – don't ruin the whole of the next year for it.

Is it time to BAN unnecessary Christmas presents?

Consider not giving next Christmas. We're not talking about gifts from parents or to grandchildren, but the ever-widening glut of friends, extended family and colleagues.

Christmas isn't a retail festival – we need to end obliged giving and think more about what we're giving, to whom and why.

If you're yelling over your wrapping paper "what about the joy of giving?", remember gift-giving creates an obligation on recipients to give back, whether they can afford it or not. For some, the gift of "not obliging you to buy for me" is actually better. Read Scrooge McLewis's blog: Ban unnecessary Christmas gifts.

You could always make a No Unnecessary Present Pact (NUPP) with friends, or at least agree to a Secret Santa or £5 to £10 cap on gifts. If you're scared to broach this taboo, our free NUPP Tool generates the email for you.

Give charity gifts

Want to give, but don't want to waste cash on tat? Yule love our rundown of wonderful and weird Charity Gifts, which includes how much goes to good causes.

Gifts start from a few pounds and include school supplies, clean water or livestock.

Boost funds by 4% with supermarket stamps

Supermarket saving stamp schemes encourage year-long saving for Christmas, yet a loophole allows you to get a year's bonus in one day.

Most shops pay it depending on how much you've saved by a specific day or month. So dunk the cash in the day before, and the store will add up to 4% on top, but the cash must be spent at its shops. Full info in Xmas Spending Boost.

Save with the free Christmas IOU generator

Before Christmas is the year's costliest shopping time; January sales the cheapest. So if you're after a big-ticket family purchase such as a telly or games console… wait. Give the kids a nicely wrapped IOU, telling them you're waiting for the sales.

You could also buy a small extra gift from potential savings to show the benefit of waiting. This way, kids get a triple whammy: the gift, the extra and a lesson in money sense. Use our Christmas IOU Generator.

Amazon hidden gift discounts of 80%+

It's the original e-giant, and like any megastore the challenge is to see behind the shelves to grab mega-discounts. Our Amazon Discount Finder manipulates Amazon web links to create customised bargain-basement pages, such as TV 25% off*, handbags 75% off* and beauty 70% off*.

Remember – just because it's discounted doesn't mean it's a bargain. In the tool there's an input box for the CamelCamelCamel site, which lets you instantly check a product's Amazon price history to see if it has sold for less. Then use our MegaShopBot to check its price elsewhere.

Got a top tip we haven't listed? Tell us in the 40+ Christmas tips discussion.

Need fast Christmas cash? Flog it

If a few quid more in the Xmas fund would really help, act now. Flogging owt via eBay's a good way to start – our 40+ eBay Selling Tricks guide is a crash course.

Local Facebook has been snapping at eBay's heels as the place to flog unwanted stuff, though. The best bit is sales are often instant and there are NO fees, so you keep the profit. See Facebook Selling Tips for a how-to.

If you prefer speed and ease rather than max price, several sites let you enter details, they offer a price, and you post goods free. Full info in our Flog It guide.

Buy a cheap turkey – and don't forget to downshift

With an "It's Christmas! We need the best!" battle cry, everyone raids the supermarket shelves. Yet don't assume you'll prefer higher-brand goods.

To test this, on Martin's TV show he held a blind taste-test party for nurses at a hospital with champers, turkeys and more. They preferred the lower-brand goods or couldn't tell the difference most (62%) of the time.

So, don't be a retail snob. Taste with your tongue, not by looking at the packaging. And buy what's right for you, not the shop.

Don't forget to try our fun Downshift Challenge Tool to see if you can cut everyday costs by £1,000s.

If you're planning a huge shop, go to Mysupermarket* and it'll compare the cost of goods at the big online supermarkets. These prices are similar in store.

50 sub-£5 gifts – our Festive Fivers

Our Festive Fivers contest challenges forumites to come up with the best 'make or buy' sub-£5 presents.

Past inspirational ideas have included 12 Dates of Christmas, a date night package for someone you love (or lust after) – from a picnic in the park to a candlelit bubble bath. Or how about a homemade vinyl wall clock, or personalised e-reader case? See 50 Festive Fivers for a full list.

Swap the bank's chequebook for our free Christmas gift cheques

Presents don't have to equate to big bucks. Whether it's a 'massage' (nudge, nudge) for your loved one, babysitting or letting the kids have a sleepover, your time could be the best present. So pledge to do something nice, not spend, by printing our free Christmas gift cheques.

