It's 100 days till Christmas, and while I hate the early creep of festivities as much as the next man, if you want to have more and pay less, there are some things you need to do now.
Every January many complain "I'm skint now" as if Christmas is a surprise. Well, it's not, it'll be on 25 December this year like every year, and a little bit of preparation will do lots of good.
Here are my top ten tips of what to do now:
- Try the DemoHoHotivator. The Demohohotivator.com shows how much you can save with small sacrifices to boost your Christmas cash. For example, cut out crisps and Coke every working day and you'll save £140. I'm not saying you have to do this – but if you're short of cash now's the time to decide which is more important to you, money in your Christmas coffers or little treats now.
- Bag 5% off ALL Christmas shopping. The Capital One World Mastercard pays a huge 5% cashback on all spending on up to £2,000 in the first 99 days. So apply now if you're planning a hefty Christmas spend. Yet only do this if you can repay IN FULL each month (best by direct debit) or the 19.9% representative APR dwarfs the gain. To get it, you must earn £20,000+, be 21+ and a homeowner.
- Book hotel rooms now if you're visiting relatives. There are some seriously cheap rooms if you're going away, but don't want to encroach on family territory. There's a Travelodge Sale on and it has 7,000 sub-£15 rooms left (at last count) between 23 December and 2 January. There's also a strong rumour Premier Inn will launch a £19 sale next week over a similar period. So sort it soon, don't leave it till Christmas.
- Christmas costs £650, use 4 months' income. Far too many ask the wrong question: "What do we need to have the perfect Christmas? (or Eid, Chanucah or Diwali)" The net result of this is it leaves you disappointed or in debt. Instead, first calculate your Christmas budget, then plan the best day within that. If you're skint, don't push it – a thrifty Christmas beats a debt-filled new year. Even better, planning now can really work – a typical family Christmas spending is £650, too much for most from December's pay alone. So why not put money aside each month now, at no cost (better than borrowing and paying back later with interest). Work out how much you need and put a quarter aside in September, October and November. If you can't afford that, cut your cloth accordingly.
- Max cash from old mobiles (£150 possible). To generate cash, don't just flog old phones to any company, use Mobilevaluer.com, the mobile selling comparison site, to speedily find top payers so you avoid the worst, eg, HTC Desire Z £120 (some buyers pay just £55) or iPhone 3GS 16GB £145 (some pay just £80).
- Play Freebie Roulette: Our Freebies, Freebies, Freebies guide lists 100s of giveaways, from make-up to tea, plus it includes a freebie roulette machine. Save them up for a Christmas freebie tombola (MSE Lee does this for his family every year).
- Reclaim lost Tesco points, then treble them. Quickly check and reclaim lost vouchers online via Tesco's website. Many have found £100+. Yet DON'T save them for festive food, check Tesco's Rewards brochure to triple their value (£10 becomes £30) on items such as jewellery or mags.
- Turn old gold into Christmas cash. Postal gold produces more horror stories than Hollywood, but we have found a few good one, eg, £105 for an 18ct gold ring. See a full how-to breakdown in the Gold-Selling guide.
- Set up a Christmas cupboard. Set aside space for Christmas goodies now, and plan your shopping list. Work out which stores sell those goodies – then keep track of vouchers/sales and be ready to pounce.
- Amazon hidden gift discounts of 80%+. For stocking fillers, our ever-popular Amazon Discount Finder manipulates web-links to create customised bargain basement pages, eg, 90%+ off kids' DVDs & 90%+ off toys.