Top Christmas tips from the Moneywise team
MARK KING, EDITOR
I've got a few Christmas tips. First up, try to generate cash by selling your old stuff on eBay.
In my household, we use eBay all year round to sell unwanted items, but we ramp it up in the run-up to Christmas. It's a win/win because you get to de-clutter your house at the same time as generating much- needed cash to spend on presents.
Second, if you need to travel by train over the Christmas period (God help you), then make sure you buy your tickets well in advance. Festive fares are available to buy 12 weeks before the date of travel – which means they are already on sale! So why get fleeced at the ticket office on the day (if you can find one that's open).
Third, don't spend too much on the little 'uns. Babies have no idea it's Christmas. Honestly, they'll be more interested in tugging the lowest branch on your Christmas tree and showering themselves in pine needles than they will be in the latest obscenely priced Stokke accessory. So don't fall for it. Get them a colourful book and a babygro and they'll be happy.
Finally, go voucher mad. As well as all the usual discount codes and voucher sites, you can also use Clubcard Boost to double the value of Clubcard vouchers (I bought a Tesco Hudl tablet computer for £2 using mine). You can then use your doubled cash to buy presents from Tesco departments such as clothing, baby and toddler, and cosmetics and fragrance.You can also use them to treat the family to a cinema trip or days out at over 250 attractions across the UK.
LAURA WHITCOMBE, DEPUTY EDITOR
I'm a bit of a planner. And over the years I've found this helps me spread my Christmas spending. I have a pretty big family - parents, brother, step-parents, step-siblings and this year for the first time a husband and a new family-in-law. I'm definitely of the more
the merrier mindset and would never consider chopping anyone off my shopping list.
So the only way to make sure they all get something decent is for me to stagger my shopping. I've actually been buying presents since the end of the summer and have them all tucked away around the house. It seems my husband does the same as I recently found one of my Christmas presents hidden in a side pocket of the tool bag. "That's the last place I thought you'd ever look," he told me as he caught me ruining the surprise.
Back to the shopping though, so now with just a few shopping weekends left - and more importantly only one pay day – I've actually only got one present left to buy. And as long as I make my mind up about it quickly, I'll order it online this week and get it delivered to work to save faffing about at the Post Office with all the last-minute Christmas present senders.
MARK STAMMERS, ART DIRECTOR
While a large amount of your Christmas present budget may go on purchasing big-ticket items for the kids or your other half, another great chunk of cash disappears buying smaller presents such as socks, hankies or pots of smellies for all those aunties and uncles, cousins and friends.
Why not do what my family does and agree a ‘Secret Santa pact' with your relatives? Agree a maximum price – say £20 to £30 if you normally spend a tenner per person – then simply choose one item you really would love for Christmas, like that Downtown Abbey box set or Lady GaGa's latest album (though that's not necessarily what I'd go for).
Write your choice of gift on a piece of paper along with your name and put it into the hat. Your relatives also put their choices in and you each draw out one present to buy (avoiding your own piece of paper, obviously).
It's best to set this up a month before Christmas so everyone knows what they are buying and there will be no disappointment caused by the shops selling out.
The advantages are that not only do you get a present you really want, you also only have to buy one present rather than loads of naff, smaller ones. Even though that one present is a more expensive one, you still save money not having to buy separate presents for all your relatives. In fact, the bigger your family the more you will save.
The final advantage is not having to fetch that hideous knick-knack your auntie gave you from the back of the cupboard every time she comes round.
RACHEL LACEY, SPECIAL PROJECTS EDITOR
I know the easiest way to cut the cost of Christmas is to buy fewer, cheaper presents, but as far as I'm concerned that's all a bit bah humbug. I love Christmas and I love buying presents. Plus there's something a bit mean about chopping people off your present list.
That said, I'm not a total spendthrift: there are numerous things I hate splashing out on at Christmas. One is gift tags: rather than wasting money on overpriced bits of cardboard, I chop up last year's cards, punch a hole in the corner and attach some ribbon. I'm starting to get a bit tetchy about spending a fortune on Christmas trees, too – as much as I love real ones, spending £50 or £60 on one every year is starting to feel a bit excessive, particularly when we have a perfectly good fake one in the loft. Unfortunately, though, it's three against one on that front, so I know it's a battle I'll never win.
Another bugbear is all that food – yes, of course, turkey is a must for Christmas lunch, but do we really need a leg of ham too, a choice of three desserts, followed by another roast on Boxing Day? Then there's a compulsion to stockpile treats and chocolates, even though you can pretty much guarantee they'll be plenty under the tree.
Yes, presents are expensive but I reckon if you can trim back on some of the unnecessary extras that, let's face it, nobody really notices or appreciates, it's easy to save a few quid and stop a good Christmas turning into a bad New Year.
HANNAH NEMETH, CHIEF SUB-EDITOR
With wrapping paper costing as much as £3.99 a roll, making your own is an easy way to cut the cost of Christmas. You can buy rolls of plain brown paper and decorate them yourself. For example, Notonthehighstreet.com sells Christmas- themed rubber stamps in robin, snowflake heart, festive tree and spotty star designs at £4.25 each or £16 a set, with ink pads from £2. Cheaper still, just add decorative Christmas ribbons, £2.95 for 3 metres.
For personalised wrapping paper, which grandparents will love, print out family photos on paper and stick them on.
Even cheaper – and great for teenagers – buy a newspaper with an interesting colour or typography – the Financial Times, for example – and use as wrapping paper, tied with string, for a minimalist approach.
If you're not into craftwork, carrier bags offer an attractive alternative to wrapping paper. Carrierbagshop.co.uk sells festive bags including snowflake, baubles and Christmas-tree designs, with prices for a buff bag with a Christmas tree and Merry Christmas printed on it starting from £8 for 50 bags – that's just 16p a bag.
For a touch of luxury, add tissue paper to your bag – or use them as wrapping paper on their own, great for wrapping clothes and lingerie. Again, Carrierbagshop.co.uk is a good starting point, offering a whole range of colours, with prices starting from £5.25 for white and from £6.50 for colours for 480 sheets.
And instead of buying expensive gift tags, invest in brown buff tags – you can buy 50 for £1.66 on Amazon – and just use a gold or silver pen to give them a lift.
JAMIE STINSON: STAFF WRITER
Haggling is an easy way to get some money off the cost of your presents during the festive period. Work on the principle “if you don't ask, you don't get”, as it's always worth trying to get a cheeky discount.
I realise it may not be the most popular choice, as many people will be too shy to give it a go but, trust me, it works, although not often in the larger chains - they will tell you that it's not their policy.
But remember these pointers: don't haggle when the shop is busy as sales assistants will be stressed and unlikely to be helpful, plus they may feel as though their products are in good enough demand as it is without having to discount them. Get your timing right – the closer you get to Christmas, the more likely it is that shops will want to get rid of their stock before the January sales begin.
Finally, be aware. If a straight-up discount isn't in the offing, ask to see if they'll throw something else in instead, or do a two- for-one deal.
Also known as discount codes, promotional vouchers or promotional codes, online coupons or discount vouchers, are codes that can be entered at the checkout of many online UK retailers that gives you a discount against the item/s you are purchasing. The codes are generated by retailers and sent to certain members of the public to encourage sales.