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Christmas shopping tips on a budget

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·4-min read
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Christmas shopping tips on a budget
By planning early and avoiding last minute panic buying consumers could save £113 each, according to research by Clearpay. Photo: Ray Tang/Anadolu Agency via Getty

The average household spends £740 ($994) more in December, according to the latest research from the Bank of England.

Additional spending on presents, food, decorations and clothes in the run up to Christmas sends household budgets rocketing by 29%.

But by planning early and avoiding last minute panic buying consumers could save £113 each, according to research by Clearpay.

Here are some tips on how to handle festive finances:

Budget

Start by calculating what you can afford to spend and make a list of everything you need. Set a budget for different items such as presents, Christmas food, alcohol, social events and decorations.

Some banking apps such as Monzo will allow you to put money into specific pots so you can easily keep track of your spending. It may also be useful to keep a record on a spreadsheet or in a notebook.

Stick to the budget and avoid impulse buying. Starting early can help as you will have more time to compare prices and wait for a deal to come along.

Discounts and deals

Look out for big retailers running promotions on specific dates and make a habit of looking at Amazon's daily deals.

"However, don’t get caught up in the excitement of grabbing a deal just to end up overspending. Remember to stick to the items on your list only and to do some research before the sales start on what a good price actually is," said Laura Howard, finance expert at Forbes Advisor.

Read more: How much can I borrow on a mortgage based on my salary?

When shopping online, a handy tip is to add an item to your shopping basket and then sit on your hands for a couple of days. Retailers will often see your activity and nudge you to buy an item by offering a discount code.

Remember to check if you have any discounts via your employer or a sport club affiliation. There are also member schemes like Boundless which offer days out and discounts to civil servants and public sector workers.

And when it comes to booze, keep an eye out for the best prices. With the average price of a bottle of wine reaching £6 for the first time, it is best to wait for supermarket deals such as 25% off when you buy six bottles.

Reward cards

Christmas is the perfect time of year to make the most of any loyalty points you have racked up. Nectar at Sainsbury's double up points in the run up to Christmas whilst The Body Shop offer £5 vouchers when you reach a certain number of points.

Read more: Gas and electricity bills: Will an energy smart meter actually save you money?

Check to see if your bank or credit card offers any rewards. Credit cards such as American Express offer cash back deals, whilst Natwest customers have access to a rewards current account which earns points for using the online app, setting up direct debits and spending at supermarkets. These points can be exchanged for cash.

Using cashback sites like Topcashback can also be a great way to save money for the following Christmas.

Shop second hand

Charity shops are a brilliant place to hunt down bargains such as unworn, branded clothes or never been used children's toys. The more affluent an area the better the charity shop finds, so it can be worth travelling to other towns to dig out a treasure.

There are also plenty of great goods to be found online via sites like Facebook Marketplace (FB), eBay (EBAY), Gumtree and Depop. Popular children's toys such as Lego can be found for a fraction of the retail price.

It is easy to search within a particular distance from your home but you can widen your search to include places you commute to or areas your family live in.

And it's not just the presents that can be second hand. Try being more sustainable and creative by wrapping presents in leftover wrapping paper or even children's drawings for that added personal touch.

Think about experiences

It's been a tough couple of years and many household budgets have been squeezed incredibly tight. Rather than splashing the cash on presents, try a more thoughtful approach. You could try crafting gifts or making a hamper of home made goods rather than buying an impersonal present.

You could also give the gift of time by offering to help a family member with a DIY project, babysitting duties or even just planning a winter walk with a friend.

Watch: The risks of buying now and paying later

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