THERE'S no denying that December is an expensive month after we’ve all splashed the cash at Christmas and we’re left scrimping through January.
Add a cost of living crisis to the mix and it's hardly surprising that so many of us will feel the pinch in our wallets ahead of this year’s Christmas festivities.
If you're dreading the thought of looking at your bank balance this December, then you might want to take a leaf out of this thrifty mum’s book.
This savvy bargain lover has shared her budget-friendly tips on how to save £1,000 in time for Christmas.
Freelancer Vicky Smith, 38, says she started to become more conscious of her money budget after having kids.
But by planning in advance and putting effort into saving money, she said the usual stresses surrounding Christmas can be less.
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The mum-of-two, from Berkshire, said: “I became more conscious of my budget after having my daughters.
“Even though we were going out a lot less there were new expenses to consider such as clothes and childcare. Also Christmas got a whole lot more expensive!
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“I’ve found when I plan ahead for expenses by putting efforts into saving money it makes such a huge difference when it comes to the usual stresses surrounding Christmas.
“This way I can concentrate on all of the fun stuff!”
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Make your savings progress visual
Vicky, who is also a blogger at money saving advice website More Than A Mummy, starts her Christmas in September and has it finished by December.
This way she can get all of her wrapping done ahead of Christmas week and then concentrate on the food shopping.
In order to save £1,000 in time for Christmas, the savvy mum said you need to be clear about how much you need to put away every week/month.
Some people find the weekly amount less daunting than looking at the monthly chunk of cash they need to save!
She said: “You may like to consider it on a monthly basis, or weekly, it really depends.
“Some people find the weekly amount less daunting than looking at the monthly chunk of cash they need to save!
“Look at what you have in savings right now for Christmas, then divide what you need to hit your savings target with the number of weeks/months to Christmas.
“That is how much you need to be putting aside. One trick is to visualise your savings progress. This can be really motivating!
“To do this you can create a square grid (just sketch one out roughly on a piece of paper or in a notebook) of 10 by 10 squares. As our target is £1,000 each little square represents £10.
“Every time you manage to save £10, you colour in a square. This helps you track your progress.
“Alternatively keep a list of how much you’ve put aside every month. Once you get halfway there and can see how well you’re doing it makes the final weeks so much easier!”
The mum, who has a six-year-old and a four-year-old, said she starts saving for Christmas by making a list of everyone she needs to buy presents for and brainstorming gift ideas.
She said this way it is easier to stick to her budget and she can keep track of exactly what she needs as she gets closer to Christmas.
Keep an eye on price reductions
Another tip she shared is that she notes down how much everything has cost to balance her Christmas budget – plus planning ahead, means getting the best price reductions.
She said: “Whenever I have left Christmas until the last minute I’ve found I’ve gone over budget because I haven’t thought through what I’m buying or how the costs are adding up.
“Planning ahead also means I can keep an eye on price reductions.
“Last year I knew I wanted to get the kids Amazon Fire Tablets and I also knew from previous years they go into a sale every year around Black Friday.
“I picked the ones I wanted then purchased them once the sale began which saved me over £100.”
Vicky, who shares her money saving tips on More Than A Mummy, revealed the quickest and easiest way to save £1000 for Christmas is to make a budget and stick to it.
She said savers need to be very clear about how much they need to save every month and make sure that money goes into their savings pot as soon as they get paid, so that they don’t get tempted to spend it.
Cut back on day-to-day expenses
She advised people who want to save £1000 in time for Christmas need to be frugal and cut back on day-to-day expenses
While it may feel a little daunting at first, Vicky believes making small changes such as ditching daily takeaway coffees, quickly adds up over time.
She shared: “Another huge way to increase your chances of hitting your savings target is to tell friends and family about your savings challenge!
“Tell them you want to save £1,000 by December and they will provide moral and practical support.
“They will also be understanding if you skip a few nights out, or ask them to come over to your house for a few drinks instead of heading out to a pub.”
One of the biggest ways Vicky saves money in the run up to Christmas is by cutting back on her expenses and being savvy to all of the pressures to spend.
Every year there are new ‘must have’ Christmas jumpers despite the ones from last year only getting worn a few times.
So the money-saving mum reminds herself what she already has and reminds herself that she doesn’t actually need brand new decorations or festive clothes.
Vicky explained: “To avoid temptation of buying stuff from my favourite brands I will unsubscribe from their mailing lists for the festive season so that I don’t get bombarded with messages pushing me to buy stuff I actually don’t need.
