The mince pies and Panettone are already in the supermarkets and that can only mean one thing – Christmas is edging closer.
But even though Christmas might still seem a fair way off, getting organised can make life far less stressful later on – and save you a tidy sum of money.
Here are eight things you can do now to cut the cost of the festive season.
1. Make a list (and check it twice)
It’s far too easy to get carried away and spend more on gifts and food than intended – or even forget what we’ve already bought and end up doubling up on certain items.
So this year, draw up a list of who you need to buy presents for and how much you can realistically afford to spend on each of them, and then do the same for food and other festive necessities.
Stick to this budget as closely as possible and, as you buy items, make a note of them so you know how much you’ve spent and exactly what you’ve got left in the kitty.
2. Start Christmas shopping online
Starting your Christmas shopping now (if you haven’t already done so) means you can spread the cost over the next couple of months and take advantage of any sales and special offers that crop up.
You’re more likely to bag the best deals if you shop online – so keep an eye out for voucher codes that slice money off your purchases.
3. Stock up on freezer food and non-perishables
When you’re doing the weekly shop, add a few festive frozen or non-perishable goods to your trolley to help ease the mad panic before the big day.
Supermarkets have a continual run of special offers in the lead up to Christmas – particularly on frozen party food, chocolate tubs, selection boxes and alcoholic drinks – so keep an eye out and stock up.
It’s probably worth putting these items in a separate cupboard/freezer compartment so that no one digs in early!
4. Get creative
Put your creative skills to the test by baking your Christmas cake and mince pies, rather than buying them – it works out much cheaper, especially if you bake in bulk.
Baking your Christmas cake now means it has plenty of time to mature, while mince pies can be frozen.
Similarly, consider making your own Christmas cards or making up gift hampers packed full of home-made chutneys and jam, which can be made well in advance, as well as sweets and chocolates, which might need to be made a week or so beforehand.
5. Book your festive train travel
Train tickets are generally released 12 weeks before the date of travel, and this is when you’re most likely to be able to get a cheap advance fare online.
Believe it or not, the 12-week mark before Christmas has been and gone (it was October 2!), so if you’re planning to travel by train to spend the festive season with friends or family, now is the time to buy your ticket.
For example, booking a return ticket from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly now for December 23 (returning December 27) would cost you £63.20. In comparison, booking on the day would cost you £82.40 – that’s £19.20 more. (Prices correct at time of writing.)
It’s also worth checking out bus and coach fares, which can often be an even cheaper way of travelling.
6. Hand-deliver your gifts and cards
Another advantage of getting ahead of the game means that, if you’re seeing friends or family before Christmas (and not on the day itself), you can personally give them their gifts and cards, rather than pay for postage.
7. Apply for the right credit card
If you’re thinking of using a credit card to pay for your Christmas costs, applying for one now, rather than closer to December, means you’re less likely to end up relying on an uncompetitive card to see you through.
Using the right credit card will help you to either spread the cost of your spending interest-free with a 0% purchase card or earn something back for your spending with a cashback or rewards credit card.
For example, both the Sainsbury's Bank Nectar Purchase credit card and the Tesco credit card offer the longest 0% purchase deal at 28 months (with the Tesco card, you may be offered 25 months' or 22 months' interest-free depending on your credit score).
This gives you more than two years to pay off your credit card without worrying about interest building up.
What's more, if you apply for the Sainsbury's card by December 29, you'll receive 5,000 bonus Nectar points if you spend £800 or more in the store or on Sainsbury's fuel in the first three months.
You'll also receive 2 Nectar points per £1 spent on Sainsbury's shopping and fuel and 1 Nectar point per £5 spent elsewhere. The card has a representative rate of 18.9% APR (variable)*.
The Tesco card also allows you to earn Clubcard points as you shop. Because your card doubles as your Clubcard, you'll earn a total of five Clubcard points for every £4 spent in Tesco and one Clubcard point for every £8 spent elsewhere. T&Cs apply.
The card has a representative rate of 18.9% APR (variable)**.
8. Switch your current account and benefit from cashback
Finally, with a number of current accounts offering attractive cash hand-outs if you switch to them, you might be tempted to take advantage so you can use this cash to help pay for Christmas.
However, be aware that if you do switch your current account, you may have to wait a while before you receive your cash - so the earlier you apply, the better.
Many banks will give you your cashback within a month of switching to the account, but in some cases, you may have to wait up to 70 days, which means you won't receive your cashback in time for Christmas. However, it could still come in handy for paying off Christmas debt in the New Year.
You can find out more about when you'll receive your cash in this article.
Remember though - don't be tempted to switch your current account solely for the cash incentive. Make sure the account matches your needs too.
* Representative Example: If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 18.95% p.a. (variable), your representative rate will be 18.9% APR (variable).
** Representative Example: If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 18.9% p.a. (variable), your representative rate will be 18.9% APR (variable).
Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.