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Ten things to put on your Christmas countdown list

christmas cookies 2918172 640The local supermarket already has several shelves of Christmas chocolates. Who on earth would buy them now? I know chocolate lasts for ages – but there is little chance of that in this house without them being ‘tested’. However there are ways of getting ahead for Christmas. Here’s my skinted top 10.

1. It is only one day. You do not need to get into debt. You are less likely to overspend if you don’t leave it to last minute panic buying.

2. If you trust yourself to pay off the full amount every month, then you can buy on a credit card which gives you cashback on spending. The pick of the bunch currently is probably the Amex Platinum Cashback card which gives you 5% cashback on purchases for three months, capped at £125. More details on cashback cards here: remember, you’ll need a good credit record to get the best deals – and you MUST pay the bill in full every month, otherwise the benefit of the cashback could be wiped out by the interest you pay.

3. If you’re travelling to see friends/relations at Christmas, then buy train/plane tickets now: it will be cheaper.

4. If you’re sending parcels to far-flung relations, then you need to get your act together: the last posting date for Royal Mail economy postage for anywhere outside Europe is 28 September – you can see all the dates here. There’s a comparison site which lets you find the best deal for courier services here.

5. Be careful if you buy gift vouchers: some with House of Fraser gift vouchers are currently having a ‘mare getting theirs honoured. And there have been plenty of stories in the papers recently about expired vouchers. If you do buy them, then point out to the recipient when they run out. Or just give cash – parcel it up with a cheap box of chocolates or something to make it look more present-like.

6. Buying something big? Then watch out for Black Friday deals by monitoring the price of the item you want and watching to see if it’s cheaper on Black Friday (23 November). Also, it’s worth registering with a cashback site such as Topcashback* – you’ll then get a proportion of the cost back.

7. If your children are still of an age where they want to send every kid in their class a card, then look out for three for two offers on packs (you can always keep some for next year).

8. Getting the kids to make cards is a nice idea but what with all the card/envelopes/glitter you’ll need to buy – never mind the mess – is probably an expensive option. And most children will probably spend ages on one card and then get bored leaving you to finish the job.

9. Older relatives in particular would probably welcome a hamper with home-made food and drink (plus a few extra bought bits). Take advantage of the season and make chutney from windfall apples (see here for recipe) or sloe gin (here). Both have to be made months in advance so that’s perfect. Older people are probably the only ones who like traditional fruit Christmas cake. It’s really easy to make and again, needs making in advance and feeding with alcohol. Try this one. It’s a bit Kirstie Allsop but you can make decorations if you want: these are cute and easy.

10. Buy a fake tree. It will be cheaper in the long run and you won’t have needles everywhere. There are deals around at the moment – see here for example. As long as you cover it with decorations and spritz the room with pine-scented air freshener then your middle class credentials will remain in place.

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Monday, 17 December 2018