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Dec12

This week: Over 50 ways to save, incl... Buy €/$ now?, Nando’s hacks, Brexit help, 27mth NO FEE debt shift, £150 No7 for £39, O2 refunds

Quick message from Martin - Get this emailed

"Hi. This free, spam free weekly email is the key way to save. We put all the latest deals, guides and loopholes in, yet many close within hours. Don't miss out, join the 12m who get it each week."

12 December 2018
         
Hi - here are your latest deals, freebies, tricks and messages to help you save.
                                                           
 


 

The Christmas cost-cutting checklist - relieve the stress & pressure on your wallet

- Get £5 off £15+ train tickets
- Martin's 'How to go Christmas cold turkey'
- 16 wonderful free gifts for kids
- Free personalised gift cheques - give time, not cash


The holiday season is often painted as being warm, joyous and romantic - but the reality is some feel pressured, unprepared and stressed. So whether struggling for cash, going away, visiting family or just looking for some inspiration, we hope we can help...

For added fun, and in classic MSE fashion, we've sprinkled this with as many festive films, lyrics & phrases as we could muster. Apologies if we've missed your favourite.


  • Want to CANCEL CHRISTMAS? Read Martin's guide to going cold turkey. For many, it's the most wonderful time of the year, though not for all. If you're ill-prepared for Xmas, it may be possible to relieve pressure, increase happiness and avoid the nightmare before (and after) Christmas. Read Martin's Christmas Cold Turkey blog.

  • 16 ways to make it one magic Christmas for kids - for free (or very cheap). This'll help make sure the little ones are simply having a wonderful Christmas time. See MSE Jenny's Free Christmas Magic blog, from driving after dark to admire twinkling streets, to tracking Santa on Christmas Eve.

  • £5 off £15+ train tickets - and more tricks to cut costs on your Christmas carriage.  You may not get Rudolph at the reins or be on the Polar Express, but we've blagged a deal for the first 2,500 who take advantage to get £5 off any train ticket in Eng, Scot or Wales that costs £15+, excl season tickets. 

    You can use it to travel on trains right up until the night before Christmas or beyond. Full info and exclusions in Cheap Train Tickets, incl more tricks such as how far ahead you can buy a cheap advance ticket.

  • Driving home (or somewhere else) for Christmas? Save on expensive petrol & diesel. Prices have dipped in recent weeks but unleaded still remains on avg 19p/L more than 2yrs ago - an annoyance for those already used to being top to toe in tailbacks and with red lights all around. 

    A simple cost-cutter is to buy from a cheap filling station, and a nifty tool finds the cheapest near you, eg, in central Birmingham we found unleaded 23p/L cheaper than at stations nearby. See how to find cheap petrol & diesel, plus fuel efficiency tips.

  • Festive fivers - get cheap gift ideas. In 2012, we ran a contest to create a database of the best sub-£5 present ideas. We were swamped with wonderful, creative inspiration that left us feeling like we were walking in the air - proof that only spending a bit doesn't make you a Scrooge. And many still stand, such as creating a balloon box or a Santa sleigh bell. See the best Festive Fivers ideas

  • Get into the spirit by doing good, eg, visiting those home alone. It's easy to forget amid the consumerism blitz, but as it's a time for giving, there's nothing more Christmassy than donating your time or money. If it's a world of plenty for you, this can be to help those in need, giving charity gifts in others' names or donating blood. More ways to help in Do Good at Christmas.

  • Hit the Boxing Day sales BEFORE Christmas to bag cheaper presents - or just stuff you need. Some shops cut prices early, so you can bag a bargain while giving someone a very merry Christmas. Based on previous years, we reckon Miss Selfridge and Kurt Geiger will kick things off this week. See all our Christmas deals predictions.

  • Some say it's not a proper Crimbo without dinner - posh £104 turkey hamper for £64. Feeding a family at Xmas costs a lot. To help, many supermarkets have good deals so you shouldn't feel the need to upgrade your grub. However, if you want something fancy, and if you order by Friday, we've blagged a £64 bundle that's usually £104. It feeds 10-12 and includes free-range, outdoor-bred turkey, chipolatas, bacon etc. Christmas turkey hamperAlso see turkey alternatives.

  • All together now... last ooooorder dates. Act fast if shopping online to take advantage of free delivery in time for Christmas. Or simply to get in before the last date for shops' elves to get it delivered at all for the big day - to save you from tears... so you can get it to someone special. See last order dates for biggies incl Amazon, Boots & M&S.

