Thankfully, MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis has us covered, as he shares his top tips on how best to manage your finances over the festive season.
The following tips have been taken from the MoneySavingExpert website and Mr Lewis’ weekly email, as well as advice given on The Martin Lewis Money Show on ITV.
1. Plan your spending
Martin says it’s vital to work out exactly how much money you have to spend over Christmas.
On ITV ’s Money Show, he advised viewers: “One of the things I always say that people do wrong at the festive time is they create a ‘lust list’.
“They have a perfect Christmas pictured in your mind of everything you want, exactly how it’s going to be. And then you try and work out how you can do it.
“Please don’t do that. That’s likely to lead to debt or disappointment in your circumstance.”
“We don’t want you to get in debt in the new year. See friends and family, talk to people, eat, watch the telly, and have a good time.
“I think sharing time is more important. Cut your cloth accordingly and go cold turkey if you can’t afford it. We are in a cost of living crisis. Christmas is one day – do not ruin your lives for Christmas.”
2. Take steps to reduce energy bills
According to MoneySavingExpert, households can bring in small changes but still make significant savings on their energy bills this winter.
For example, energy giant British Gas says reducing the heating temperature in your home by one degree could save you £115 a year on average.
Households with a combi boiler are advised to reduce the flow temperature which is usually set higher than needed.
The same can be done with the water temperature in your boiler, which is often also set to higher than necessary. Octopus Energy says a temperature of about 55°C should be enough for most.
Other ways to save on energy include:
- Invest in a cylinder jacket for your hot water cylinder to insulate it (cost is roughly £15)
- Turn off radiators in rooms you aren’t using
- Bleed your radiators regularly to stop air from being trapped inside
- Checking the pressure gauge on your boiler (anywhere between 1.0 and 2.0 bar is recommended)
Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley)
3. Book your Christmas delivery slots as soon as you can
If you’re planning to get all your food delivered this Christmas, you should start thinking about booking your delivery slots now.
Most major supermarkets open their delivery slots over the festive period early, so it’s worth checking if you can secure yours before the big rush leading up to Christmas.
It’s worth checking if you can change your order after booking your slot – many supermarkets offer this, and it may help you save some extra money and prevent food waste if you think you’ve ordered something you no longer need.
4. Act early on Christmas travel
If you’re travelling to visit family over Christmas, you should be booking UK-wide train tickets around 12 weeks prior if you want the best deals, MoneySavingExpert says.
Most train firms have already released tickets for pre-Christmas travel and booking advance tickets.
The same goes for return trips after Christmas – so if you already have planned dates to travel back, it may be worth booking those too.
5. Decorate on a budget
According to MoneySavingExpert, if you buy IKEA’s £25 real Christmas tree, you’ll be given a £10 voucher to spend in store between Monday, January 9, and Sunday, February 12.
It means you’d effectively get the tree for £15 if you use the voucher on a £10 item within the spending period.
And for those who don’t mind holding off on decorating until a little closer to Christmas day, some shops will reduce the price of their decorations in the weeks leading up to Christmas, meaning you can decorate for a fraction of the price.
6. Online shopping hacks
A good way to keep costs down when shopping this Christmas is to scour the web for cheap deals.
Martin has recommended a number of helpful websites, including:
- PriceSpy.co.uk for good price comparisons across high street shops
- CamelCamelCamel.com to monitor Amazon price changes over time
- SuperSaverDeliveryTool.com to find an item with the exact value needed to qualify for free Amazon delivery
- LoveSales.com to get alerts when prices drop on a particular item
If you’re looking for another little-known tip for online shopping, Martin advises to go to the store’s online chatbots and ask for a discount.
While you’re not always guaranteed to be successful, it sometimes works.
7. Earn cashback when you spend
On his recent Martin Lewis Money Show, the expert shared two ways you can earn cashback.
The first is by using the Chase debit card, which gives one year 1% cashback on almost all spending.
This can be used alongside other free cash accounts and only requires an ID check rather than a credit check.
The second way is through the American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday, which offers 5% cashback for the first three months up to a maximum of £100.
This option works better for big purchases, but in order to qualify for it, you’ll need to spend at least £3,000 a year.
After three months, tiered rates of up to 1% come in.
But because it’s a credit card, you’ll need to set up a direct debit to pay back in full otherwise you will have to pay almost 27% APR afterwards.
Martin also recommends cashback sites Quidco, Topcashback, and the Airtime Rewards app for cashback offers.