With presents to buy, extra mouths to feed and all those family expectations to live up to, it’s hard to get through the festive season without splashing out.
Christmas doesn’t have to break the bank. With a bit of forward planning, some canny shopping and a few clever ideas for cost-free ways to celebrate, you could create seasonal magic and avoid the bank balance blues.
- Stick to a list
Have you got lots of presents to buy in the run up to Christmas? Make a list of what you really need to buy – and try to stick to it.
Special offers and Christmas sales seem to start earlier every year, and it can be hard to resist buying more than you planned. Focusing on a list could mean you’re less likely to blow your budget on those added extras.
Before you start shopping, check out typical prices online for the items that you need to buy. If you see them discounted, you’ll know whether it’s really a bargain.
Andy Barr, personal finance expert and co-founder of price-tracking website Alertr, says: “Tracking products online using price-tracking websites will help you to see which retailers put their prices up during certain times of the year when they claim to be having a ‘sale’. Don’t be fooled into spending money you don’t need to.”
- Don’t miss out on discounts
Discount codes can save you cash on your shopping at Christmas. Try searching using the retailers name and the term ‘discount codes’ or ‘voucher codes’.
Rather than scouring the web for vouchers for your favourite retailers, a browser extension from companies like Pouch can automatically find and show discount codes for the online retailer you’re browsing.
Remember that as a Barclays current account customer, you could get cashback on your Christmas shopping at participating retailers, including Lego and WH Smith, when using the Barclays app or Online Banking. Terms, conditions and exclusions apply.
You must have an eligible Barclays current account, be 18 or over and have a mobile number to use cashback on the app or Online Banking and that they will need to register for Online Banking to enjoy cashback.
- Approach sales like a pro
Consider subscribing to your favourite retailers’ email newsletters (if they produce one), as some may offer you additional discounts on your first shop. It also might mean you find out when the sales are starting, and you may get access to discounts before other customers.
- Watch out for fraudsters
You might have to move quickly to snap up the best deals during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but remember it’s a busy time for cyber criminals too.
Watch out for offers that look too good to be true, or fake and bogus websites pretending to be a genuine retailer. Take a second to check the quality of the website, such as blurred images or bad grammar, which could suggest the website is fake. And question requests for additional personal or financial information that isn’t usually necessary when shopping online.
Also, be careful if you’ve received unsolicited emails containing links to apparently genuine discounts online.
- Switch supermarkets… again and again
It’s easy to go overboard with food at Christmas. If you make a meal plan for each day you’re entertaining and only buy what you need, you could end up saving pounds.
Jordon Cox, MoneySavingExpert.com’s Coupon Kid, says: “When doing your Christmas food shopping, it’s a good idea to do a price comparison of each supermarket to check where the cheapest place to buy your basket is. The website mySupermarket.co.uk will compare the price of your shopping at the big supermarkets so you can see which is worth visiting.”
“If you want to do your food shop online, you could try customer ‘hopping’,” he continues. “Find a supermarket you haven’t yet used and make the most of a new customer discount code. It may help you knock some money off your bill, so you can grab a Christmas bargain.”
You can see where your money’s going in the run-up to Christmas, from food shopping to days out, using the Barclays app. You’ll be able to see how you’re spending compared to before and where you spend the most money. Just tap ‘Spending’ in your app.
Terms and conditions apply. You must have a current account with us, be aged 16 or over and have a mobile number to use the Barclays app.
- Keep an eye out for cut-price groceries
It’s worth keeping an eye on the ‘yellow sticker’ section of the supermarket in the weeks leading up to Christmas day. You may find reduced festive treats that you can pop in the freezer until they’re needed. Some supermarkets also offer discounts on boxes of imperfect or slightly damaged fruit and veg.
Opting for supermarket own-brands instead of branded products – known as ‘downshifting’ – may also save you money.
And cooking from scratch is another way to potentially save money – particularly if you buy ingredients at your nearest high street grocer or local market stalls – which could end up cheaper than the big supermarkets.
- Make magic moments without spending money
For the last 12 years, Lorna Nathan, from London, has taken present wrapping to extremes as a way of entertaining her children for less on Christmas day.
Every year, she wraps up the door to her living room on Christmas morning, so her two children, now aged 12 and 14, and two step-children, now aged 13 and 15, have to burst through it to find their presents. “All the children love it, even as they’ve grown older. Lucky I’ve now got a double doorway, so they can all squeeze through together”.
George Charles says kids will enjoy themselves whether you spend hundreds or not. “Putting a mince pie out for Santa, carrots for the reindeers and dusting some icing sugar on the stairs are great ways to create cheap magic moments for children,” he says. “The most important thing is what you do rather than what you buy – something that will also teach them a valuable life lesson.