  • Give time, not money - print our FREE personal gift vouchers to give as presents. With these free Christmas Gift Cheques you can give the gift of cleaning the kitchen, going on a day out or even treating your Santa baby to breakfast in bed. After all, not everyone cares about the presents underneath the Christmas tree.

  • Get full car breakdown cover for £48, basic for £11 - in case the gremlins strike when it's cold outside. Whether it's a white Christmas or not, cars are more likely to break down when it's freezing, and consequences are worse, as you (and the kids) don't want to be stuck when the weather outside is frightful. So get covered...

    Our top pick for full cover is AutoAid*, which charges £48.31/yr and covers any car you and your spouse (or civil/common law partner) drive. Crucially, unlike basic policies, it includes home breakdowns (limited to £65 per call-out) and onward travel if stuck elsewhere.


    If you prefer a basic policy, you can get RAC cover from £11 and AA from £23 via cashback. See Cheap Breakdown Cover incl how haggling can help. Also, to look after your car's elf, see how to get a free 5-point winter car check.

  • Know your gift return rights. No one sets out to give a faulty gift, but if you need to return something, it's the person who paid who has return rights. But ask for a gift receipt, or get the store to write on both copies that it's a gift when you're buying, and you'll be trading places so rights are transferred to the recipient. See returning Christmas presents.

    Plus if you order online, in most cases you've 14 days after goods arrive to cancel the order and a further 14 days to send them back. But by the time someone unwraps your prezzie, you might have missed this window - so check what you've bought is right, so someone else (hopefully) gets all they want for Christmas. See online Xmas returns.

PS: Did you spot all the Christmas puns? See our full list of festive films, themes and phrases to find out if you're as switched on as the Christmas lights.

 
 

DON'T believe the fake ads on Facebook
Lots of scam ads that litter social media lie that we or Martin promote Bitcoin, binary trading etc. See Fake ads warning.

 

 
 

STOP paying credit card interest. Shift debt to 27mths interest-free, no fee

Santander's card is now a likely top pick for most people - and everyone accepted gets the full 27mths at 0% 

If you've outstanding credit or store card debt, cutting the interest means more of your repayments clear the actual debt, so you'll be debt-free faster (provided you stop borrowing). The key weapon is a 0% balance transfer, where you get a new card to pay off existing cards, so you now owe it, but interest-free. I don't usually single out one card, but the market's changing, and sadly many top deals have got worse, so now there's one card that's best for most...

  • Santander 27mths 0% no fee - and it's not an 'up to'. Most 0% balance-transfer cards charge a one-off fee, as a % of the debt shifted. However, Santander* is 27mths 0% with no fee. So shift debt there correctly and it's totally cost-free.

    A few longer-0% cards are available. My mantra has long been 'get the card with the lowest fee in the time you're sure you can repay'. Yet while back in mid-2017 the longest 'fee' cards gave you 14mths more at 0% than the fee-free cards, now those longer 0% lengths have radically shortened. The Post Office is today's longest, but only gives 5mths more than the fee-free Santander card, so you don't get much extra for the 2% (£20 per £1,000) fee.

    Plus, unlike Santander, the Post Office is 'up to' 32mths 0%, so some get a shorter 0% period. Yet what really counts is which card YOU'LL be accepted for, so always check our 0% Balance Transfer Eligibility Calc before applying. 
BEST 0% NEW-CARDHOLDER BALANCE TRANSFER CARDS
CARD  0% LENGTH (APR AFTER 0% ENDS) FEE (1) 
Santander (eligibility calc / apply* 27mths (18.9%) None
Sainsbury's Bank (eligibility calc / apply*)  UP TO 26mths (20.9%) None
Virgin Money (apply)  29mths (20.9%) 1.75%
Post Office (apply)  UP TO 32mths (19.9%) 2%
 (1) % of debt shifted. Full info: Best Balance Transfers (APR Examples).


  • Balance Transfer Golden Rules. Full help and ALL best buys: Balance Transfers (APR Examples).

    a) Never miss the min monthly repayment, or you could lose the 0% deal and it'll cost far more.
    b) Clear the card or balance-transfer again before the 0% ends, or the rate rockets to the higher APR.
    c) Don't spend/withdraw cash. It usually isn't at the cheap rate and withdrawals hit your creditworthiness.
    d) You must usually balance-transfer within 60 or 90 days to get the 0%.