Be wary when buying gift cards

If you're considering giving gift cards or vouchers, read our Gift Voucher Warning first. There are three things you should be aware of:

  • Sometimes retailers go bust. A host of big name retailers have gone into administration in recent years. When this happens, they usually stop accepting cards altogether.
  • Gift cards have expiry dates. Most gift cards must be redeemed within a certain period of time, so the recipient needs to spend them before time runs out.
  • They could forget or lose them. Often people forget to use them, lose them or accidentally run them through the wash.

Remember, kids aren't retail snobs

Young children don't value your gift based on price – they often seem more interested playing with the wrapping. So don't shell out big bucks unnecessarily.

A perennial favourite of this site's Festive Fiver Christmas gift contests is the balloon box. Get a huge box, fill it tight with blown-up balloons, then wrap it. Though be careful to ensure burst balloon bits don't get in mouths.

Get fancy perfumes for a basic price

Forget department stores. A whole bunch of specialist online sellers offer perfume for a fraction of the high street price.

Better still, buy the even cheaper unboxed bottles, then get a pretty box and wrapping for a couple of quid. Read the Cheap Perfumes guide for full help.

Also, see the Great 'smell-a-like perfumes' hunt and the results of the MSE smell-alike test, where we sniff out dirt-cheap dead ringers for posh perfumes. MoneySavers say Next's Just Pink smells like Ralph Lauren Romance, while M&S True Red is similar to Hugo Boss Deep Red.

Find the cheapest place to buy gifts in seconds

The web usually smacks the high street's bottom on price. To help, shopbots are special shopping robots that search the net to find the cheapest CDs, books, games or anything else.

As different shopbots are better at different things, we built a free MegaShopBot tool to auto-search for you. For a full how-to guide, see 40+ Online Shopping Tricks.

Need to borrow? Get a 0% card

Far better to budget, but no matter what we say, some will borrow. The longest 0% spending cards are Sainsbury's* and MBNA* at up to 29 months (use our free eligibility calculator). Yet plan repayments to clear it well before next Christmas, and definitely before the 0% ends, as they then jump to 18.9% representative APR.

See the 0% Spending guide for full options. If you can't get 0% and it was your only option, frankly, cancel Christmas spending. Just enjoy a family meal, raise a glass and focus on a financially good New Year.

Watch Martin's cost-effective Christmas video tips

Cut the cost of the festive season with tips from Martin in the video below.

The Video Guide – The 12 saves of Christmas

Courtesy of Watchdog, BBC, December 2009

Find hidden local eBay bargains

Whether Wiis or children's books, eBay sellers often specify items must be collected in person. As this means fewer bids, there are bargains to be had.

You can't normally search collection-only, so we've built a mapping tool. Tell our Local eBay Deals Mapper your postcode, how far you're prepared to schlep, and it maps nearby gems. (Also check out our iPhone and Android apps.)

For more help detecting hidden bargains, our eBay Buying Secrets guide lists tools which find underpriced goods, exploit spelling mistakes and auto-bid to seal deals.

Find and share Christmas tips on the MSE Forum

To help with Crimbo preparation, the Special Occasions board is full of top tips to cut the festive season's cost. MoneySavers post bargain prezzies and decorations, and share suggestions on having a more affordable Christmas.

Grab cashback on prezzies

With cashback sites, you sign up for free, then click through them to buy something. They get paid for sending traffic and give some of this to you, netting some £100s a year. Never let the cashback dictate where you spend. Focus on the cheapest deal, then see if cashback's available. Full explanation in Top Cashback Sites.

Get a letter from Santa (or personalised video)

Give your little ones a bit of magic at Christmas. We'll include the link for free replies from Santa and his elves when it's ready.

Plus, our Santa Freebies guide includes a nifty site that, with a few personal details, creates a personalised video message.

Chat to family and friends for free via the web

Christmas should be a time for family and friends but if yours are a long way away, save on the phone costs with free alternatives and talk for free anywhere in the world over the web. Most smartphones also let you download apps to do this via Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G. See Free Web Calls.

Yet for web to phone, don't believe the Skype hype. The best way to go about this depends on your circumstances – our Cheap UK and International Calls guide lists the options.

Sell old gold for a quick cash hit

It's not just wise men who are interested in gold at Christmas. If you've unwanted gold you could sell it and use the proceeds to help with the cost of Crimbo.

Beware postal hucksters who offer you far less than your jewellery's worth. Instead get a quote online, send in gold for verification and they'll make an offer.

Even then, many companies can be unreliable, including some TV-advertised big names. But among the scrap are shining examples. For a list of top gold buyers plus full warnings, see the Gold Selling guide.

Slash the cost of sending Xmas cash abroad

Whether for a Stateside nephew or a grandchild in Australia, transferring money overseas doubles the currencies, complication and cost. See our Sending Money Abroad guide for best buys, including your protection if it goes wrong.

