My social media accounts are awash with people getting excited for autumn – the colours, scents and the opportunity to legitimately cover all your chairs with throws and cushions (not in the Husband’s opinion though).
Autumn, of course, sees not only the approaching expense of Christmas but those other fun events, Halloween and Bonfire Night. Then Caitlin, my mum and my nieces and nephew all have birthdays in the autumn / winter months.
This is without factoring the cost of switching the heating back on and cooking all those warming winter meals after months of salad. Yes, after the mortgage, our utility bills are one of the biggest chunks of our monthly expenditure.
So how can we make sure that we keep as much of our hard earned cash in our pockets this autumn?
Budget now for Christmas
If you haven’t already been saving for Christmas, now is the time to start squirrelling away whatever you can – whether that’s into a dedicated savings account or even a big glass jar. Assign a basic budget per person and work towards that.
If you have a big family with lots of people to buy for, why not agree with your relatives what the maximum spend should be or even at what point you’ll stop buying gifts for each other and just send a card.
If you have a rough idea of what you’re spending on everyone, you can take better advantage of the late summer sales but if you are thinking of gift cards, I’d offer a note of caution.
In one of the larger department stores recently I used a gift card that had languished in my purse for well over a year. I was told it was a good job I’d used it up as gift cards were only valid for two years – despite the fact that it was surely my own money – so beware!
There have also been cases where retailers have gone bust and refused to honour gift cards and vouchers so these, with the possible exception of Amazon, might be best avoided if you think the recipient is unlikely to spend them any time soon.
Plan your festive travel
Decide now where you will be spending Christmas and if you’re travelling investigate travel fare and hotel offers now – before prices rise as everything gets booked up. Take a look at Trivago or Expedia. A Family & Friends Railcard will save you loads on family travel if you’re taking the kids for an outlay of £27. There’s 30% off adult fares and 60% off kids’ fares depending on when you travel.
Ditch any unnecessary expenditure
Add to your Christmas funds by cutting down on unnecessary expenditure – those huge frothy coffees and muffins, magazine subscriptions you never read and, yes, dull as it sounds, make your own sarnies for lunch. Lord knows if your sandwiches are like mine you need something to motivate you – and having a January with money left in your bank account should do it, surely?
Use The Cash Back Sites
I’m sure you have heard about the shopping cashback sites such as Topcashback and Quidco but there’s also Swagbucks (where you earn vouchers for completing online activities like watching videos or completing surveys) and Valued Opinions (surveys) and of course Groupon and Wowcher for saving cash not only on things you’d buy for yourself but gifts too.
Save on your energy bills
You can find lots of ideas on saving money on your energy bills for autumn in this post but as a quick reminder, these are my top three tips:
Check your boiler
Ours is so old and clunky it is definitely on the ‘replace’ list soon. If more than two of us have a shower in quick succession it throws a strop and has to be reset. If yours is as temperamental as ours you might be surprised to find how much money you could potentially be saving each year by replacing your boiler.
HomeServe Heating has a helpful Energy Saving Tool to help you work out just that by showing you how much you could save by comparing it with your incidental spending (see ‘Ditch Any Unnecessary Expenditure’ above!). I could save £215.
Turn down your thermostat
The Energy Saving Trust say you can save around £90 just by turning your thermostat down 1 degree. Sweaters and hot water bottles can be your new best friends.
Draught proof windows and doors
You can buy draught-proofing strips to stick around the window frames which are cheap, and easy to install, although they may not be a long term solution.You can get metal or plastic strips with brushes or wipers attached which are long-lasting, but cost a little more. For windows that don’t open, use a silicone sealant.
Similarly, check your doors for draughts too. Keep doors closed to stop cold air from moving into the rest of the house and if there is a gap at the bottom of the door, use a draught excluder. You can make your own with some spare material or even a stuffed pair of tights.
Once you’ve got your budgeting sorted and kept the cold, wet weather at bay, you can settle down and plan some delicious festive fare or make yourself a nice gin cocktail to toast your great organisational skills!