With only a few weeks remaining until December 25, the countdown to Christmas has well and truly begun. But while it’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement, you need to keep a cool head to avoid making mistakes which could leave you out of pocket. Here are our 12 don’ts of Christmas:
1 Don’t get into debt buying presents
While it can be tempting to splash out during the festive shopping frenzy, you need to remember that December 25 is just one day.
One of the easiest ways to fritter away money is by paying for everything on your debit or credit card. Try taking cash instead as it’s harder to hand over cash on impulse buys.
Whatever you do, don’t pay for Christmas on a store card or by dipping into your unauthorised overdraft, as both can be eye-wateringly expensive. Some store cards, for example, come with rates as high as 30%. If you fail to clear the card before full interest applies, it could take you years to get rid of the debt.
2 Don’t go over your budget for Christmas spending
Be disciplined about your spending over the next few weeks. Draw up individual budgets for food, presents, and other bits and pieces and make sure you stick to them.
Shopping online can be a better option, as while there’s a charge for home delivery (and you can minimise these by choosing cheaper slots) you save on petrol, and it can also help you avoid getting sucked into in-store offers.
A simple way to check you’re getting a good deal on your food shopping is by logging on to MySupermarket. The site compares products from the main stores, helping you find the cheapest option.
How to save on your Christmas shopping
3 Don’t break the bank buying presents for everyone
Rather than spend money on gifts for a multitude of family members and friends, organise a Secret Santa instead. That way, you can set a reasonable spending limit and buy a fun gift for just one person.
Alternatively, think about giving home-made gifts this Christmas, such as gingerbread men, jewellery or a lovingly-compiled hamper. Visit Pinterest for some clever DIY gift ideas.
You could even re-gift unwanted presents you received last year – just make sure you don’t give the item back to the person who bought it for you in the first place!
Eight ways to control Christmas spending
4 Don’t leave posting your cards until the last minute
If you get organised and write your Christmas cards early, you can post them second class until December 18, which will cost you 61p per stamp. Leave things late, and you’ll have to post everything first class – at a cost of 70p per stamp.
Last posting dates for Christmas
Better still, cut out the cost of cards and postage altogether – while also doing your bit for the environment – by sending e-cards instead this Christmas.
5 Don’t forget to check the final order dates when shopping online
With so much to do in the run-up to Christmas, you might be relying on buying the bulk of your presents online. But make sure you check the latest date you can place orders – as if you get it wrong, you risk your gifts not arriving in time for the big day, or having to pay a premium for next day delivery.
Six tips for safer online shopping
6 Don’t end up out of pocket buying gift vouchers
Gift vouchers can be a godsend when you can’t think of what to give to someone who is tricky to buy for.
The problem is, they come with lots of catches which could leave you out of pocket and the person you are buying for empty-handed. These include expiry dates, inactivity charges and penalties for under-spending. You also have little protection if a retailer goes bust, as administrators are not obliged to honour gift cards. Tread very carefully, and if you are set on giving gift vouchers, opt for vouchers or cards with long expiry dates, and which can be redeemed in lots of different stores, such as the One4all card and Amazon Gift Card.
All you need to know about buying gift vouchers
7 Don’t leave booking your travel until the last minute
If you’re hoping to visit friends or family over the festive period, start planning now.
Findings from TravelSupermarket show that train passengers can typically save at least 60% by buying an advance ticket, rather than a full-price ticket – so get organised, and purchase tickets as soon as you can.
Further savings can be made by using a Railcard, buying a “split ticket” option on journeys with stops, and being flexible – as the cheapest off-peak and advance fares tend to be available between 9am and 2pm on weekdays, and after 7pm on weekday evenings and at weekends.
Cut the cost of Christmas travel
8 Don’t get caught out by a fraudster when buying presents online
You need to keep your wits about you when Christmas shopping online, as fraudsters will be out in force at this time of year.
Use trusted retailers so you can be sure you are spending your money on products that aren’t fakes. Check that pages are authenticated – and that the address begins “https”.
Always verify that conditions of delivery and return are well explained, and check the website offers a secure method of payment. Never pay in advance with any form of cash transfer.
Find out more about the latest scams...
9 Don’t buy presents and other items in the first store you see them in
Shop around and check prices both on the high street and online to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
Make use of comparison sites such as Kelkoo and Pricerunner which will help you root out the best prices, or use a site like Alertr to keep track of the item you want, then get an email when the price drops. LatestDeals is another great site for finding special offers.
10 Don’t pay full price for presents, food and other items
Wait for two-for-one offers and other deals – especially on items such as wine and champagne. Also make use of loyalty points and rewards that you’ve accrued with stores such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Boots.
Remember to check out discount sites, such as Promotional Codes and VoucherCodes, and also cashback sites, such as TopCashback or Quidco where you can earn money as you spend.
11 Don’t waste money on extended warranties
Staff will often try and sell you an extended warranty when buying electrical goods, such as a new TV – claiming that policies will cover the cost of repairs. However, these warranties are often costly, unnecessary and riddled with exclusions.
Many products already come with a 12-month manufacturer’s warranty as standard, plus the Consumer Rights Act 2015 should cover you if your goods aren’t of satisfactory quality or don’t fit the job intended for a reasonable amount of time.
Find out more about extended warranties
12 Don’t buy more food than you’re likely to eat
While no-one wants to under-cater at Christmas, it is easy to over-estimate how much you really need.
Don’t buy a bigger turkey than required, unless you’re happy eating leftovers for the weeks after December 25.
Plan meals carefully, shop accordingly and make use of tools, such as BBC Good Food’s portion planner to minimise waste.
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