Double-check Christmas delivery's specified

If Christmas goods are late, you can only complain if you or the retailer specified (and can prove) it was for pre-Christmas delivery. Then it's a breach of contract, and you've a right to a refund. Even if Christmas delivery isn't specified, things should be delivered within a 'reasonable time'.

Track Santa as he delivers prezzies

Check out this nifty site to watch Santa's progress bringing gifts for your little ones on Christmas Eve. Log on to NoradSanta to see how his most recent trip went.

Find big discounts at online outlet stores

Many drive miles to outlet villages to snap up end-of-line bargains. Yet now, lots of high street and high-end shops have online outlet stores. You can usually find them on eBay or via special websites.

Our Discount Outlets guide lists the best – big names include Argos, Boden, Superdry and many more.

Set up an Xmas cupboard

Make a list of who you need to buy for and whenever you see goods at kick-bum prices, grab, wrap, and stuff 'em in a Christmas cupboard.

Keep your eyes peeled for discounts and deals on our Vouchers, Hot Bargains and Sales pages. We'll also let you know the best via the weekly email.

For cheap yet thoughtful gifts, the Photo Print Finder lists the top photo book, canvas, card and calendar discount codes.

Uncover hidden BIG brand flash sales

To hint at exclusivity, a range of branded and designer goods e-tailers operate 'membership clubs'. You register for free, then they send alerts for online flash sales lasting a few days. A bit poncy, but it can mean big discounts. Our big list of Secret Sales reveals the best.

Feed the starving for free

It's become an MSE tradition at Christmas to remind MoneySavers of those in need. You may still be counting the pennies, yet there are many ways to donate for free.

Click through to The Hunger Site and amid a pile of banners you'll see an orange button at the top of the page with the message 'Click here – it's free!' Do so and a cup of a staple foodstuff is bought for someone, somewhere, who is hungry.

Is there a catch? No. It's a win-win-win situation for those in need, the user and the sponsors, as they create good public relations for themselves. There's a full list of sites and how they work in Feed The Starving for Free.

Corking wine and bubbly deals

Whether you want to search by type, country or grape, you can use our Wine Discount Finder to find the biggest discount or cheapest crate at Tesco Wine, M&S, Majestic and others. We also list codes to save you more.

For bargain Christmas bubbly, see Champagne Deals. We hope you pay less, not drink more – be Drinkaware.

Don't save Tesco vouchers for festive food

First, quickly check if you can Reclaim Tesco Vouchers online. So many find big cash, often £100, we can't stop banging on about this.

Yet don't save them for Christmas food treats. First check Tesco's Clubcard Boost partners to get up to 4x your points' value (£10 becomes £10, £20 or £40) on items such as jewellery or restaurant vouchers.

For more details, see Boost Tesco Vouchers.

Debt worries over Xmas? Get help

Sadly, Christmas isn't jolly for all. If you (or a friend) have debt worries, read our Debt Help guide for free one-on-one help. Many say, after help, "I finally got a decent night's sleep".

Boring, but make a list – and check it twice

Christmas shopping on impulse is dangerous. So make an old-fashioned shopping list and stick to it. Remember, shops spend a fortune on targeting your spending impulses – a list helps you beat them.

Even if you're shopping on the high street, remember to benchmark the prices using shopbots first.

Sort Xmas post early

If using Royal Mail, ensure you send parcels and letters before the last posting date. The cut-off depends on where and how you send your post.

We'll add the last post dates for 2017 nearer the time.

Use the web to cut delivery costs

Sending a package to friends? If it's more than 2kg, you can save a packet (sorry) using a discount web courier instead of Royal Mail – and even have goods collected from your home. See Cheap Parcel Delivery.

Comping for Crimbo prezzies

Try comping – systematically sourcing and entering 100s of the right competitions using web gadgets. From cars to five-star USA holidays, MoneySavers have won it all. Smaller prizes such as toys, handbags and gift vouchers make cracking gifts. No guarantees, but why not try? See the 40+ Comping Tips guide.

Secret Santa can keep costs down

Why not follow the old tradition of Secret Santa? This is where a group of work colleagues, friends, or even a school class, set a budget and secretly draw names for who needs to buy for whom. This way you need only buy one present for the group, rather than for many.

Pay by credit card if it's over £100

Sadly, firms go bust. If that happens and ordered goods haven't arrived, or have but are faulty, it's a nightmare. However, Section 75 laws mean if you use a credit card (not debit card, cheque or cash) to pay even partly for something costing between £100 and £30,000, the card company's jointly liable for the whole amount.

If the firm goes bust, you can get redress from the card firm instead – valuable extra protection. Though only do this if you can clear the card in full each month to avoid interest.

