Christmas lights on a red background with a red wallet

Only 12 weeks to go - here’s our 12 ways to save for Christmas

Save time and hassle in the run-up to Christmas with these tips...

You may not want to hear about it just yet, but the fact is that Christmas is fast-approaching, and with it comes all of the expense of presents, food, drink and socialising.

Last year, Retail Ireland estimated that Irish households spent €720 more in December than any other month of the year, so it’s important to plan for this to make sure you’re not caught out.

Switcher.ie’s Christmas saving tips can help you get started….

1. Get your Christmas budget in order

First thing’s first - before you start buying anything, you need to figure out how much you can afford to spend.

If you don’t budget regularly, try planning your spending now for October, November and December. Include all of your income, then deduct any regular expenses - like your rent/mortgage, utility bills, and travel expenses - and account for irregular spending like nights out, birthdays, lunches etc. too.

Then, see how much you’ll have left over to put towards Christmas spending over the three months and this will be your starting budget.

2. Make a list, and check it twice!

Now that you know how much you have to spend, write out a list of all of your Christmas expenses.

Include each present you have to buy, things like wrapping paper and cards, as well as other seasonal expenses, like socialising and the Christmas food shop. Then, allocate an amount from your budget to each item on your list so you know how much you have to spend when you hit the shops.

If you’re not sure where to start, the CCPC’s Christmas budget planner is a good starting point.

Create your Christmas budget

3. Don’t use credit if you can avoid it

If you’ve done up a realistic budget and finished your list, you’ll have a good idea of whether your expenses will outweigh your budget for the festive season. If it’s slightly off, see if you can make some tweaks to cut back on your spending.

Avoid using credit if at all possible - last year most of us started the new year with residual debt, which can take a lot longer to clear than it does to rack up in the first place.

However, if you do need to borrow, opt for a credit card with a 0% introductory rate offer on purchases, such as the Gold Mastercard from Ulster Bank and try to clear the balance within the introductory period - in this case, 6 months.

4. If you haven’t started yet, get shopping now

It may seem really early to get started, but spreading the cost of Christmas spending can be a big help in the long run - it’ll reduce stress coming up to Christmas, and you won’t have to battle the December crowds, either.

If you’re worried about losing track of what you’ve bought, and how much you’ve spent, try an app like Santa’s Bag (iOS) or Christmas List (Android), which will allow you to keep tabs while you’re on the move.

5. Consider if Secret Santa might work with friends or family

Have a chat with your family, or groups of friends if you normally exchange presents, and see if they’d be open to doing a Secret Santa instead of buying lots of individual presents.

Not only will this save you money, you’ll also cut down on the amount of shops you have to visit - and avoid tonnes of wrapping!

6. Take the hassle out of buying

If you’re not doing Secret Santa, another great idea to take the stress out of Christmas shopping is to ask family to share lists of what they want. Again, there are plenty of easy ways to do this - you could simply each email your list to each other, use a tool like Glister, or have each person create an Amazon wish list.

This means that everyone will get gifts they actually want, and will also allow family members to pool together to buy larger items, too.

7. Take advantage of seasonal discounts

In the run up to Christmas you’ll be bombarded with the likes of 3-for-2 deals on books and buy-one-get-one-free offers on cosmetics. You’ll also likely see vouchers floating around for money off in a variety of shops - Marks and Spencer, in particular, is great for them.

Make sure you take advantage of these by seeking out deals that will help you to whittle down your list - and, remember, if you only need one item, don’t buy multiples just to make the ‘saving’.

8. See if any of your store cards give you additional benefits or discounts

If you’re someone who uses your store cards religiously, you could be in luck come Christmas. For example, if you’ve got points racked up on your Boots card, you could use them to pay for some of your pressies. It’s also possible that you may get bonus points on these cards in the run up to Christmas.

If you have a Tesco Clubcard, it could be tempting to use your money-off vouchers in-store for the Christmas food shop. But did you know that Tesco offers ‘boosts’ on points with other retailers? For example, €2.50 worth of points gives you €10 in restaurant tokens in a variety of restaurants, so this could come in handy.

9. If you plan on baking, stock up on your ingredients early

In general, Christmas baking supplies are not the most expensive, but coming closer to the big day it can get a bit tricky to find some of the items in shops, as everyone scrambles to get their cake made on time.

So, when you’re doing your grocery shopping over the next few weeks, throw some of the ingredients into the trolley, too. Most of the things you need for Christmas baking - like dried fruit - have a long shelf life, so you can store them up until you’re ready to go. Not only will this cut down on dashes around shops to find what you need, you’ll also be spreading the cost instead of doing it all at once.

10. Save on Christmas goodies by shopping online, as well as in-store

Many of us are already well-versed in online shopping, but we get lured in by the shops as Christmas draws near.

There are often great deals to be had online, however, so it’s worth checking to see if you can tick off anything on your list this way. My Deal Page compiles offers from all of the deal sites - like Groupon, Living Social etc. - so it can be a great resource. You can filter by the deals category, price, or location, which is helpful.

11. Book your Christmas travel in advance

If you plan to travel this Christmas - be it overseas or to somewhere else in Ireland - make sure you book your travel well in advance. This will save you from last-minute panic (or sold-out trains!) and you can usually pick up a nice discount for buying in advance, too.

12. Make sacrifices now and feel the benefits come December

December is always a busy month, so think about pencilling in a few quiet months in November, before the madness kicks in. Autumn/winter TV is great, so stock up on TV recordings and settle in on the couch instead of hitting the town.

You’ll save money and you’ll be ready to take a good run at the festivities!

For an extra boost, save even more for Christmas by switching

This isn’t exactly Christmas-related, but there are huge savings to be made by switching to a better gas and electricity, broadband, TV and phone, and mobile phone plan.

If you haven’t switched in a while, you could save hundreds of euro by doing so, which would definitely come in handy as Christmas rolls around.

Switch and save now