We are halfway through the year already – and I suspect many of us are very glad about that, given the year it’s been so far. If you’re like me though, your mind will be turning to Christmas money saving tips. Much though I enjoy the sunny days and longer evenings, my heart belongs firmly to autumn – and, of course to Christmas.
Back in January, we resolved as a family that this would be the year we made sure we budgeted properly for Christmas and Caitlin’s birthday. I also have nieces and a nephew with birthdays in November, December and January. It’s quite an expensive time for us.
Lots of you started the 365 Day 1p Savings Challenge. This is a great way to save over £650 by the end of the year by saving the number of pennies which matches the number of the day out of 365 / 366 days in the year.
But have you kept it up? I must admit I tend to fall a bit behind then make one large payment to cover what we owe!
On day one, 1st January you save 1p. by 1st June, the 153rd day in the year, you’re saving £1.53 and so on right up to the 31st December where, this year, you’ll be putting away £3.66 as it’s a Leap Year.
We found our template at Skint Dad.
It’s easy when you start off but as you get later into the year, you’re paying over £2 – £3 per day into your savings jar – but this is still about the price of a coffee each day.
By the 31st December, we will have saved £667.95 if we can stick to the plan.
You could still start the plan from 1st July and have around £500 by 31st December.
Otherwise, now is a very good time to sit down with your budget sheets and check that your outgoings are not exceeding your income.
I like to list any big-ticket items coming up in addition to birthdays and Christmas and check we can cover them. Both my car insurance and our house insurance fall in this second half of the year and we need to allocate enough time to get a number of quotes.
Unless it’s a very good deal we never accept the automatic renewal premium quoted by our insurers as we know that the best deals often go to new customers with loyalty rarely being rewarded.
You can find an excellent guide to budgeting, including a template from Martin Lewis on the Money Saving Expert site here.
Here are some useful tips you may find handy to save some cash or get your finances in shape for Christmas – all road-tested by the Hobbis family.
Lots of them you will already have heard of but it never hurts to have a reminder, does it?
Arrange to pay your bills by direct debit – including your credit card bills. It is too easy to forget to pay your monthly credit card bill which means you accrue interest and your credit rating may be affected – even by missing one payment.
If you need a loan but your credit history is poor, or you haven’t yet built up a credit history, take a look at guarantor loans where you can borrow up to £10,000 if you can get someone else to guarantee your loan for you. This means that if you have trouble paying, they will step in and make the repayments for you. Make sure you understand all the terms and conditions you are signing up to though.
You can save significant amounts off eating out and taking kids to the cinema with a subscription card like Tastecard which can quickly pay for itself as it has loads of 2 for 1 deals or 50% at restaurants around the UK. We use ours at Pizza Express for example.
Invest in a thermos. When you out and about you can save a fortune on coffee shop lattes or just fill it with water to keep it cool and carry a mini squash pod to give the kids a drink.
Walk some of the way – get off the bus a stop or two earlier. It’s a great way to build in some extra exercise. In general, we try to leave the car at home as much as possible to save on fuel costs.
Buy kids’ birthday cards, wrapping paper and party presents when you see them and in the sale. Create a mini stash so that you won’t be caught out when that kids’ party invite card appears and you have 2 days to find a present.
If for no other reason than that you might accrue enough points to give yourself a mini treat to perk you up when money is tight. I find that the Boots Advantage Card is quite generous, although Boots is not the cheapest chemist by far. It does mean that I can have yet another red lippie to cheer myself up completely free.
9. Check out eBay and learn how to snipe
I saved a fortune buying kids’ clothing bundles for my two when they were younger and I learned how to use a bid sniper which automatically bids for you up to an amount you specify to hopefully win the item during the final stages of bidding.
You know when a bid appears from nowhere topping yours and snatching your coveted item from under your nose, or when the price starts to rocket? That’s bid sniping in action. You never know when they’re there but you can do the same. Try Goofbid.com where you can set up your own sniper using your current eBay login details.
You could also sell lots of toys, books and kids’ clothes you no longer want on eBay too. Be aware though that there may be sellers fees and listing fees, plus an extra charge for using Paypal. You need to do the maths to ensure that you are actually making a profit.
At the end of each day, just chuck your loose change into it – perhaps 20ps and 50ps. You’ll be amazed at how the total will rise or try the 365-day 1p savings challenge I mentioned earlier.
Since we swopped to Aldi about 9 months ago we have saved a small fortune. I would say our weekly shopping basket (including the odd treat like a bunch of flowers or sweets) is about 30% less than the big four supermarkets without sacrificing the quality. In fact, the quality of some of the produce is better.
I have also found that items such as Easter eggs and particularly their Christmas produce are excellent and much cheaper. If you prefer to have everything branded, Aldi and Lidl may not be for you but I think once you see how much you save, like me, you’ll probably wish you had started shopping there earlier.
If you don’t have an Aldi or Lidl near buy, you can also save quite a bit by choosing the supermarkets’ own brands. Very often foodstuffs are produced in the same factory and then packaged into the different brand packaging with the accompanying variation in price.
We have tried this with various success, the only notable failure being coffee. Pricier though it is, we still love our Gold Blend.
Lastly, I know it is ridiculously early but write your Christmas list now – particularly what you plan to put in the kids’ stockings if you have them. I always find it’s relatively easy to budget for their main presents but I end up spending way too much on bits and pieces to go in their stocking. The stocking fillers can cost almost as much as the presents!
Why not assign a financial limit for things like Christmas stockings and start to buy small items as you see them to avoid that mad panic in the last week of December. It’s also a good time to buy teachers’ presents or the general gifts you might give to people like your milkman or the window cleaner.
Hide them all in a drawer somewhere out of the way of prying eyes and little fingers.
The trick with all these tips is to work out ways to save money without compromising on your quality of life. It can be done.
If you adopt some of these Christmas money-saving tips then you may be able to create a festive fund to relieve some of the pressure on your finances at the most expensive time of year.
Do you have any Christmas money-saving tips to share?