Christmas is a time for families to unite and spend quality time together, but it can also be an incredibly stressful period. If not carefully avoided, there’s always a danger of overspending, blowing the budget and throwing your household into financial dire straits come January. Yet with some small tweaks and an understanding of the tricks that supermarkets use, it’s always possible – and sometimes easy – to keep Christmas costs massively down. We asked the team at MoneySavingExpert.com to share top tips for the festive period…
1. Downshifting. Many go all out at Christmas, buying the best of everything to treat friends and family. But is that food product really the best or is that simply what a marketeer wants you to believe? The packaging might look more opulent, but look at the ingredients list to see if you can tell the difference. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, try ‘downshifting’ some standard family favourites – go from branded to supermarket own-brand and see if they notice. You may be surprised by the results. If they don’t notice a difference, stick with the cheaper product.
2. Look down. Supermarkets try all sorts of tactics to make us spend more, but there’s a simple trick to finding better-value items. More expensive items are usually placed at average eye-level, often with a better-value pack of the same branded product on the bottom shelf. It may mean initially paying more for a bigger pack, but you’ll get more for your money gram for gram.
3. Coupons. Supermarket coupons are a really great way to slash the cost of your shop. Websites like SuperSavvyMe and CaringEveryday offer money-off printable coupons direct from the manufacturer. You’ll also find coupons in free supermarket magazines, on promotional packets and online.
4. Online codes for new shoppers. If you haven’t tried online supermarket shopping before, there are plenty of introductory codes around to entice you in. These include offers such as 30% off your first two shops via discount codes, so it may be worth trying this when you’re planning your more expensive supermarket shops. Simply search for the relevant supermarket and ‘discount vouchers’ to find the latest introductory deals.
5. Make a list. It sounds so obvious, but one of the best ways to save money while shopping is to make a list, create a budget and stick to it. Meal plans are another great way to ensure you don’t go off course.
6. Don’t shop hungry. Again, a no-brainer for some. Shopping on an empty belly can really affect what you buy and will make sticking to that list a lot more difficult.
7. Compare prices. If money is really tight this Christmas, you may have to go to more than one supermarket to get the best deals. Online tools like MySupermarket or Idealo.co.uk enable you to compare product prices before you leave the house, so you know you’re getting the best deal at the best price.
8. Beware of quick ‘pick up’ shops. You know the ones, where you pop in to pick up a quick pint of milk. The temptation is to grab a basket and fill it. Don’t pick up the basket! Just buy your milk and go.
9. Look out for special offers and ‘yellow stickers’. Over the next few weeks, look out for special offers and discounted ‘yellow sticker’ items that you can pop in the freezer for the festive period. Many items, including grated cheese, meat, soups and even cake can be frozen to use at a later date. Just ensure the food is within its ‘use by’ date before freezing.
10. Check out alternative aisles. In MoneySavingExpert.com’s investigation, we found near-identical items in different aisles for very different prices. We found 300 cotton buds for 55p in the baby aisle but 200 cotton buds for £1.50 in the cosmetics aisle. A 100g bag of ground ginger was 50p in the world food aisle, while in the herbs and spices aisle the equivalent was £1.68 per 100g. Whip out the calculator and get an understanding of roughly how much a product is per gram – then keep your eyes peeled in unexpected places.
Read more tips on cutting Christmas costs from MoneySavingExpert.com
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Do you have any money saving tips to share? We would love to hear from you below…