Christmas is always costly – but this year many families will find paying for it even more of a battle. The cost of living crisis has seen UK households struggle with higher food prices, energy bills and interest rates, at a time when taxes are also rising.
While the average household in Britain spent an extra £1,000 in December last year compared to a typical month according to YouGov data, many families will be looking to save money where they can this year.
Follow our tips on how to look after the pennies and turn them into extra pounds this Christmas.
December is the favourite month for ‘compers’ – those who regularly enter competitions to win prizes. Many big brands launch festive giveaways to reward loyal customers and gain new ones. It’s possible to win gadgets, holidays, cash prizes, toys and much more. Use search terms such as ‘12 days of Christmas’ and ‘Advent competition’ on social media to find some of the competitions running.
Many are free to enter, although you will have to dedicate a bit of time each day to be in with a chance of winning. Sometimes you have to buy a product and enter a code online, uploading the receipt as proof of purchase.
January is a big month for holiday giveaways so it’s worth keeping an eye on the websites and social media pages of big travel companies. It’s also the month when you will see many brands offering the chance to win a year’s supply of products, such as loo rolls and cleaning supplies. So keep your eyes peeled for competitions after Christmas.
Use local selling groups
Children grow tired of toys quickly and there are always cheap options for toys, games and clothing on platforms such as Facebook, Gumtree and Vinted. Many will be used, but some may be new or as good as new.
If you are looking to save money on food and drink, use resources such as Olio and Too Good To Go. These apps aim to stop food waste by giving away surplus food for free, or charging a small fee – you can pick up anything from vegetables to sandwiches.
In the week up to Christmas last year, Morrisons supermarket extended its ‘magic bag’ offer through the Too Good To Go app. These bags, currently costing £3.09, are filled with food items worth £10.
Spend loyalty points
If you shop regularly with the same supermarket, you may have racked up points through its loyalty scheme. Sainsbury’s has the Nectar card, Tesco has Clubcard and Morrisons has its Morrisons More scheme.
When you spend in-store or online, you can earn points with either a physical or digital version of the card. Some shoppers choose to save their points all year and use them to get money off their Christmas food shop.
A quick way to earn up to £200 is to switch banks and it’s really easy to do. Open a new account online with your chosen bank, then request a full switch from an existing current account. The Current Account Switch Service (CASS) means the process takes around seven days.
Your money, direct debits and standing orders will be transferred from the old account to the new one. Your old account will typically be closed. Inform people and organisations about your new bank details. But don’t worry too much if you forget, as any payments accidentally paid to your old account will automatically transfer to your new one for the first three years.
Andy Webb gives further details in Metro Money today about the best switching deals on the market now.
‘I start looking for competitions from September. I’ve won hampers, holidays – prizes worth thousands’
Emma Richardson, 43, a customer service adviser from Essex, is paying for Christmas this year with the help of competition prize giveaways.
She recently won three football training tops for her children, who are aged 23, 16 and 13. Emma has also won £200 in Tesco vouchers through the Coca-Cola app, and will spend them on a turkey and other food for Christmas day.
Other wins include a Christmas jumper and an Advent calendar, plus M&S hand cream that she’ll use as a stocking filler. Last month she won a 50-inch 4K TV and sound bar system worth £1,000 in a Fanta competition.
‘There are lots of football-related competitions at the moment due to the World Cup,’ says Emma.
‘I keep my eye out from September for competitions that can help with Christmas. Last year I won a hamper from Cadbury and Costa Coffee and I’m hoping to win a hamper this year.’
She recommends looking out for local radio competitions and following big brands on social media to see when they are giving away prizes. Emma tips websites including comper Di Coke’s SuperLucky blog, PrizeFinder and Loquax, and she is a member of several competition groups on Facebook. ‘For me, it’s about the buzz of the competitions and the thrill of winning,’ she says.
‘I enter for free online or buy something that I’ll use anyway. This year I won £1,000 easyJet vouchers across two months, which I’ll use for a family holiday to Majorca next year. I’ve been entering competitions for a few years and have won products and experiences worth thousands.’
Take care with credit
A credit card can help you manage your money by spreading the cost of purchases. If you have a credit card offering zero per cent interest on purchases, you will not pay any interest if you repay the full amount before the offer expires. Barclaycard offers zero per cent interest on purchases for up to 25 months – the longest deal currently on the market.
Natwest, HSBC and M&S have zero per cent purchase periods above 20 months. So if you spend £500 on items over Christmas, you may be able to pay it back gradually over two years without paying any interest.
Just make sure you use the card correctly – you must make minimum repayments each month. And be sure that you have a plan in place to pay off the full amount by the end of the offer, or you will face charges.
If you want more tips and tricks on saving money, as well as chat about cash and alerts on deals and discounts, join our Facebook Group, Money Pot.
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