 

Brexit - as the saga rumbles on, how it impacts mortgages, flights, your rights & more. See the facts when there are facts & Martin's analysis when there aren't in our Brexit guide.

'Free' Nando's meal + 12 more cheeky chicken MoneySaving hacks. Any Nando's discount is rare but MSE's Coupon Kid has the tricks to save you an arm and a chicken leg. Nando's hacks. See also: 20+ McDonald's hacks.

O2 customers - are you due compensation after last week's outage? Also affects Giffgaff, Tesco Mobile & Sky Mobile customers. O2 compensation

£150 of No7 make-up & skincare for £39 via Boots 'Star Gift'. Hugely popular set, incl day & night cream, mascara etc. No7 set. Another one we correctly predicted in our Christmas Deals Predictor.

Ends 10am Fri. 10,000 bonus Virgin Atlantic miles via its credit card. For new customers who spend £1k in 90 days on its fee-free card - enough for a one-way to New York (you pay taxes). Full analysis & options in Airline Credit Cards

'I've made £270 in Amazon vouchers in under 3 months... taking pictures of job ads with my phone'. Find out how you can do the same in Job Spotter success.

 
 

Should I buy euros, dollars etc now given... well, Brexit?

Uncertainty is rife. The pound is yo-yoing. So if heading away over the festive period or beyond, what do you do?

After the delay to the parliamentary Brexit vote, the pound fell against the euro and dollar to at or near its lowest in about 20mths. On Tue night, £1 was worth just €1.11 and $1.25. So lots of you are asking us...

  • Should I buy euro/dollars etc now? The answer is, sorry, we don't know. And anyone who tells you they do is a liar. Currency rates fluctuate by the minute and what is certain now is high volatility. Markets don't like that nor (rightly or wrongly) the prospect of a 'no-deal' Brexit. So a political change that increases the likelihood of no deal will likely weaken the pound. The opposite strengthens it.

    Yet sadly crystal balls don't work, so predictions are futile. Martin's view is: "I just accept currency swings, and ensure I get the best rate on the day I spend (see below). Yet if you worry a big swing would make things unaffordable, take risk-mitigation measures."

  • Tactics to guard against currency swings. If you're worried, here are two tips to hedge your bets...

    - Buy half now, the rest when you spend. Get the first half at today's best rates and the rest at the time you spend (see tips below). If very nervous, ask yourself, "Would I accept today's rate?" If so, and your real fear is rates worsening so your holiday becomes unaffordable, play safe and buy more now, then ignore rates later so hindsight bitterness doesn't ruin your holiday.

    - Trick to lock in a rate now & protect against currency swings. A few bureaux de change let you order for collection at today's rate and, usually for a small fee, cancel or sell it back within 3-45 days depending on the firm - useful for Xmas and into the New Year. If the pound weakens the rate's locked in; if it improves, just cancel the order and buy at the better rate. See Currency Buy-Back Trick.

  • Get the best rate every time you spend. Specialist overseas cards are the cheapest way to spend abroad as you get near-perfect rates on the day (beating bureaux de change). And they don't charge the usual 3%-ish 'non-sterling exchange rate fee' that most cards do. Top pick for rate, and because it's easier to get, is the Starling debit card, though you can get cashback via a Barclaycard credit card if you pass a full credit check. Full options in Top Overseas Cards.

  • How to grab TODAY'S best rate. The easy way is the best cash rate, or a prepaid card...

    - Top prepaid cards. These tend to beat cash (just).  A handful of prepaid travel cards let you swap your pounds into foreign currency, meaning you can in effect lock in a rate now. Plus some offer the perfect 'interbank' rate - sometimes beating the rate you'd get with cash. Full pros and cons in Prepaid Travel Cards.

    - Best cash rates from 30+ bureaux in seconds. Our TravelMoneyMax comparison tool compares rates, so you get the most bang for your buck, baht or balboa. Yet never pay a bureau and let it hold your cash for long - you're generally not protected if it went bust.
 

Barclays now allows you to block gambling & premium line payments on its cards. The first big bank to do it, following Monzo and Starling. The move is based on research from Martin's Money & Mental Health Policy Institute charity. Find out how Barclays' gambling block works.