Section 75 doesn't apply to purchases under £100, but there's still an option which can help if you use a Visa, Mastercard or Amex credit card, or any debit or charge card.

If the goods don't appear or are faulty, you can ask your bank/card provider to reclaim the cash from the seller's bank, so long as you start the chargeback process within 120 days of realising there's a problem. See the Chargeback guide.

Write 'it's a gift' on the receipt (if it is)

Legally, only the person who bought the gift has rights, so the recipient can't exchange. Many shops ignore this, but for safety, use a gift receipt or get the shop to write on its copy of the receipt, and yours, that it's a gift and who it's for. Rights are then transferred. For more info, see the Consumer Rights guide.

DON'T think 'no receipt' means 'no return'

With faulty goods, you just need to prove you purchased them. This could be the receipt but other legit records, such as bank statements, should be fine.

If you've no legal right but are just utilising a store's returns policy, if it requires a receipt, you need it. See Consumer Rights for more.

Buy your stocking fillers from China?

Discount stores such as Poundland make a killing by buying items from China at rock-bottom prices and flogging them here. So why not cut out the middleman? Giant online marketplaces such as AliExpress let individual traders from East Asia sell direct to UK buyers. Delivery can take six weeks, so it's worth planning ahead.

When we tested this, we found £1.90 stripy T-shirts, 70p iPhone 6 cases and £1.70 women's belts including postage – perfect for stocking fillers.

Yet you'll need to keep your wits about you to avoid unexpected customs charges and shoddy goods. Full help in 12 Buying From China Tips.

Bag 5% off ALL Christmas shopping

Cashback credit cards pay you every time you spend on 'em. You grab one, set up a direct debit to repay in full every month so it's interest-free, and to boost the gain, use it for all spending.

The Amex Platinum Everyday* credit card pays 5% cashback on your first three months' spending (max £100). You could apply in autumn 2017 for spending over next year's Christmas period. ALWAYS set up a monthly direct debit to avoid its 22.9% rep APR. Full help and more options in Top Cashback Cards.

Grab end-of-sale bargains

Grab giftwrap, Christmas cards, baubles, decorations or even a new plastic tree as heavy discounts hit in January.

Don't think we're a nutty lone voice saying January's the time. By the first week of January 2015, in a poll of 9,000 MoneySavers, 63% had already bought Christmas 2015's cards and wrap, 27% crackers and 19% decorations.

Give cheap reindeer poo and more

MoneySaving's about cutting bills, not cutting back – thrift's about spending time, not cash. Its doyens live in our Old Style Forum Board and Thriftmas Board, its seasonal baby. There are hundreds of tips in there – here are a few for inspiration.

  • Give kids snowman soup and reindeer poo. Little'uns don't care what it costs. A perennial favourite's snowman soup – hot chocolate, marshmallows and some choc chips, all wrapped up in a cellophane cone. Or naughtier, there's reindeer poo. Kids go ape for easy-to-make sock monkeys too.
  • Thrifty cards, decorations and more. Get crafty, and rustle up some decorations, cards and wrapping paper that would put Kirstie Allsopp to shame. Get kids involved too, with hand prints or potato stamps on cards/brown paper.
  • The complete Old Style Christmas dinner compendium. Enjoy tastier, not pricier, festive food with this Christmas dinner compendium, from sprucing up sprouts to the best mince pies ever.

Free Christmas wallet armour

Shops can be sticklers at Xmas, so arm yourself by printing our free Christmas consumer rights wallet mini-guide and you'll be permanently tooled up with your legal rights.

Start saving early to spread the cost

A typical family spends £796, according to YouGov. Yet many struggle to foot it from December's pay packet alone and end up borrowing.

So why not put money aside from January, at no cost? Better than borrowing and paying back later with interest. Work out your budget, then use our Top Savings Accounts guide to find the most profitable home for your cash.

If you can't afford to save, cut your cloth accordingly.

Book train tickets in advance

Rail operators generally launch tickets from 12 weeks before the date of travel, so if you want to buy cheap tickets for Christmas, check prices then, as they vanish quickly.

But never assume you've missed the boat (or rather train). Always check if cheap advance tickets are still available the night before travelling – you may even be able to get some on the day. See how to book early, late.

Our 20 Cheap Train Tips includes full help, plus more tips such as booking cheap 'advance' tickets on the day, using £10 Tesco points for £20 train tickets and splitting your tickets.

Earn with DemoHoHotivation

Small sacrifices can boost your Christmas coffers. People swear by (and at) our DemoHoHotivator tool, which reveals how much you could save on coffees, snacks and other discretionary purchases to put in your Christmas fund. Try it to see how much you could save.

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