A slightly different post today. While I rarely have a strict budget for Christmas, I like to have a broad idea of what I’m spending on gifts. Having been brought up by a mum who counted every penny and was very careful with spending so she could get the most from it, some of that has rubbed off. I’ve always made sure I’m not spending more than I have, and also looked to be savvy with my spending to get discounts or buy in sales where possible.

There’s so many ways to manage Christmas budgets, and I’m sharing some of the ways I use to get the best value from what I buy. The one thing to remember is try different methods and start earlier to make the most of the opportunities. It’s never too late to start, but maybe this is one for next year.

How to save ahead for Christmas - white christmas tree decorated in red, in a white room with fireplace

Ways to save ahead for Christmas (and not blow the budget)

Saving money

Use cashback sites. I like Topcashback, but there’s also Quidco and various others. If you buy online, they’re a nobrainer. Before you shop, check if the retailer you want has cashback offers, then shop via the cashback site. Money can build up quite fast if you shop regularly, buy insurance or electronics services online. Don’t forget to claim any payments due ahead of Christmas – you can choose cash or vouchers.

Try a savings challenge. Every January there are lots of savings challenges that pop up, so why not try one. Some save varying amounts a day, starting 1p and moving upwards, or random amounts. Or just save change from your wallet and put it away to save for Christmas.

Round up payments and save. The Plum app and others like it, is a way of ‘auto-sweeping‘, just choose the amount you want to round up – is it just pennies, or higher, and the money automatically goes into your ‘savings’ account. Other apps work out what you can afford to save. The interest isn’t great, but if you struggle to save, it’s a good way to do so and then regularly move it into a higher paying savings account. Do check on protection before you start using one.
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Earn money with survey sites. There are lots around, some pay more than others, others are more frequent and smaller amounts paid out. Look out for ones which have lower payout levels. KatyKicker has information about lots of the sites. My favourites are OnePoll (takes ages to reach payout, but lots of very short surveys) and Prolifico (although after 9 months they’ve now banned my ISP for some reason so I can no longer do surveys using my home internet). Other sites I find give you lots of surveys, but you spend a lot of time answering questions to find you’re screened out. If you earn enough to pay tax, earnings from surveys are taxable.

Shopping apps. There are lots of these popping up. Some give you money off when you spend in grocery stores. Others give you points that build up to vouchers or money back when you upload your receipts. Some will take e receipts too. They do take a long time to tot up, so they’re definitely not big savings, but another nobrainer if you’re already shopping. Some have surveys to boost earnings too. I like Shoppix and Store-wards (used to be Receipt Hog).

Top tip for surveys and apps where you’re collecting points or money to convert, is to remember to withdraw money when you hit limits or a decent level. Move that money into savings accounts (not that there’s much interest at the moment, but it prevents you spending it before Christmas if that’s what you’re using it for). If exchanging for gift vouchers or cards, make sure to use them within a reasonable time, because you don’t want to be stuck with vouchers for a shop that goes into administration without you being able to spend them.

Old fashioned savings stamps. There have been issues in the past with these where the company went bust (remember Farepack?), but if you’re saving weekly with food retailers like Co-op, they’re unlikely to be struggling anytime soon. Basically you pay in a bit each week at the till, and before Christmas you’ve got a bit of money back to spend on your Christmas shop with a small bonus from the store if it’s a full card. The idea being that you’re saving regularly and not noticing it as much if you have to find all the money immediately you go shopping at Christmas.

The equivalent for retailers with loyalty cards, tends to be saving up loyalty points, taking advantage of Christmas run up extra points, and you can convert them to money off vouchers to spend in store or with other retailers. Remember that your points might be worth more if converting to other services and offers, vs spending in store. But it’s still free money.

Set up a physical savings pot – any loose change in your wallet, or money you find round the house can go in here. Be strict about only keeping it for Christmas.

Sell items you no longer want. Sell or trade in old gadgets, even broken ones will sometimes sell on ebay for parts (I sold a broken camera for £35 once). Phones need to be home country set up, working, and in good condition to get a decent amount. But anything’s better than having gadgets lying round the home unused. Set up a separate paypal account for Christmas purposes.

Buy discounted gift cards to spend like money. Sometimes there are offers on specific gift cards, or people offer unwanted gift cards for sale for under the face value. If buying the latter make sure they’re in date, and if you’re a high street or online shopper, check the gift cards can be used the way you want to.

If your work has employee benefits, check if they included discounted giftcards. Some you have to order so check how long they’ll take to arrive, but they’re a great way to spend less in stores you’d already planned to spend in. E.g via work benefits scheme you can buy a giftcard for 20% less, spending £80, will give you a card worth £100. You can use these to give as gifts, but in the current climate with retail, it’s safer to use as money as soon as you get them.

Spending money

Spread your spending. Plan ahead and buy a little each month (ambient groceries, gifts early on), then you can watch the price fluctuations of the items you want to buy.

If you know friends buying the same item, group order and see if you can get discounts. Or at least split the delivery costs.

Use vouchers or discount codes. Phone apps like Vouchercloud are good for retail and entertainment/restaurant offers. Look out for offers and rewards from your mobile phone provider

Buy pre-loved. Especially for younger children, or even older with refurbished gadgets, you can get great gadgets and they may never even know. Sometimes items in charity shops or those being sold online are new. Just make sure to read the descriptions or check out for issues before buying.

Of course, the best way to not blow the budget it to know what money you have to spend, and stick to it. If that means not buying as much or making some gifts, so be it. One way to cut costs is to agree with wider family and friends that instead of buying everyone gits, you do a Secret Santa gift exchange. Or have a set spending limit.

Hopefully some of these tips help with buying at Christmas, and saving ahead of next year.

How do you budget and save for Christmas?

This post was written for Blogmas

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