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12 Days of Christmas Money Saving: Reducing December Debt

"On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me ... crippling debt for the following months!" That doesn't exactly have a good ring to it, right? But for countless people, this is the reality. Many of us feel find ourselves rinsing our savings accounts during the festive season. Not only is there pressure to spoil our loved ones rotten but most of us also feel obliged to spend money we don’t have on people we don't know very well. If you find yourself in a pinch this December, I'm sharing 12 savvy money saving tips to keep your festive finances in the black!

1. Buy a gift card at a fraction of the price online

If you're not sure what to put under the tree for a loved one this year, gift cards make amazing presents. It saves you a lot of head scratching and it enables them to select the perfect prezzie for themselves! But instead of popping in to a high street store to purchase a gift card, why not scour sites like eBay for gift cards? Many people sell unwanted gift cards at reduced prices which can get you a great deal!

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2. Be savvy with the food shop

Christmas is often associated with festive feasting, but if you're the one hosting the entire family for Christmas dinner, your food bill alone can total hundreds of pounds. Planning out what you might like to serve your guests in advance and buying non-perishable food items earlier in the month can help you to spread the yuletide food bill throughout December.

3. Price comparison for presents

"Go Compare, Go Compaaaaaare..." We all know the sound of price comparison adverts, promising the best deals on everything from car insurance to your next summer holiday. But did you know that websites also exist which allow you to compare deals for Christmas gifts too. I recently discovered Idealo, which allows you to compare everything from a Nintendo Switch console to a microwave!

4. Hack your festive travel

Whether you're driving home for Christmas or catching a ride on Santa's sleigh (ok, maybe not the second one...), there are travel hacks that you can use to save a bit of extra cash:

Train: Make the most of advance tickets

Are you heading home to see your family this Christmas? And are you taking the train? If the answer is a resounding yes, what are you waiting for?! Get those tickets booked now to make the most of advance deals. If your journey ends up being delayed, check with your rail operator about whether you can claim money back. Some companies will refund you for even a 15 minute delay!

Coach: The wallet friendly alternative

Travelling down to London from Leicester can cost me up to £50 on the train - and that's an off-peak price! Ouch! However, I can usually snag National Express coach tickets for around a tenner return. It does increase the time spent travelling by quite some margin, but the savings can't be beaten.

Car: Have an 'appy journey

One of the best travel hacks that I've found recently came as part of my AA breakdown cover app. It enables you to input your location and the app will highlight all of the fuel stations in your vicinity, pointing out the cheapest place to go to fill your tank. All those pennies saved do add up!

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5. Hit up Poundland

Need to buy a simple box of chocs for a colleague or a child’s teacher? Poundland is the place to go for inexpensive token gifts. You can also parcel up several items from discount stores to make a more substantial present. If you're buying for a little one, you could put together a brilliant art set with  some colouring books, pens, pencils and other stationery. Poundland has deals aplenty too - I scored three rolls of gift wrap for a quid in my local store last week.

6. Don’t be afraid to regift

It’s lovely when family and friends buy presents for you during the festive season but sometimes, they get it oh-so wrong. Let’s face it, we’ve all got a random box of smellies languishing in the back of a cupboard that we were gifted a year ago and haven’t touched since. But while these presents weren’t right for you, they may be perfect for someone else in your life! Regifting an item (so long as it’s sealed and within its expiration date!) isn’t something to feel guilty about, it’s simply repurposing!

7. Go in on a group gift

This year, my siblings and I wanted to get my Mum something really special. But sadly, none of us have enormous festive budgets. However, by teaming up and each chipping in a little bit, we’ve been able to get her a present that she’ll be really excited about. This gift will be amazing for the recipient and kind to our pockets as well!

8. Think before you post

If you're just sending off a flurry of Christmas cards to your friends and fam this year, Royal Mail is definitely the cheapest and most reliable service, but if you're sending parcels to far-flung folks this Christmas, shop around to find the best rate for delivery because other couriers may offer you a cheaper rate. Checking out the Which? guide to best and worst delivery companies can help you make an informed choice about which to plump for.

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9. Find a festive day out that won't cost the earth

Keeping the kids entertained over the Christmas holidays can be a bit of a struggle, especially if you're already on a tight budget after buying their presents. Thankfully there are loads of activities up and down the country that you can go along to for free or a very small fee. If you're in Leicester, you can head along to the Abbey Pumping Station's Christmas Toys and Steam Day, where entry for the whole family is just £8. Leicester Cathedral's carol services are completely free to attend as well!

10. Collect your coppers

As the old proverb goes, "if you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves." Take a few seconds now to think about all of the loose change that you have lying in drawers or sitting on the kitchen worktop. Changing it all up could leave you with a nice little bonus, even if it's just enough to treat yourself to a Christmas coffee. The process couldn't be easier: many supermarkets have change machines that allow you to dump in all of your coppers and exchange them for larger units of currency.

11. Offer time instead of things

For your loved ones, why not make your own redeemable coupons that are good for services such as cooking dinner, making brekkie in bed, washing the car, doing the dishes, or running an errand. You could even make some ... interesting (nudge nudge, wink wink) coupons for your partner! Making the coupons can be a fun, personal and creative process, meaning way more to the recipient than anything you could pick up in a shop.

12. Mine the internet for moneysaving ideas

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are that you’re already scouring the net for the best tips and advice! There’s so much information available online to help you save money, including some amazing gift ideas under a fiver, which I'll definitely be trying this year. 

What are your top Christmas money saving tips? Help others to avoid Christmas stress by sharing your advice below!