3,000 left. £110 cashback on £1,000+ Ratesetter 3%-ish investment. Peer-to-peer investing isn't saving, as it's not risk-free, so ain't for everyone. Yet if you are going to do it, our special link gives an 11% head start on £1k. The deal launched last week for the first 5,000 newbies but 2,000 were snapped up quickly. Full info, incl pros & cons, in Peer-to-Peer Lending.

£35 for 7 bottles of wine & 2 glasses delivered (norm £81). MSE Blagged. Via Naked Wines newbies' code. 1,200 cases. Pls be Drinkaware.

NHS & emergency services staff discounts, incl 10% off at Iceland & Starbucks. See full list of emergency services discounts.

Hamleys £5 off when you spend £50. Plus £10 off £100 at the toy store. Voucher valid in 19 stores. Hamleys

Are you getting a fair pint? When you can demand more beer. With Xmas partying in full swing, MSE Kelvin sets out your pint rights. Pls be Drinkaware.

 
 

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AT A GLANCE BEST BUYS

No-fee 0%: Santander* 27mths 0%, no fee (18.9% rep APR)
Longest 0%: Post Office up to 32mths 0%, 2% fee (19.9% rep APR)

Get comparison site quotes in this order:

  1. MoneySupermarket*
  2. Confused.com*
  3. Gocompare*
  4. Compare The Market*

Then check insurers they miss: 
Direct Line*
Aviva* 

Cheapest for £5,000-£7,499: Admiral* 3.4% rep APR
Cheapest £7.5k-£15k: Sainsbury's Bank* 2.7% rep APR (Nectar custs, 1-3 yrs)

Standard b'band & line rent: Plusnet equiv £13.16/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Plusnet equiv £17.67/mth

Top service + choice of £130 Fitbit & more: First Direct
5% interest fixed for a year: Nationwide FlexDirect

 

New. FAST broadband & line '£17.67/mth' from BT-owned Plusnet

Some pay a huge £45/mth for slower speeds - but you can slash costs with short-lived promos such as these  

Millions overpay for broadband & line and could make big savings if out of contract by ditching dud deals. The key is grabbing short-lived promos - and many are around this week. All deals are postcode-dependent so use our Broadband Unbundled tool to find the best in your area (links below go there).  

Top broadband & line deals for NEW customers (1)
PROVIDER & LINK  AVG SPEED COST (2) 
Plusnet
Standard 
10Mb
New. £13.16/mth equiv over 18mth contract. Until 20 Dec. Broadband is 'free' & you pay £18.99/mth for line rent - though it's cheaper to pay 1yr's line upfront for £197.88. You're also automatically sent a £75 cheque within 30 days, making it an equiv £13.16/mth or £14.83/mth if line paid monthly. 
Plusnet - we rate this the top value deal.
Fibre
36Mb
New. £17.67/mth equiv over 18mth contract. Until 20 Dec. It's £4.51/mth for b'band & £18.99/mth for line rent - but it's cheaper to pay 1yr's line upfront for £197.88. You're also automatically sent a £75 cheque within 30 days, making it an equiv £17.67/mth or £19.34/mth if paid monthly. 
Vodafone
Fibre 
35Mb
Ends Thu. £19.12/mth equiv over 18mth contract. You pay £9.99 upfront then £23/mth but you can claim an £80 Amazon, Currys, M&S or Tesco vch. If you'd have spent that anyway, it's an equiv £19.12/mth. 
Plusnet
Fast fibre 
66Mb
New. £21.67/mth equiv over 18mth contract. Until 20 Dec. It's £8.51/mth for b'band & £18.99/mth for line rent - though it's cheaper to pay 1yr's line upfront for £197.88. You're also automatically sent a £75 cheque within 30 days, making it an equiv £21.67/mth or £23.34/mth if paid monthly. 
(1) New Plusnet or Vodafone customers are anyone who doesn't currently have broadband with whichever you apply to. (2) To get the equiv cost, we factor in all costs, deduct the value of rewards & divide by the number of months of the contract.


  • What broadband speed do you need? Standard avg 10-11Mb speed is usually fine for browsing or light streaming. Fibre - the term for fast broadband due to the fibre cables that deliver high speeds - is best for streamers, gamers or if many use it all at once where you live. Yet even with fibre there are differences, and the faster you go, the more of a luxury it is. Big firms give estimated speeds before you sign up, and special tools can help you check your speed.
 

£900 STUDENT LOAN RECLAIM - SUCCESS OF THE WEEK: 
"Thank you for your info on how to reclaim from the Student Loans Company. I was told I would receive just over £911, in time for Christmas shopping."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)

Enid Blyton collections incl Famous Five - 22-book set for £19 (norm £28). MSE Blagged. See Book People.

