There’s still three months until Christmas Day, but many high street stores are beginning to roll out their seasonal stock already.
While some shoppers might roll their eyes at what they believe to be premature festivities, it’s possible to save huge amounts of money by preparing for Christmas early.
As you’ll see in the following 17 money-saving tips, the main benefits of starting your Christmas shopping now is that you’ll find it much easier to land a bargain. You’ll also have time to take advantage of a number of effortless money-making opportunities.
Find out more: 50 ways to save money – our all-inclusive money-saving guide
The 17 money-saving tips of Christmas
1. Make a budget and stick to it
This is the simplest, yet most effective tip to help you control your Christmas spending. By writing down how much you plan to spend on presents, food etc, it becomes much easier to resist impulse spending on unnecessary extras.
Find out more: how to plan an effective budget – our step-by-step guide
2. Book your train tickets soon
If you’re planning to visit friends and family by train over the festive season, you’ll save loads of money by booking them soon. Advance train tickets cost far less than those bought on the day of travel, and the cheapest tickets typically go on sale 12 weeks before the day of the journey. This Sunday marks the 12-week countdown until Christmas Eve.
Find out more: how to find cheap train tickets – our top 10 tips
3. Use 0% credit cards
A 0%-on-purchases credit card is a useful tool for those who want to spread the cost of Christmas over a longer period. These cards charge no interest on purchases for an initial period, which in the current market could be as long as 32 months.
We’re certainly not advocating borrowing money to fund your Christmas spend. But if you do want to spread the cost for a little longer, make sure you pay off the entire balance before the 0% period ends, as the APR will rocket thereafter and you’ll have to pay interest on any remaining debt.
The Which? Money Compare credit card tables let you search hundreds of cards from providers large and small to choose a great deal based on quality of service as well as cost and benefits.
Which? Money Compare: 0% purchase credit cards – hundreds of deals compared
4. Utilise cashback credit cards
Alternatively, if you don’t feel the need to borrow money to pay for Christmas, you might prefer to shop using a credit card that rewards you for spending.
Cashback credit cards reward you by crediting a percentage of spending back onto your card. Other reward cards will let you build up points that can be exchanged for retail vouchers or air miles.
Again, it’s vital to pay back what you’ve borrowed at the end of the month, otherwise the interest your spending accrues may wipe out the rewards you earn.
Which? Money Compare: cashback credit cards – our tables are updated every day
5. Look for retailers on cashback sites
Before you purchase festive goods online, check whether the retailer is listed on a cashback site like Quidco or TopCashback.
If you click through to the retailer from these websites, it’ll reward you with cashback (usually a specific percentage of your spending). The best way to ensure your cashback website referral is tracked correctly is to delete your internet cookies before clicking through the retailer.
You may also be able to earn cashback from retailers through your bank account. Read our story on the latest cashback deals offered by some of the UK’s biggest banks.
Find out more: cashback sites – tips to maximise your rewards
6. Find the cheapest deal online
Pricerunner.co.uk allows you to compare the price of items at hundreds of shops, while camelcamelcamel.com shows you the history of an item’s price on Amazon and alerts you if it drops. Make use of both of these websites.
7. Scour the web for discount codes
You can avoid paying full price for online goods by hunting for discount codes. One simple way of doing this is searching for the retailer’s name followed by “discount codes” on Google.
Alternatively, download the Google Chrome plug-in ‘Honey’, which will scour the web for discount codes and alert you when there is one available for the retailer you’re browsing.
8. Make use of loyalty cards
Bear in mind there are hundreds of retailers that let you spend Sainsbury’s Nectar points or Tesco Clubcard points instead of cash. Many retailers will allow you to multiply the value of these points when spending with them too.
Find out more: the best and worst loyalty cards
9. Spend your old-style £1 coins
Lots of people like to store their loose change in a jar or piggy bank and spend their savings on Christmas shopping. Those who do this might want to spend their change soon, as old-style £1 coins cease to become legal tender on October 15.
Find out more: the most valuable £1 coins
10. Switch bank accounts
Many banks are offering switching incentives to tempt new customers to their current accounts. If you were to switch accounts now, you should have the bonus in your account in plenty of time to spend it on Christmas shopping.
Find out more: switching your bank account – we list the most tempting incentives
11. Look out for Black Friday sales
On Black Friday, hundreds of shops drop their prices to kick off the Christmas shopping season. This year, it falls on 24 November. Which? will round up the best deals on offer, from cut-price coffee machines to newly reduced tablets.
Find out more: what is Black Friday? – what to expect
12. Use Which? reviews
Which? has reviewed thousands of products to help our members ensure they get value-for-money on their purchases. Click the link to try Which? for £1 and get unlimited access to all member content on which.co.uk, including our Best Buys and Don’t Buys.
13. Trial Amazon Prime free for one month
If you’re planning to do much of your shopping online, consider signing up for a trial of Amazon Prime. The service promises unlimited one-day delivery, saving you on delivery fees and guaranteeing quick service.
A subscription normally costs £79 per year or £7.99 per month – but you can currently take out a 30-day free trial, with the option to cancel any time.
Find out more: read the Which? review of Amazon Prime’s video service
14. Splash out on the best champagne
Every year, Which? tests out the best champagne and prosecco available on the market – but you don’t have to spend big to get top-shelf quality.
Find out how to save on your Christmas lunch by finding the best drop for the lowest price.
15. Sell last year’s unused gifts online
Whether it’s three copies of the same book or a home gym that’s gathering dust, we’ve all received Christmas gifts that went unappreciated.
If you have items you no longer want that are still in good condition, you may be able to sell them on eBay or other trading sites.
Just be aware of online scams and make sure you receive payment before sending anything away.
Find out more: your rights when buying and selling on eBay
16. Get designer fashions at a budget price
Spoil your loved ones this Christmas by snapping up a bargain at a flash sale. These online events are generally announced by brands at short notice and can offer discounts of up to 85%, though stocks are generally limited.
Flash sale websites like Cocosa and The OutNet will alert you to upcoming sales – but make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate retailer before buying online.
17. Price-check parcel delivery
While Royal Mail remains one of the cheapest options for sending cards or letters, you may be able to get better rates on parcel delivery.
When sending care packages to far-away family this Christmas, shop around to find the best rate on your parcel delivery service – discount courier services may offer you a cheaper rate. But check your rights if the parcel goes missing or is damaged, and whether you need additional insurance.
Find out more: delivery companies rated by real customers
Which? Limited is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited.