How to survive the credit crunch Christmas

Many households will be dreading Christmas this year, worrying about how they’ll cover the costs. However, with a bit of planning and perhaps a little ingenuity, there is no reason why, just because money is tight, this festive season should be any less enjoyable than previous years.

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We’ve compiled some tips to help ensure Christmas is a merry one:

Don’t spend more than you can afford

It has become much harder to get credit cards and loans as a result of the credit crunch. Lenders are more picky about who they will lend to and many have increased the cost of borrowing. Therefore it is more important than ever not to get carried away and spend more than you can afford.

Agree a spending limit

You can guarantee that you won’t be alone in feeling the credit crunch pinch so why not make a suggestion to friends and families to agree a cap on spending for each gift. Even if this is £5, there is a lot of fun and creativity to be had when resources are limited. You could even go one stage further and make a pact to cut out the adults all together and just buy for kids.

Download discount vouchers

Before you set off to the shops, make sure you are not about to spend more than you need. High street spending is slowing and many retailers are desperate to attract us into their stores. As such there are loads of discount vouchers available online which you can print off and take advantage of.

We’ve recently launched a discount voucher section on our forum where you can find links to vouchers as well as post details of some you’ve found which other people can benefit from.

Buy in bulk

High street shops like Boots usually carry three-for-two promotions at Christmas, which comes in especially handy for stocking fillers. And if you are shopping online, make sure you buy more than one item at a time which reduces the cost of packing and postage. You may also qualify for free delivery.

Stagger your shopping

Avoid a sudden blow to your wallet by dividing your gift-buying into weeks. There are also some great supermarket offers on things such as beer, wine and nibbles – so stock up now on non-perishable items and help spread the cost. Mysupermarket.co.uk is a good site to visit to find details of the latest special offers.

Cash in those loyalty points

There is no better time than Christmas to bring out all the loyalty cards you have been saving points on during the course of the year. Remember, even if you have only been collecting points at your local supermarket, spending them doesn’t have to be restricted to food. With the major stores now stocking electrical goods, CDs, books, gifts and perfumes you may be able get a lot of your Christmas presents bought at the same time as you do your weekly food shop.

Shop online

Many items are cheaper if bought online (although make a note of delivery times and cut-offs for Christmas orders). As well as the money saving opportunity shopping from the comfort of your own home means you will avoid the Christmas throngs – not to mention carefully marketed temptations that are surplus to your requirements.

What’s more, our new shopping channel enables you to find the cheapest price for the items you’re looking to buy.

Haggle

Haggling isn’t something us Brits are used to doing (unless perhaps, we’re bartering for something when you’re on holiday). But it’s time to lose those inhibitions and get practising on your bartering skills. An increasing number of retailers are prepared to accept offers on some items so don’t be afraid to try and get a discount – if you don’t ask, you don’t get and what’s the worst that can happen? They say no and then you have to decide whether or not to pay the advertised price or look for something else…

Send e-cards

Rather than spending a small fortune on Christmas cards and stamps, why not send your good wishes electronically via an e-card? It’s free and is also more environmentally friendly than sending the real thing.

Profit from your spending

If you can afford to pay off your Christmas bills in full, pay for the presents you buy with a cashback credit card. With these cards it’s vital to pay off your balance every month otherwise the interest you are charged will outweigh the cashback benefit.

American Express' Platinum Cashback card is paying 5% cashback for the first three months (up to a maximum spend of £4,000). Thereafter, you earn up to 1.5% cashback. The interest rate is 18.9%, illustrating the importance of why you must clear your balance in full.

Borrow at 0%

Although it is becoming harder to obtain credit, there are still some 0% credit card deals available. If you can’t afford to pay your Christmas bills in full, you should look to take advantage of one of these products.
 
Barclaycard Breathe is interest-free on purchases for 12-months. However, bear in mind that it takes around four to six weeks for a credit card application to be processed so you will need to apply quickly in order to get a new card in time for your Christmas shopping sprees.

Another option is to go for a card that has an interest-free balance transfer offer which you can transfer your Christmas bills on to. Halifax One’s Online Special offers a 10-month interest free period on both purchases and balance transfers so you can still benefit even if it doesn’t arrive in time to use for all your shopping.

If you want a longer period within which to repay your debts, Virgin’s Credit Card has a 16-month interest-free period, while the Halifax Plus Semi Exclusive is interest free for 15 months – these offers only apply to balance transfers however, so don’t be tempted to spend on the cards as well.

Disclaimer: Please note that any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.

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