Image How to have a cheaper Christmas

Christmas is undoubtedly an expensive time of the year for households and it can be easy to overspend. Here we’ve outlined 14 ways that you can save money and have a cheaper Christmas.

Christmas is just around the corner and many of us are still doing our last minute Christmas shopping. However with inflation on the rise, we may find ourselves spending more than we usually do. 

Whether you’re looking to save on present shopping or reduce your energy costs, there are many ways to have a cheaper Christmas. To help you reduce your spending during the festive season, we’ve compiled a list of simple ways to save money this Christmas. 

1. Make a list and check it twice

Before you buy anything for the festive season, it’s a good idea to make a list of what you intend to buy and how much you’re planning to spend.

Try to make note of everyone you need to buy presents for and set a realistic budget for each person. Once you have an idea of what you’re going to buy everyone, add up the costs to see if your budget is feasible. If it’s not, revise your list. 

As Christmas gets closer, it’s normal to find yourself panic buying or falling trap to special offers. Creating a list and setting a budget will help you reduce stress, avoid impulse buying and unnecessarily overspending. 

Make sure you review the list regularly and update it to reflect changes and to keep track of what you’re actually spending. And if you’re someone who likes to start their shopping early, don’t forget to include what you’ve already bought on the list too.

Don’t forget to include additional expenses for food and socialising as these can significantly increase how much you spend at Christmas. It’s important to ensure you have evenly spread your budget out to cover all costs.

2. Be smart with your food shopping

Christmas is a time often associated with splashing out on the finest foods and eating copious amounts. However, it’s easy to get swept up in the festive excitement and purchase more food than you need, leading to high levels of food waste.

To avoid buying too much food, make a list of what you need and stick to it. Check your cupboards and freezer before going grocery shopping to determine what you already have, so you don’t end up with double.

To have a delicious Christmas dinner, you don’t need to break the bank. While you may be tempted by the fancy Christmas-themed packaging on food from premium brands, cheaper alternatives or supermarket own-brands can taste just as good.

3. Prepare your own dishes

It’s often the pre-prepared food that costs the most, such as prepped veg and canapés like pigs-in-blankets. While these ready-to-go foods can save effort and time, they’re costly.

Consider taking the time to make your own canapés at home and try to prepare as many dishes yourself as possible. With cheese boards, for example, you might find it cheaper to buy individual cheeses instead of buying a ready-made cheese board.

Some festive treats, such as mince pies and pudding, can be made in advance so you won’t be overwhelmed preparing everything on Christmas day.

4. Utilise leftovers

Having leftovers after Christmas dinner is inevitable for many households, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you plan ahead, leftovers from Christmas can mean that you could minimise cooking for a day or two. 

Try to figure out what you’ll do with the leftovers in advance so that you don’t end up buying food unnecessarily for St. Stephen's Day and wasting perfectly good food.

You can easily use leftovers to make a turkey and stuffing sandwich or use leftover turkey in a stir fry. Leftover ham can be used to make omelettes, quiches or pasta carbonara. There are plenty of easy recipes and ideas available at your fingertips online.

A word of caution though, make sure you store your leftovers correctly. Cover leftover meat and store it in the fridge within 2 hours of cooking and throw away any high-risk food that has been standing at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Once refrigerated, you should use leftovers within 3 days.

5. Avoid borrowing or using your credit card

If possible, try to pay for your Christmas purchases without taking out a loan or using a credit card, but this is easier said than done.

Recent research carried out by the Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) found that 1 in 3 people plan to borrow to fund Christmas spending this year, with credit cards being the most popular form of finance. 

If you decide to use a credit card and you don’t repay your credit card bill in full every month, it can be very costly. Borrowing at Christmas means you’ll be left with a hefty credit card bill in the new year if you don’t repay it within a short time frame. To avoid this, try to limit the amount you spend using your credit card. 

When you’re buying with the cash in your own pocket, you’ll be much less likely to overspend than if you’re making purchases with a credit card.

It’s also advisable to avoid high-interest loans and moneylenders, whose interest rates can be extortionate. 

If you do decide to borrow or use a credit card, make sure you do your research. Take a look at our blog on the best credit cards available in the Irish market.

6. Avail of discounts where possible

Even without taking Christmas into consideration, we’re already paying more for goods and services this year due to inflation being on the rise. Whether you’re shopping online or in-person, we’d recommend that you check and see what discounts there are available before making any purchases. 

When it comes to groceries, check for vouchers or try to redeem loyalty card points to save money on your Christmas shop. If purchasing alcohol, many supermarkets will offer discounts in the run-up to Christmas so keep an eye out.

If you’re shopping online for Christmas presents, see if you can find any discount codes before completing your purchases. You can also add an extension to your browser, such as Honey, that will automatically scan the web for discounts codes for the site you’re on.

Often you can sign up to a newsletter for an introductory 10% off, so look out for this too.

Revolut has a rewards scheme that offers cashback on a range of brands and online stores. Revolut customers can get money back from Tesco, Nike, Apple and Currys PC World.

7. Compare prices and shop around

Here at bonkers.ie we’re big fans of shopping around to ensure you get the best value on your everyday bills, such as energy and broadband. However, we’d recommend doing this when buying Christmas presents too. 

If you know what you’re going to be buying, make sure you do your research and check multiple shops to see how the price varies. Otherwise, you might end up overpaying. You can use price comparison sites to find out where items are the best value. 

