I’m still slogging through Christmas and birthday shopping, trying to cut Christmas costs. Hopefully there may yet be an end in sight!
Previous post: Five frugal things to cut the cost of Christmas shopping
Here are five more frugal things I’ve done this week:
Cashed in Natwest Rewards
I use a NatWest Reward current account, as it pays 2% cashback on household bills. I love the idea of getting paid to pay by bills! Sadly, they’re changing the system from February, but in the meantime the cashback on direct debits for our Council Tax, electricity, water, landline, mobiles, broadband adds up to about £7.50 a month, well worth the £2 a month fee.
When you claim the cashback, you can boost it by swapping it for gift cards for specific brands, rather than cold hard cash. I’ve been hoarding the NatWest money to help towards Christmas, so this week I exchanged £45 for a £50 Debenhams gift card – that’s 11% extra! Debenhams is looking a bit shaky as a business right now, so I spent it straight away, on a present that’s now delivered, wrapped and stashed in the Christmas cupboard.
Grabbed a Groupon deal for a cheesemaking class
Yes, it’s true. I bought a cheesemaking class to go on with two friends, as their Christmas present, and I’m delighted about it.
The headline price was pretty hefty, but luckily when I googled Groupon was doing a 75% off discount, and by clicking though from Quidco you can currently get a whopping 35% cashback on the remainder. Still not a cheap present but one we’ll all remember!
(This is my Quidco refer a friend link. It’s free to join, and once you earn £5 cashback we both get a tenner)
If you do ever want to buy classes, courses or experiences, it’s worth checking websites like Groupon*, Wowcher and Buyagift*(* for affiliate links) for any offers. Just watch out for small print about when you can use the vouchers. I confirmed dates with my friends before forking out, so I could book our places straight afterwards. If you let them expire, it’s a pretty expensive piece of paper!
If you’re curious, this is the class at four venues from the Smart School of Cookery*.
Dug out discount Christmas cards
The key to cutting the cost of Christmas cards (aside from ditching them and emailing instead) is to buy them on sale the previous year. It also helps if you can then a) remember you bought them and b) find them again.
So this week I dug out the half-price cards I nabbed in the Paperchase January sale, after my 11-year-old judged them sufficiently stylish to send her friends. I spent a fiver on 40 cards, which works out at a reasonable 12.5p each.
It’s not too late to pick up discount cards though, as many shops cut the price even before Christmas. Last year I got some sale cards in Boots on 10 December and Morrisons on 16 December, with time to post them before the big day.
Get paid £50 to shop small
Fancy £50 towards your Christmas shopping?
If you’ve got an AmEx card, check out American Express Shop Small that runs from today until 22 December. Spend £10 or more in participating local high street stores, and you’ll get £5 credit on your statement. You can only do it once in each place, but can repeat it in different locations and earn up to £50. You need to click to register your card to take part, and if your other half has a supplementary card, they can register too and also rack up fivers on local spending.
Plus, you’ll be supporting local businesses like shops, cafes and restaurants. Register your card and check which places near you are taking part at American Express Shop Small.
American Express sent me a hamper to showcase the kind of amazing and unusual products you can get from independent stores, including tea and honey from Bird&Bird, shortbread and jam from Giddy Grocer, cheese and spelt biscuits from La Fromagerie, a booklet of poems from Golden Hare Books, a scented candle and soap slice from Liquorice Tree Gifts and some fabulous brownies from Baker St Cakes. Sometimes I really like my job.
If you fancy winning a festive M&S hamper yourself, you can win 1 of 8 in the UKMB festive giveaway, as posted earlier this week.
Signed up for a cashback credit card
Talking of getting paid to spend, I signed up for a cashback credit card this week. These cards pay you a percentage of all spending you do on the card. Don’t even think about it if you won’t pay off your balance in full each month, as the interest rates tend to be pretty expensive. But if you just use them for everyday spending, and pay your bill in full and on time each month, you’ll get a nice dollop of cashback.
I’ve had a Nationwide cashback credit card for years, and we used to earn about £90 a year, but it has since cut cashback from 0.5% to 0.25% of our spending.
So now I’ve signed up for an American Express Platinum Cashback card. It pays 5% cashback on all spending in the first three months, up to £2,500 of purchases. Afterwards, it depends how much you spend in the next 8 months. Spend under £10,000 and you get 1% cashback. Spend over £10K, and you’ll get 1.25% cashback.
It’s a bit of a gamble, because the card has a £25 a year fee, so we’ll need to plough more of our spending through AmEx to justify the annual fee compared to the AmEx Platinum Cashback Everyday card. The Everyday card doesn’t have an annual fee, and pays lower cashback at 5% on all spending in the first three months, on up to £2,000 purchases, and then 0.5% on the first £5K spend (but nothing if you spend under £3,000) and 1% on spending above that. Afterwards it pays 0.5% on spending under £10K each year and 1% if above.
Plus, by clicking through from cashback website Quidco to apply, you can get £20 Quidco cashback from the Platinum cashback card or £15 from the Everyday card.
Here’s the cunning part. AmEx cashback is paid in a lump sum once a year. So by applying in early December, I should get the cashback payout this time next year, ready to help cut Christmas costs for 2020.
Now – over to you. What’s your best frugal Christmas tip this week? Or cunning ways to cover the cost? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear!
Want more frugal inspiration? Do head over and join the Much More With Less #MoneySavingYear Facebook group, to share thrifty tips and support. It’s a private group so your comments won’t be splashed all over your friends’ Facebook feeds.