 

THIS WEEK'S POLL

What have you switched in 2018? Sadly, the best deals rarely go to loyal customers. Moving company to a new, hot promo deal is often (not always) the way to slash costs - so this year, have you switched or stuck with what you have? What have you switched in 2018?

Most of you have already done all or most of your Christmas shopping. With the big day fast approaching, 57% of respondents to last week's poll said their shopping's finished or nearly finished - though 12% hadn't yet made a start. The 35-49-year-olds were the most organised group, with under-25s most likely to be leaving it to the last minute. See the full breakdown in Xmas shopping poll results.

 
 

MONEY MORAL DILEMMA

Should I let my mum keep my car? I live with my mum and we share my car, though I've decided to move out. I want to get rid of the car so I have more money for living costs, yet my mum says she needs it to get to work, but can't afford to pay for it herself. I'll be earning considerably more than her - and I'm torn between what's morally right and my financial stability and independence. Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I let mum keep my car? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

THE QUICKIES

- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: Debts piled up, no payments made this year - HELP
- Competitions thread of the week: Brockmans Gin giveaway
- Old-Style board thread of the week: Cooking for one
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: What presents are you excited about giving to your family?
- Discussion of the week: Older people losing the sympathy of the young

 

Virgin Wines - 6 bottles of wine £30 delivered (norm £70ish)
Smyths - free standard delivery (norm £5ish)
Thorntons - 15% off almost everything via code
Shopmium - FREE food via cashback app, eg, Divine chocolate
Lidl - £3.99 'Suddenly Madame Glamour' Chanel smell-alike

Beefeater - 33% off food (Sun-Fri)
Burger King - meal deals, incl £2 burger and fries (ends Sat)
Domino's - 2for1 collection only
Frankie & Benny's - 40% off mains
Just Eat - 10-30% off selected takeaways

Body Shop - 40% off online and in store
Costa - free £1, £3 or £5 voucher
M&S - £35 Christmas tree, baubles & lights bundle
Superdrug - Up to 75% off Advent calendars
WHSmith - FREE chocolate coins via app

Quick Forum Tips

£54ish of Max Factor for £17ish. Max it
Tesco Finest fruit cake 3for2. Fruits you
Lidl weekend deals, incl £1.09 bacon. Bringin' bacon back

 
 

MARTIN'S APPEARANCES (WED 12 DEC ONWARDS)

Thu 13 Dec - Good Morning Britain, ITV, Deals of the Week, 7.40am

MSE TEAM APPEARANCES (MOST SUBJECTS TBC)

Wed 12 Dec - BBC Radio Cumbria, Money Talks with Ben Maeder, from 6pm, 'how to cut the cost of Christmas food'
Fri 14 Dec - BBC South West stations, Good Morning with Joe Lemer, from 5am, Christmas cost-cutting
Mon 17 Dec - TalkRadio, Breakfast with Julia Hartley-Brewer, 9.45am
Mon 17 Dec - BBC Radio York, Beth McCarthy, from 7pm
Tue 18 Dec - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Lunchtime Live with Jeremy Sallis, 2.20pm

 

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Q: I have an old bank account I don't use anymore - should I close it or do banks look more favourably on you if you've held an account for a long time? Vanessa, via email.

MSE Karl's A: If you've held a bank account for a long time and have managed it well, it may help your credit score. But it's one of dozens of factors that can affect it, and is unlikely on its own to win or lose you a future credit application. If it's 15yrs+ old, it may not influence your score at all.

Whatever the case, if it's a rubbish account you may want to ditch and switch and grab a free cash bonus, which may be more important to you than any credit score impact - see Best Bank Accounts. If you're unsure, it's worth checking your credit file for free with the MSE Credit Club - and see our Credit Scores guide for need-to-knows and how to boost your score.

Please suggest a question of the week (we can't reply to individual emails).

 

DECK THE HALLS WITH HOMEMADE BAUBLES...

That's all for this week, but before we go... ever thought of making your own Xmas decorations from bits around the home or from work? MSE Tony's wife has been sharing some of the creations made at the college where she works, including a tree from books and even a fireplace. So what do you think? Have you given it a go or are you tempted to? Let us know in our homemade decorations forum thread - and send us pics of your Xmas efforts.

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team

 
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