WITH Christmas only eight weeks away, we’ve got some ideas for how you could save cash to help pay for the festive period.
If you’re dreading the thought of looking at your bank balance, then you might want to take a leaf out of the books of this thrifty lady.
This savvy bargain-lover mum has shared her budget-friendly tips for how to save £500 in time for Christmas – and she reckons it mostly includes planning ahead.
Laura Light, 36, who shares her thrifty tips on her website Savings 4 Savvy Mums, revealed how you can save money quickly and easily in preparation for Christmas.
The freelance writer, from Southampton, Hampshire, said the number one thing is to be prepared and plan in advance.
Laura, who is mum to eight-year-old Holly and seven-year-old Abigail, starts shopping for Christmas in January and here’s the tips she swears by to save £500 in time for Christmas.
FIND YOUR BUDGET
The Savings 4 Savvy Mums founder said the first thing you should do is to figure out your budget.
“Start by working out how much you can realistically spend without going into debt and stick to that. When you have a budget, write down who you plan to buy for,” she said.
“If you have a large group of friends, could you do a secret Santa with a spending limit? Sort it now so that everyone is prepared.
“October is a great month to work out what you can afford. If you have items in mind then start researching how much they cost.
“Is there anything that you could live without this year to help you pay for Christmas? Are there subscriptions that you could downsize or could you bring lunch instead of buying it?
Start by working out how much you can realistically spend without going into debt and stick to that
“Go through every bill and call your supplier to check you are on the cheapest tariff. It does take time, but it could save you hundreds of pounds.”
Laura revealed: “We managed to get our Sky bill, phone contracts and our home insurance price down by just asking the question. Every pound saved goes towards Christmas.”
The mum-of-two also encouraged people to use vouchers and cash-back websites in order to save money ahead of Christmas – especially when shopping online. She also saves up her Nectar points.
Laura said most people will be surprised by how much extra they’ll save over the year, that way, if she needs anything in December that she can’t find anywhere else, the item gets bought with the points.
“I always set a budget. We work out in December, after Christmas, what we can afford and plan from there,” she said.
“If we are unsure what to buy for close family or friends then we try and set up Secret Santa early. It takes the pressure off buying for everyone and makes a great fun day activity.
“We budget by using an app but you could also use a spreadsheet or paper to work out how much you can afford. Then it’s all about deciding how you want to save throughout the year.
“Planning from the very start of the year is the best way to ensure you don’t have to cut back because of Christmas.”
PLAN WHAT YOU WANT TO BUY
Another way to save money ahead of Christmas is to have an idea of what you want to buy.
Laura advised: “Set up Google Alerts for those items which tells you straight away when there is a price drop.
“We also use Facebook Marketplace and eBay Local to find items the kids want. For example, last year they wanted LOL dolls. These currently retail for £10 upwards a doll.
“We found a local seller selling 25 dolls with accessories for £15. The kids loved them and we saved loads of money!”
Laura revealed she makes two lists – one for all the people she plans to buy for, including any of the kids’ friends, and writes down the budget per person and any gift ideas.
We buy all our wrapping paper at the end of December in the sales and can normally buy a tin of chocolates for half price ready for next year
The second list is for accessories and food items – wrapping paper, sellotape, chocolates for the Christmas tree and food for Christmas day.
She said: “That way, if we see anything on sale, we can grab in throughout the year and spread the cost.
“We end up buying all our wrapping paper at the end of December in the sales and can normally buy a tin of chocolates for half price ready for the following year.
“Don’t be scared to shop in charity shops either! We’ve found so many nice clothes for the kids by looking in charity shops.
“We use Notes on our phone that connects to both of us, so that if one of us sees something, we grab it then tick it off the list and we both know. Saves buying double by accident!
“By starting in January, it gives us all year to buy what we need.”
BUY FOOD AND PRESENTS EARLY
If you want to save up to £500 in time for Christmas, you should start buying food and presents as early as you can, encouraged savvy money saver Laura.
