Chanucah is coming. Now I hate the early creep of festivities as much as the next person, but if you want to have more and pay less there are some things you need to do soonish.
January is always a frustrating time to be a Money Saving Expert. Many people complain that they are broke because of all the present giving during Chanucah. But the festival happens every year and is not a shock expenditure. This year first day is December 21 and there are things you can do to prepare .
Here are my top ten tips:
1. Would you prefer extra cash for Chanucah or a cappuccino every day?
If you want more money for your family's presents, a few small sacrifices now can make a big difference.
Put one third of your salary aside this month and next
2. Bag five per cent off all your shopping
The Capital One World Mastercard pays a huge five per cent cashback on all spending on up to £2,000 in the first 99 days - perfect if you are likely to have a hefty December, followed by a January-sales spend. After all, it means you get £5 back for every £100 you spend.
Yet only do this if you can repay in full each month (best by direct debit) or the 19.9 per cent representative APR dwarfs the gain. To get it, you must earn over £20,000, be older than 21 and a homeowner. If that doesn't apply, you can still get other cards which pay more than one per cent; see www.moneysavingexpert.com/cashbackcards
3. Book hotel rooms now if you are visiting relatives in Britain
There are some seriously cheap rooms available if you are going away in the UK but don't want to encroach on family territory. www.premierinns.com currently has a £29 room sale including many in December and over the New Year period, plus there may still be a few remnants of £15 rooms from the www.travelodge.co.uk sale. Be quick though as supply is limited, so availability for when and where you want may be scarce.
4. Chanucah costs £650 - use three months' income
Far too many wrongly ask themselves: "What do we need to have the perfect Chanucah (or Christmas, Eid or Diwali)?" This either leaves them disappointed or needing to get into debt.
Instead, first calculate your budget, then ask yourself: "What is the best Chanucah we can have on that money?" A typical family's Christmas spend is £650, too much for most from December's pay alone. So, for Chanucah, why not work towards around this and put some money aside each month now, at no cost. It is better than borrowing and paying back later with interest.
Work out how much you need and put a third aside in October and November, then pay the rest from December's salary. If you can't afford that, cut your cloth accordingly.
5. Get cash from old mobiles - £150 is possible
You can not have failed to miss the adverts on television extolling you to sell your old mobile phone. It is true, it does generate cash, but do not just flog old phones to any company. There are massive differences for each handset on which company pays the most. For example, at the time of writing, the top amount you can get for the HTC Desire Z is £120 compared to £55. It is possible to get £145 for the iPhone 3GS 16GB, compared to £80.
To quickly find the best payer, try www.mobilevaluer.com comparison site. It is also worth checking how much your handset is going for on eBay, as that could offer even more.
6. Reclaim lost Tesco points, then treble them
Make sure you check and reclaim lost vouchers online via tesco.com/clubcard. I have mentioned this before but it still stands - many people have vouchers they have never used and it can be a great boost. Yet do not save them for latkes and donuts. Check Tesco's Rewards brochure to triple their value (eg, £10 becomes £30) on non-food items such as jewellery, magazines and train tickets.
7. Turn old gold into Chanucah cash
Postal gold produces more horror stories than Hollywood, but we have found a few good ones such as £105 for an 18ct gold ring.
The top on feedback and price is www.hattongardenmetals.com, yet you really should do research before doing this. For example, if the jewellery has a gemstone or is designer you can often get far more than its scrap price. For more see www.moneysavingexpert.com/gold
8. Be organised and set up a Chanucah cupboard
Set aside space at home for Chanucah goodies now and plan your shopping list. Work out which stores sell those goodies - then keep track of vouchers/sales and be ready to pounce to ensure you get the best price.
9. Amazon hidden gift discounts of more than 80 per cent
One very cheap route to find pressies is the web giant Amazon, which has countless reduced products.
The key is finding them, but by manipulating its URLs (page addresses) you can build your own bargain basements, so it shows deals such as over 90 per cent off children's DVDs and toys. Either have a play yourself or use my Amazon discount tool to do it for you at www.moneysavingexpert.com/amazontool
10. Don't forget to ask for a gift receipt
Legally, only the person who purchased the item has a right to return faulty goods. Yet if the assistant writes on your receipt and their copy (ie, the debit/credit card slip) that the item is a gift and who it is for, the rights are transferred. Of course some shops allow recipients to take things back regardless, but it is worth doing just in case.