Christmas is just around the corner, and while many people will have been caught up in bargain hunting on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there are many more things you need to think about than just the presents and the wrapping.
So here we have 10 different ways that you can have a great Christmas without busting your budget:
1. Set out how much you plan to spend, and stick to it – OK, this is easier said than done, but when it comes to Christmas excess, nothing feels it quite like your credit card, and the debt hangover can be a long and painful one to resolve. So, set a budget and do everything you can to stick to it.
2. Use discounts – We know from our own research that nearly one in five over 50s spend 11-25% of their income on Christmas. Yet a massive 62% of over 50s do not use online discount or cashback offers, so they are missing out on a whopping £11.4 billion of savings. Do not be shy, there are many deals you can find to save you a fortune on Christmas right here with the Silvercard+ which has offers specifically sourced for the over 50s. For example, you can get up to 50% off Ambassador Theatre Group tickets, and 10% off at The Original Gift Company – particularly useful if you are looking for something nice for someone special.
3. Shop online – There are some great reasons to do your Christmas shopping online, not least because you do not have to fight the crowds on the high street to get what you want. But an even better reason is offered by JaneyW in our Speakers’ Corner on Black Friday deals: “At Christmas I shop mainly online because my daughters and their families all have Amazon wish lists. I know then that I am buying them something they really want! I do tend to buy locally for great nephews and nieces though and enjoy the experience of browsing shops at Christmas before choosing their presents. Since retiring I can enjoy it even more by shopping earlier when our town is less busy.”
The other thing you can do with online shopping is easily compare prices across a number of stores to make sure you are getting the best deal. Amazon is a great place to start, as it offers you a window on a much wider marketplace for items in one hit than you could get almost anywhere else.
4. Use an app – If you happen to be shopping on the high street and want to be sure you are not paying over the odds for goods in one shop, then you can find a variety of apps that will help you. For example, apps such as RedLaser and The Find allow you to stand in the shop and scan the barcode of the item so you can find out whether you have the best price where you are, or you could get a better deal elsewhere. The Find locates nearby and online deals, so you know it is giving you information you can use immediately. Just make sure you download the app to your smartphone before you hit the shops.
Even if you are stuck buying the item where you are, then always use a better price elsewhere to haggle to see if you can get a better price from the retailer. It often works.
5. Get what you can for free – There are many ways that you can get genuine items and samples for free that your relatives and friends will be grateful for as a present. Sites such as FreeStuff.co.uk, HotUKdeals.com and MagicFreebiesUK.co.uk allow you to access free samples and offers on products as varied as a personalised letter from Santa to free chocolate bars. In most cases you need to sign up with your email address, but it will give you access to a range of free prize draws, free samples and other freebies you can think of.
If you can get cashback as well, then so much the better – sites such as Quidco.com and TopCashBack.co.uk will pay you for shopping via their websites. You create an account then login through the website before you click through to the shop you want to buy from. Doing this means your sale is tracked, and once completed you will qualify for cashback that is paid back into your bank account. Even better, you can also register a debit or credit card and spend using that card on the high street in one of either company’s partner stores, and you qualify for cashback that way too. You are effectively being paid to shop. But always remember to check the price without going through each site first too, just in case the retailer will offer you a better deal that way. You should always compare the two.
6. Recycle – If you cannot find what you want for free, then use what you already have and recycle it for a Christmas present. Let’s face it, we all have those unwanted gifts at the back of the wardrobe. But if you want to give them a new lease of life then choose the ones that you know someone else would love, and give it to them. It may not appeal to some people as a way of giving gifts, and it is understandable if you are not comfortable passing on something you may not have wanted. But if you are happy to do this, you can save yourself a lot of money on gifts, especially for people you feel you ‘ought’ to give to rather than those you would choose to give to. One thing to remember though, never give a present back to the giver – it rarely goes down well.
7. Save on your Christmas fare – There are many ways you can save money on your grocery shopping at all times of the year, but at Christmas when you need to get all the trimmings, bagging a bargain becomes more of a necessity. Grocery comparison site MySupermarket.co.uk can save you as much as £17 a basket on your groceries by comparing your shopping basket in real time across Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Ocado, Morrisons, Aldi and Iceland. It claims to be able to save you around 20% on every shop, so if you normally spend £200 on the Christmas goodies, that would equate to a saving of £40. Definitely worth a look.
8. Check your home insurance covers your Christmas shopping – Not one that many people think about, but at this time of year you will potentially have thousands of pounds worth of extra goodies in your home. But if your household insurance does not automatically rise to cover the value in the festive period, you could be out of pocket if you are unlucky enough to get burgled.
Many home insurers will add a bit of extra cover to your contents insurance over the Christmas period, but not all do. So it is worth checking with your insurer to find out whether your entire contents are covered, just in case you end up losing the lot. You could even check with the local police station to get some tips on making your property more secure.
Interestingly, the over 60s are actually missing out on around £600m in valid home insurance claims according to research from Age UK Enterprises, with two in five of those not claiming saying they did not do so because they did not want to see their premiums increase. While this is understandable, you have to question how much more you might be losing by not making the claim in the first place. For example, let’s say you lost items worth £1,000 and your insurance premium would rise by £10 per month if you made the claim. You would have to pay your premiums for another eight years before you would repay the equivalent of the amount you would recoup by claiming. So do the maths before you decide not to trouble your home insurer about a loss you could claim for.
9. Suggest a ‘secret Santa’ with your family – Running a secret Santa can save everyone in the family a lot of money, and it means you all still have something to open on the big day. For anyone who has not heard of this before, a secret Santa works by a group of people – often work colleagues – each agreeing to buy one gift for one person within the group. So it means everyone gets something, but no-one has to buy more than one present. If you do not quite want to go this far, then why not set a budget for presents with your family? For example, you could say you each have to buy gifts that are no more – and no less if you want to make it more interesting and creative – than £5. That keeps costs down for everyone, and can make it much more fun to buy presents that come in exactly at the budgeted figure.
10. Return or sell unwanted gifts after Christmas – most of the big stores will offer extended returns terms over Christmas, so if you get a present that you really do not want, then try to return it to the relevant store. Some will provide ‘gift receipts’ which the giver can include in the present wrapping as it does not have a price on but will give you the right to return the gift to the store for a refund. If you do not have this but it is clearly from a specific store, try for a refund anyway, the worst they can say is no. Or you may feel able to ask the giver for the receipt.
Do not feel miserly doing any of these, around a fifth of us either return or sell unwanted Christmas gifts according to research from Vouchercloud.com. If you cannot return it, or would feel bad asking for the receipt, then you can always sell it on an online auction site such as eBay or Gumtree – the latter is usually free to list on.