‘Lots of brands and shops also run special offers around Christmas to push for more sales.
“But it’s only a bargain if you were going to buy it anyway, otherwise you’re just spending more money.”
Cut back ahead of Christmas
Vicky insisted the earlier you get started planning for Christmas, the better, but she added that it’s definitely not too late to get started now!
There are two key ways she has managed to increase the amount she saves – firstly she cut back on expenses and secondly she looked for simple ways to boost her income.
She advised people to save money on their weekly food shopping by meal planning to cut back on waste as well as avoid overbuying, ditch takeaways and purchase cheaper cuts of meat and seasonal veg.
She said: “A few years ago I wrote down all of our subscriptions, for example TV services and magazines.
“We decided to ditch Sky TV which has saved us a huge amount on our monthly costs.
“If you don’t want to get rid of your TV provider then why not call and tell them you’re considering leaving, they are highly likely to offer you a temporary discount on your package which can boost your savings up to Christmas.
“The other thing I ditched was getting my hair coloured at the hairdressers. This was costing me over £100 every time I needed my roots done.
“Instead I colour it at home with hair dye purchased at the supermarket for £5.80 a box. A huge saving!”
She added in a similar vein if you get regular beauty treatments such as manicures then you can sacrifice them in the run-up to Christmas so you can save the money instead.
THE BEST SAVINGS CHALLENGES
A savings challenge helps you put small sums of money aside each day or week so you have a larger pot by the end. Here are some of the most popular.
- 20p a day challenge – Start by putting 20p in savings, then increase the amount by 20p every day. For example, the first week will look like this: 20p, 40p, 60p, 80p, £1, £1.20, £1.40.
- £5 a week challenge – Like the 20p challenge, put aside £5 a week and increase it by a fiver each week. Eg £5, £10, £15, £20
- Round-up challenge – Every time you buy something, round up the purchase to the nearest £1 and put the difference in a savings account. Eg. You pay £2.60, so you put 40p in savings. You can use an app such as Monzo or Starling to do this.
- Bingo challenge – Here you have a bingo card with different numbers on it and you tick them off when you’ve put that amount in your savings account. It can be ad hoc but you have to tick them all off by the end of the month.
- Monday to Sunday challenge – With this, you simply save £1 on Monday, £2 on Tuesday and so on until the weekend where you don't save on Saturday or Sunday.
- 365 day challenge – Every Sunday you put aside £1, followed by £2 on Monday, £3 on Wednesday and so on. On Saturday you’ll put away £7, and then the process repeats and you’ll put aside £1 on Sunday as the new week begins.
Boost your income
In terms of boosting your income in order to save £1000 in time for Christmas, the mum-of-two also recommended giving survey sites a try.
Her favourite is Prolific because it has a low first payment threshold (some other sites like YouGov require you to accrue points before they pay out) and the surveys are interesting.
She also recommends people clear out of their lofts, garages and wardrobes as by decluttering, they can make valuable space in their home and sell stuff online for cash!
Vicky said: “There’s a huge market for things like kids buggies, toys, clothes, and furniture. I’ve made hundreds of pounds selling our unwanted stuff through Facebook Marketplace in the last few years.
“To boost your income further you may want to consider starting a side hustle – something that makes you extra cash on top of your full-time income.
“Some good side hustles to make money quickly include making and selling crafts on Etsy, dog walking and cat sitting, and becoming a freelance delivery person for Amazon through Amazon Flex.”
Vicky described Christmas in her household as ‘noisy and fun.’ She said the kids tear into their presents first thing in the morning.
Then, they have relatives come over and exchange gifts in the afternoon before they all sit down to enjoy a huge roast turkey dinner with all of the trimmings.
The money-saving mum revealed she loves cooking Christmas dinner and it’s one of her favourite meals to put together.
Christmas dinner savings
To get prepared for the Christmas dinner, Vicky writes out a list of everything she needs at the start of December but she purchases the food in the week before the big day.
She used to reserve a turkey ahead of time but realised she could make a bigger saving on them if she waited until closer to the day.
She said: “Many supermarkets put yellow stickers on their turkeys (and other food too) on Christmas Eve as they push to sell them which can save a few quid on your bird!
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“When it comes to saving money on Christmas food it is all about planning. It’s so tempting to buy ALL the things around Christmas time, because the supermarkets really do produce some amazing festive treats.
“But I keep track of what I’m buying and stick to the list. It can also help to make sure you have a shelf free in your freezer, so that any food you end up not using at Christmas can be frozen and used later.”
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