How planning ahead can help you save big this Christmas

Maximise your festive budget with our savvy tips

It always seems that, as soon as the schools reopen after the summer break, people are already moving on to the next big event. It starts with the occasional mumbling, the odd countdown here and there and then, come October, it explodes as if it were mere days away instead of more than two months.

We are, of course, talking about Christmas and, if you haven’t heard mention of it yet, there’ll be no ignoring it soon as every shop gears up to take your hard-earned money.

As much as we hate hearing about Christmas before the leaves have even changed colour, the timing does offer a great way to save money on what, for most people, is one of the most excruciatingly expensive times of the year. How? With some savvy planning.

Sales

It’s normal to think of British sales as being seasonal – summer sales, Bank Holiday sales and, of course, the New Year sales. Every year we hear people say that, come the New Year sales they’re going to stock up on stuff ready for next Christmas. Wrapping paper and cards are a classic example but let’s face it, by then most of us are too fed up with Christmas to even contemplate thinking of the next one.

However, these days there are sales going on practically all the time and, when thoughts of Christmas start invading, instead of ignoring them, take a look at the sales that are already happening. Clothing stores tend to have an almost perpetual sale running – perfect for finding both the ubiquitous party dress and a new jumper for Dad.

Groceries

Food costs over the Christmas period are always higher partly because we buy more luxurious foods, partly because traditional foods tend to see a price hike because everyone wants it and partly because we panic buy because we don’t want to run out.

Simply put, buying your Christmas groceries now means you avoid all these issues. Many things from meats to desserts to cakes can be frozen safely until Christmas; sweets and chocolate can be safely stored until the festivities begin and taking advantage of supermarket 3 for 2 and BOGOF deals now will ensure you’re fully stocked before the prices start to rise.

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The personal touch

It’s no secret that homemade gifts are not only more personal but also cheaper than shop bought items but many people just don’t have time to make things when they start their Christmas shopping. Of course, when we’re only in October, you’ve got a good couple of months to get things going.

Toiletries are a quick and easy gift that can look amazing. Mix up a body scrub using sugar and olive oil, perfume it with a few drops of essential oils like lavender, then pack into a glass jar (you can buy them for pennies at pound shops or car boot sales or you might even have some lying around your own kitchen.) A ribbon and some computer generated stickers add the finishing touches.

Swap shops

Now is the perfect time to plan a swap shop. Basically a party where everyone brings stuff they no longer need or want and chooses from what others have brought. There are no hard and fast rules but people often theme these sorts of get-togethers, for example kids toys or women’s clothing. It’s also a great excuse for a catch-up over a few drinks.

Unusual gifts

With still one more week off school (Autumn Half Term) many people choose to have a last-minute break in sunnier climes and, as we all know, many tourist destinations in Europe and further afield are often cheaper than here at home. If you’re lucky enough to be going away, take some extra cash with you and do some Christmas shopping abroad. Not only will things probably be cheaper but you’ll also get gifts that you can be sure no-one else will be getting.

Voucher codes

Over recent years there has been an explosion in the use of voucher, coupons and discount codes. It’s not surprising, therefore, that this Christmas is expected to see an increase in both online shopping and discount use.

It’s worth remembering though that voucher codes usually have a shelf life; more often than not the better the deal the shorter it’s going to be around. So, if you see a great code for a toy your child has been wanting for months, or some amazing diamond earrings you know your mum is going to love, snap it up now because chances are it won’t still be around when it comes to the more traditional Christmas shopping days.

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