Some retailers have a price match guarantee policy in place. This means that they will meet their competitor’s prices, or offer a lower price, on products. Shops that do this in Ireland include Harvey Norman, Currys PC World and Fields.

8. Beware of delivery costs and customs charges

Shipping costs

There are many benefits to carrying out your present shopping online, but be mindful of the costs associated with delivery though, as they can add up. 

If you start your Christmas shopping early, you may have the option to select a longer delivery time for cheaper or free. You should also try to buy multiple gifts from the same retailer where possible. Not only will this reduce your shipping costs, but it will also help reduce your carbon footprint. 

Often if you spend over a certain amount, you can avail of free shipping. However, don’t unnecessarily spend more buying additional gifts just to reach this threshold. 

If you know you’ll be ordering multiple times from Amazon over the Christmas period, consider signing up for Amazon Prime to get free shipping. You might be able to get a one month’s free trial and your subscription can be cancelled at any time.

There’s also the option of click and collect. If you live near a shop branch of the retailer you’re ordering from, consider this option as it’s usually free. 

Customs and VAT

Another thing to be conscious of is that since Brexit VAT and - depending on the value - a customs duty will apply if you’re ordering from the UK. If unpaid, consumers may end up having their orders stopped at customs and held there until the charges are paid. 

When placing an order with a company based in the UK, check and see if VAT and customs have already been included at the checkout stage. If they haven’t yet been, try to calculate what they will be and factor this into your budget to avoid any unwanted surprise charges.

Since July 1st of this year, new VAT rules were introduced for goods arriving into Ireland from non-EU countries, meaning that all goods are subject to VAT at 23%, regardless of their value. If the purchase is valued at over €150, you’ll also be subject to customs duty.

9. Use up old gift vouchers

Under new rules brought in in 2019, there is now a 5-year minimum expiry date on gift vouchers, but we’re all still guilty of forgetting about gift vouchers we have tucked away. Consider using these to do your Christmas shopping.

Be mindful that with One4All vouchers, there’s a monthly inactive balance charge of €1.45 after the card has been issued for 12 months. This will keep being charged on the card each month until the balance runs out. 

So, if you do have any One4All vouchers lying around, dig them out and try to use them for your Christmas shopping where possible. Not only will this save you money, but it will also save the voucher from going to waste!

10. Save on gift wrapping 

We spend an absurd amount on wrapping paper, which always ends up in the bin. If you cut out additional extras, like bows, ribbon and gift tags, you can save significantly.

Before rushing out and buying new wrapping paper, have a root around the house and see if you can find any leftover wrapping paper and gift bags from previous years. If you find you don’t have enough, try to pick up cheap wrapping paper at discount shops or suss out what shops have a 3-for-2 offer on gift wrap. 

Alternatively, you could reuse brown paper from packages, bags from doing your Christmas shopping, or pick up a cheap roll of brown paper. As well as saving money, you’ll be doing your bit for the environment as this can be recycled. Simply add the finishing touch with some twine or a homemade gift tag. You know what they say, less is more!

Don’t forget that you can pick up wrapping paper in January sales when it’s heavily discounted and save it for the next year too. 

11. Kris Kindle or Secret Santa

If you have a lot of people to buy for in your family or friend group, consider doing Kris Kindle or Secret Santa instead. This is a great way to save money. 

Instead of buying presents for everyone, you just need to purchase one and everyone gets a gift, so it’s a win-win.

12. Get creative with Christmas crafts 

You don’t need to spend a small fortune to give meaningful Christmas gifts and instead of splashing out, consider making your own Christmas presents. It may sound like a laborious task, but handmade Christmas gifts are always appreciated. 

If you have a creative streak and can knit, sew or are artistic you can try to rustle up a few gifts to save you some money. Even something as simple as filling a photo album with pictures or creating a scrapbook can be more meaningful than a shop-bought gift. 

This can also extend to Christmas decorations. Making your own candles and decorations can be great fun for all the family, but also save you money. Similarly, consider making Christmas cards instead of buying them. 

13. Reuse Christmas decorations 

As Christmas decorations are only up for a few weeks each year, they don’t experience a lot of wear and tear so try to reuse them each year. 

We all know the saying buy cheap, buy twice. It can be tempting to buy cheap decorations and lights in the spur of the moment, but if you are going to purchase new decorations and lights, try to buy ones that are high quality. This means you won’t need to replace them each year, saving you money in the long run.

If you prefer a fake tree over a real tree, the same applies. It’s better to splash out on one that you’ll have for the next decade rather than buying one that’s cheap and won’t last. 

14. Lower your energy costs

Since the start of the year there have been over 35 energy price hike announcements from every supplier in the Irish market. With this in mind, you’ll likely want to reduce your energy costs over Christmas. 

From choosing LED lights to setting a timer for lights, there are many easy ways you can reduce your energy costs this winter. Take a look at our blog 9 ways to save on energy bills this Christmas to learn more.

Keep an eye on reward schemes from supermarkets, as often you can get a discount on your energy bill. For example, Bord Gáis Energy has a partnership with Tesco and Electric Ireland has one with SuperValu. Both reward schemes allow you to use your supermarket vouchers to get money off your energy bills. 

Finally, consider switching energy supplier. This is the quickest and easiest way to save a significant amount on your energy bills. Head over to our energy comparison page to review the best deals from all energy suppliers nationwide and see how much you could save today.

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