Planning Christmas - 13 ways to make your money stretch!

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With Christmas gifts and decorations starting to appear in the shops and children starting to countdown (and some adults!) may of us are starting to wonder how we will afford everything we want. It is the same date every year but somehow it seems to just creep up on us doesn't it! Here I will share some tips to help you make your money stretch as much as possible so you can have the best Christmas you can afford.


A part of a green artificial christmas tree with gold tinsel and wrapped gifts


Christmas card cull
Do you buy and write endless Christmas cards every year? Are they really necessary? For children in school what about sending some sweets in instead, or not bothering at all! The ones you post, could you send an email instead or phone? Not to mention all the "special" cards we all buy, spending £20 or more on the Auntie, Grandma, friend etc ones! Now is the time before everyone buys them to agree as a family to save the money! If you feel like this is hard then maybe say you all donate a little to charity instead, you could probably donate a little and still save some money on something 99% of people probably throw in the bin anyway!

Saving on the food
Plan now what food you will be having as a family and write two lists and put them in your purse or on your phone, one list of the essentials and one of the things you would like if you can! Then watch out for offers on those items from now! So many have offers on the lead up to Christmas but some may have early offers, if you can add an item on each weeks shopping that's an "hope to have" then by Christmas you could have all those luxuries without even noticing the difference in cost. Just keep an eye on the use by or best before dates! Things like pigs in blankets or joints of meat may be spotted reduced and could go in the freezer too!

Delayed presents
Do you and your extended family all buy for each other, could you agree to all buy gifts in January in the sales instead and have a party to swap gifts then? This spreads the cost of Christmas out a little but also means you can get more for your money too or have a smaller budget and get a nicer gift! If you are only doing this with some people then it isn't like you will have nothing for Christmas day and it may help everyone out! Now is the time to discuss this before too many people start Christmas shopping.

Secret Santa
Do you buy for a group of friends or family and everyone buys for everyone else? Do you find you all buy each other the same kind of thing like a fragrance gift set for example? Have you considered a secret Santa that means you all only buy one gift? Discuss this now before everyone starts shopping!

Check your benefits
Are you on all the benefits you are entitled to? Take a few minutes to have a check on the Entitled To website. It only takes a few minutes and always worth checking. It is also worth checking if you are entitled to extra help with your electricity bill through the Warmer homes discount.

Look at your monthly outgoings
If you have debts these are likely to be having a huge impact on your disposable income. If you are paying interest on credit cards look at whether you could switch to a 0% interest card with a balance transfer. Consolodate loans are another option to consider. Do remember though if you are not sure if this is the right option for you that you can get free advice from a Citizens Advice centre in the UK. If you have a mobile phone, TV or broadband on a contract is this at the end of the contract? You may be able to negotiate to pay less for the same service or enquire about whether you are using all your inclusive minutes etc and if you are not downgrade your plan.

Online Deals
If you are quite flexible about what you are getting for someone then consider Black Friday deals, or checking price comparison sites for the best price for items. This works especially well for electronics such as tablets and laptops. Amazon Warehouse can be great for deals as well as checking the outlet stores on eBay. Check trading standards information though to be sure to avoid counterfeit items. Items such as GHD straighteners are favoured by people trying to copy expensive goods and can be unsafe so be careful to check the reputability of a website.

A wrapped christmas gift with silver paper saying merry christmas and a red bow


Buy Secondhand
I appreciate this does not sound ideal but young children will very rarely know where their gifts are from and charity shops, Facebook selling pages and markets/car boot sales can be a great for books, DVDs and toys for children. If you see the item before you buy it you can decide if the condition is suitable. Whilst you may feel this is not an ideal option it is well worth considering even if just to top up other presents with a few more gifts to open.

Homemade gifts
What could you make for gifts? What can your friends make? Could you and some friends all swap your homemade wares so you have a selection of items for your friends or family without spending much at all? Some ideas of things anyone could make are buying some low cost chocolates and filling a mug with them and wrap in cellophane for teachers, if you look now you could do this for £2 a teacher easily! Whilst you could chose to not buy for teachers at all if you really want to this is cheap and easy! What about homemade fudge? A jar filled with ingredients for cookies or cake? Children can make lovely homemade gifts so easily and they will be treasured more than an expensive gift.

Hampers
Homemade hampers can be a lovely present, especially if the person you are gifting it to is short of money. You can buy some lovely items and add something to your shopping trolley every week and buy Christmas you could have a lovely hamper for someone. Not only will this be a low cost item but you know the gift will actually be used and something they will like!

Rethink your food
Do you actually really want a turkey? Is there a meal your family will actually enjoy more at Christmas? The best bit for me is Christmas dinner as a family and the reality is if we all enjoy the meal and it feels special then it doesn't matter what we are eating. If you are struggling for money then maybe instead of spending lots on a turkey you could buy something different. Equally, do you buy lots of things because "you just have to have nuts at Christmas"? Do you actually eat all these things or is it just a habit? Maybe by not buying the things you don't really need and cutting these costs you can enjoy more of the things you do actually eat, or an extra bottle of wine for when the kids are in bed!

Check Deals on every year
Some shops do the same deals every year such as 3 for 2 on toys etc. The money saving expert usually brings out a list of when Martin Lewis predicts these deals will be on again based on previous year's dates so watch out for that for a good guess of when there will be offers.

Re-gift unwanted gifts from previous years
As long as you don't give the gift back to the person who gave it to you then its a great idea! You could also swap unwanted gifts with a friend to gift to each others families or friends! There is no point in keeping things that you wont use!

Do you have any other tips to save money? Share them in the comments below!

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