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Money mensch: Have yourselves a prudent Chanucah

    Like many, my hackles rise when I spot Christmas merchandise buffeted up against Halloween fayre. Thankfully, we are not subjected to quite the same push for Chanucah, yet often we make similar mistakes. This year the lights will be kindled from 11-19 December. While that is an age away, if you like a winter blowout, it is important to prepare your pocket now.

    Get five per cent off everything
    To encourage you to spend on them, cashback credit cards pay you each time you use them in the hope you will rack up swathes of interest. Yet, set up a direct debit to repay in full each month, and you are not charged.
    Currently, the top card’s the American Express Platinum, which gives 5 per cent cashback for the first three months. So, apply now, and by the time you get it, it will be on during the crucial Chanucah and January sales period. You need £30,000 family income to get it, though.

    Use Tesco vouchers to help stock up on gifts
    Lots of people store up Tesco’s Clubcard vouchers, but then just use them in-store. Instead, you get four times the value if you redeem them on things in the Tesco Clubcard Rewards Deals brochure (www.tesco.com/clubcard/deals). Rewards include days out, gifts, jewellery, magazine subscriptions and more.

    Agree a present pact
    While it feels generous to give gifts, whether they are for friends celebrating Chanucah, Christmas or even Eid, remember it creates an obligation on the other person to buy you one back.

    In this year of recession, why not agree a no-present pact with friends or colleagues, to just send a card, or give gifts under a certain value. If you are embarrassed to ask, there is a special tool to do it for you at www.moneysavingexpert.com/nupp

    Find the cheapest prices in seconds
    If you do buy gifts, do not do it on impulse, create a list then search for the cheapest prices using a shopbot (shopping robot), aka a price comparison website like www.twenga.co.uk or www.foundem.co.uk, which search scores of internet retailers to find the cheapest, whether for books, games, CDs, DVDs, electrical goods or more. Or try www.megashopbot.com, which combines different shopbot results.

    Use discount vouchers rather than pay full price
    In the run-up to Christmas, shops are desperate to attract new customers with discounts and deals, but do not want to give reductions to their walk-in trade who would be shopping there anyway.

    To do this they use special click ‘n’ print web vouchers for those prepared to look. There are bundles of these around. Check www.moneysavingexpert.com/discountvouchers, and www.myvouchercodes.co.uk

    Grab store card discounts at no cost
    Pre-Christmas, high-street retailers try to bribe people with huge introductory shopping discounts if we sign up for their store cards. The problem is the disgusting 25-30 per cent interest rates. Thus never borrow on store cards, instead, the disciplined can spend on them to bag the discount, and immediately repay in full, so there is no interest charge. Better still, team up with friends so that one gets a card, you all spend on it for the discount, and they give you the money. Then, next time you shop, someone gets the card and you use the same trick to perpetually keep the discount.

    Get expensive perfume on the cheap!
    Forget big department stores for perfume: a whole bunch of specialist online sellers sell it for a fraction of the price. Better still, buy the even cheaper unboxed bottles, then get a pretty box and wrapping for a couple of quid. This way, they think you went to extra effort but actually you saved extra cash. For a full breakdown go to www.moneysavingexpert.com/perfume

    Use a money mantra before you spend
    Financial discipline is important with temptations all around, so before you buy anything, use the relevant one of one of my two money mantras … remember these questions:

    If you are skint
    Do I need it?
    Can I afford it?
    Have I checked if I can find it cheaper anywhere else?

    If you are not skint
    Will I use it?
    Is it worth it?
    Have I checked if I can find it cheaper anywhere else?

    If the answer is no to any question, don’t buy it!
    Delay Chanucah, bah humbug.

    If you are buying a big purchase for you and the family, such as a high-tech TV or PlayStation, then as this year our festival is pre-Christmas, we are still going to be held hostage with high retail prices.

    So why not give the kids a nicely wrapped IOU saying you will buy it in the January sales, and a small present saying you could afford extra because of that?

    Then the kids get more, and the even better gift of a good financial lesson on top.

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