The shops have started their jingle bells, Christmas is coming and this year Chanucah precedes it by a month. I dislike early celebrations as much as the next man. Yet pre-planning can seriously slash festive costs, so you have better festivities at a lower price.
This year I’ve been given an ITV special to run through all the Christmas savings (let’s be honest, a full Chanucah savings special would be a bit niche for prime time). I would’ve preferred it if we’d done it in January, but, even so, The Martin Lewis Money Show on Tuesday may well have been the earliest Christmas special in TV history. Here are some top tips:
GRAB THE SAME DISCOUNTS AS LAST YEAR
As an experiment, I’ve back-researched all the discounts and codes offered by major retailers into the run-up to Christmas. The results are fascinating. Many launch the same deals in the same week each year. Therefore, assuming they continue to follow the same pattern, you can work out what you want to buy, then snatch it at the perfect time.
Examples include Selfridges, which launched a 20 per cent off voucher in the third week of November/ December each year, and Gap, which has a 30 per cent off around the fourth week of November.
TRAVELODGE ROOMS AT £17 - £25
Taking advantage of the fact the phone stops ringing over Christmas to visit relatives. But what if you can’t quite stand the idea of spending all day and night there? Budget hotel chain Travelodge has launched a room sale at £17-£25 for December to February, including all days except New Year’s Eve. It does this in tranches - when the rooms are gone, they’re gone, so go quick.
BAG 5 PER CENT OFF ALL NEW YEAR SALES SHOPPING
Cashback credit cards pay you each time you spend on them. So do normal spending and set up a direct debit to repay in full each month to avoid interest, and you’re quids in. The cashback’s usually paid on the anniversary of opening the account.
The American Express Platinum Everyday card (min income £20,000) pays a huge 5 per cent back, up to £100, on all spending in the first three months, then up to 1.25 per cent. So apply now and happily the big cashback should cover most Chanucah, Christmas and January sales spending (fail to fully repay and it’s 19.9 per cent representative APR).
If your credit score isn’t up to that, the Luma Cashback card pays a consistent 4 per cent cashback on supermarket and fuel spending (up to a maximum £9 a month). So it could still be helpful – and, crucially, it allows some with poor credit scores to get it too.
Though be especially careful – fail to repay in full each month, and it’s 35.9 per cent representative APR.
FIND CHEAPEST PRICES WITH SHOPBOTS
Whatever you’re buying, whether electricals, games, books or CDs, don’t go straight to your normal online retailer. It’ll just give you one price. Instead, use a shopping robot or shopbot, which scans a raft of retailers to find the cheapest price including delivery. I’ve a handy tool at www.megashopbot.com that compares the best results from the best comparisons for each type.
BAN UNNECESSARY CHRISTMAS PRESENTS?
Strange to write this in the JC, but many of us are still affected by the ever-widening circle of people, colleagues and teachers we’re expected to buy presents for. I’ve been campaigning to reduce the demands on families at this time for a number of years.
For my show, I went to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury (after all, it’s not really that appropriate for me to preach on the true meaning of Christmas). He shares a sense of worry about the fact Christmas has become a retail festival.
Presents for kids or spouses under the tree is a lovely tradition, but tick-box giving tat to a large group of people only results in landfill fodder.
Of course, there is a joy of giving, yet occasionally that can be selfish. Buying someone a gift often obliges them to buy you something back. If their finances are tight and they’re struggling, the best gift may be to release someone from the obligation of buying you a present.
Instead, consider making a donation to charity as a gift, or agreeing a limit on the amount you’ll spend to take the pressure off for others.
DON’T USE TESCO VOUCHERS FOR FESTIVE FOOD
Many people save their vouchers for festive food. Yet Tesco offers two “boost” schemes. The first is with its partners, where vouchers can be worth three times the value on gift items such as jewellery, or twice the value on train tickets.
It also has its Christmas double-up scheme, which gives twice vouchers’ value on selected festive items in-store and online, including toys, gifts, and its Finest brand champagne and wine. So see if you need these before just spending in-store.