Mum Laura explained food normally starts to slowly creep up in price as December nears and she also buys presents for the following year as soon as Christmas is over.
Laura commented: “We start buying start buying next Christmas’ food as early as January for non-perishables like chocolate biscuits, sweets, wine and soft drinks and October for things like starters, the main meat dish and desserts.
“They all get frozen. Anything that is cupboard based like gravy or stuffing also gets brought straight away.
“The only thing we buy the week before is the fresh vegetables, if they are needed. Being prepared not only takes the stress away but also saves you money.”
We start buying start buying next Christmas’ food as early as January for non-perishables… they all get frozen
When you are food shopping for Christmas, remember to downshift all your brands if you want to save up to £500 before the big day.
The money-saving mum explained that no one is going to notice if you buy the basic range of biscuits or soft drinks – and revealed de-branding is one of the best ways to save money.
She advised to ‘go low’ with brands and guarantees you won’t ‘taste the difference’.
AVOID GIFT CARDS
Another way to save up for Christmas is to stay away from gift cards, explained Laura, as your money is not protected if the store goes bust.
She said: “They are tempting, especially if you are trying to save money throughout the year to then spend in November and December.
“A better way is to either withdraw the cash and put it into a jar, with any of your coppers, monthly, so you know you have money to spend or set up a standing order which will transfer the money to a different account for you.”
USE YOUR CREATIVE SKILLS
Are you a good baker? Make cakes or cookies for your loved ones and if you’re good at crafts, make them something that they will cherish.
Laura said her daughters decorated picture frames last Christmas, then wrapped them in homemade brown wrapping paper.
Their grandparents loved receiving something so personal and the mum explained that it was really cheap in comparison to something they would have likely chucked into a cupboard.
LAURA’S CHRISTMAS FOOD SHOP
Mum-of-two Laura reveals what’s in her Christmas food shop:
POST-CHRISTMAS MEAL PLAN
Save money in time for the festive season by meal planning after Christmas.
Laura said: “Do you plan on using some of the turkey afterwards or any of the vegetables? We use up ours in curries and pasta bakes. Decide if you really need a turkey.
“If you do, how much waste do you normally have? Could you use it for extra meals after Christmas or does it get thrown away? If it’s the latter then it’s worth buying a smaller bird.
“If you have half-eaten packets of dried fruit or long forgotten minced meat, then use that to make your own dessert.”
She added that chestnuts can be used in stuffing, old onions going off can go in soups – and anything can be chucked in to make your dinner that extra bit special.
Laura added: “Think of it this way, it’s not costing you any more money and you get to clear your cupboard at the same time!”
USE YOUR FREEZER
Remember to love your freezer if you want to save money. Laura suggested that meat can be frozen now ready for Christmas and frozen vegetables are a lot cheaper than fresh.
She added that tinned vegetables last ages and taste amazing.
Christmas dinner is one meal that everyone will thank you for cooking regardless of the brand you brought, so enjoy it, she encouraged.
We normally spend about £35 on Christmas dinner for the four of us
DON’T STRIVE FOR PERFECTION
Lastly, people shouldn’t plan for perfection. Laura said: “It’s one day of the year that can get you into serious debt. Plan for fun and laughter. There are loads of free online games you can play as a family.
“For us, normally Christmas Day is just the four of us. We start by opening the girls stockings which normally have items they need like notepads, pens and toiletries.
“Then it’s bacon sandwiches for breakfast and making Christmas lunch. Because most of it is frozen, I would have taken it out of the freezer a few days beforehand.”
“It’s a very stress free day. Laying the table and doing the Gingerbread House has become a tradition for us,” Laura said.
“It’s a fun way for the kids to help and they get to plan where everyone sits while eating the house!
“We normally spend about £35 on Christmas dinner for the four of us. Anything left over gets eaten on Boxing Day or, if we haven’t used it, gets put back into the freezer for other meals.”