THE combination of a cost of living crisis and Christmas literally just round the corner will no doubt have left many parents feeling panicked.
It’s not just buying presents, it’s the food and entertainment too, and while it’s ‘the most magical time of the year’ it can be quite overwhelming.
Thankfully, there are practical things you can do now to save money in the run up to the festive period.
Here, money-saving mum-of-two and CEO of money saving app My VIP Awards, Maddy Alexander-Grout, 38, shares her best tips for cutting costs to make Christmas as affordable as possible…
We probably all have the best intentions to start our Christmas shopping earlier than we actually do – but if you shop smart and at the right times, it could be really worth your while.
Maddy says: “Check out when the toy sales are happening for the supermarkets and toy shops, make a note in your diary and make sure you go early and stock up.
“For example this year the Smyth’s toy sale starts 25 October, Morrison’s starts on the 10 October, Sainsbury’s on the 12 October.”
To keep up to date on other sales to look out for, Maddy also frequently shares her money saving tips on TikTok.
Bargain board games
You can also save on entertainment too if you look now for games that will be sure to keep the kids busy on boxing day.
Maddy says: “Go to charity shops for toys and games for kids.
“I have bought some super cheap board games for Christmas this year.
“I got Greedy Granny (which usually costs around £17), a set of 9 Fireman Sam jigsaw puzzles, Kerplunk (worth around £15) and Junior Monopoly – all for £1 each.”
Cash in with cashback
You can also use cashback sites, which is a way of getting money back when you make purchases from specific online retailers.
Maddy says: “I have saved over £400 using My VIP Rewards, Quidco and Top cashback this year.
“When you buy something, whatever it is, check to see if you can save on it first.
“Find a cashback site, click on the place you want to shop, and whatever your spend the app or site will cache your spend and will add cashback to your cashback wallet.
“I got £80 cashback on my new mobile phone handset and £30 when I bought my new freezer.
“You can then withdraw your savings either direct to your bank account or onto a digital mastercard with sites like My VIP Rewards which I like as I can use it to budget what I am spending.
“You can also add browser extensions like Kindred and Honey which automatically get you cashback into your bank account.
“And there are some new players on the market, Jam Dohnut and KV Cashback, where you get instant cashback.
Also, check your wallet for old gift cards!
“They have use by dates – usually a year – so make sure you don’t lose out on money that is just sitting there.”
Find the freebies
Remember not all gifts have to cost loads and if you keep an eye out in the right places you can even pick up some freebies, especially for little ones who aren’t yet bothered by the latest must-have toy.
Maddy says: “Use apps like Olio now to find free gifts, especially things for babies!
“People are always giving away things like cribs, Moses baskets and pushchairs just because they no longer have the space for them.”
Unless you’re a present-wrapping pro, wrapping gifts and writing cards can be a real chore – and expensive too. if left to the last minute.
However if you start now and get the kids involved, you can create your own more personalised cards and gift wrap that will barely cost a thing.
Maddy says: “Why not use brown parcel paper, and buy a Christmas stamp you can reuse, or just use a free local paper and jazz it up with some ribbon and glitter.
“The best thing about using ribbon is that you can collect it up again after and reuse for next year.
“I also keep my old Christmas cards from previous years and use them to make my own cards.
“All you need is some A4 paper, scissors and glue, cut all of the pictures out and get creative.
“The kids will find it really fun, it gets them into the Christmas spirit and it’s so much more personal.
“You can make you own gift tags in the same way too.”
Leave the kids at home
In the run up to Christmas there are hundreds of new and exciting looking products in the supermarkets, so one top tip is, if you can, to try and leave the kids at home.
Maddy says: “This is easier said than done sometimes, but you can focus more on your shopping and budget than what they are asking you to buy them.
“If you have to take them, especially around Christmas time, ask them to put things they want on their ‘magic list’.
“This is a list that they don’t write down anywhere, and they generally forget about when it comes to the excitement of Christmas day.”
We all know how costs can end up accidentally spiralling too.
Maddy says: “Set budgets for presents now – it’s so easy for one person to go crazy and one to feel bad.
“I always set a £40 limit for my husband, which he rarely sticks to, but at least I know I’m playing by the rules!
“Also, if you have a large family, think about a family secret santa – only one present to buy, less stress and less spend and you can get something really lovely.
“Also make a plan and separate your wants and needs – what is essential, and what would be nice to have? Put it all into a grid.
“For example an essential would be a turkey, but could you buy frozen in advance and defrost so it’s cheaper?”
This is one for next year, but Maddy says: “It’s a bit late now, but shop early.
“Start buying presents when you see them, especially if they are on offer throughout the year.
“Something to bear in mind for next Christmas is buying things in the January sales.
“Especially for older relatives or family who won’t change their tastes like grandparents or parents.
“I had my presents sorted by February this year!”