Why it will always pay to plan ahead for Christmas
Get those festive finances in order now and your pennies might stretch further come December 25
It may be way too early for many people to want to think about Christmas (unless you're one of those hyper-organised festive types who starts preparing almost a year in advance!).
But right now could be a golden opportunity to do some planning, which will help you stick to a budget when the festivities come around.
Leaving preparations until the last minute can mean paying top dollar, as you've no other choice.
So, whether or not you're starting to feel even a bit festive, here are some tips for ways you could save some money now, to help make your budget stretch further when it's time to celebrate...
1. Make your shopping lists now
Once all the shops have Christmas music blaring out, it's easy to get carried away and pile up your trolley with more stuff than you really need.
To avoid having to throw mouldy mince pies into the bin in January, plan the food you really need to buy for the festive season as well as gifts so you'll avoid over-spending because you're panic buying.
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Also, before the pressure of Christmas shopping really hits, look out for food bargains on the supermarket shelves which could be put in the freezer to keep them fresh for Christmas.
2. Research the prices of the gifts you want to buy
Don't just wait for Black Friday to look for price discounts - do your research now and shop around to see what prices are generally being charged now for the items you want.
This will give you time to monitor prices over the coming weeks - and swoop in when they drop to a good deal.
With retailers' prices often going up and down like a yo-yo, some of the "bargains" available during high-profile shopping bonanzas such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday may not be as great a deal as they first seem anyway.
Websites such as alertr.co.uk allow you to track products and receive alerts when the prices plunge.
3. Make some extra cash ahead of Christmas
You could boost your budget by having a pre-Christmas clear-out and putting items up for sale on websites or taking them to car boot sales.
Also, remember to make the most of retailers' reward cards and cashback websites when you shop.
Switching your current account provider could be another way to make some easy cash.
For example, Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest have been offering £150 to switch.
HSBC has also been offering sums of £75 and £175 to switch to its account range.
When choosing a current account though, it's important to make sure you'll be better off with the deal in the longer term, rather than just focusing on any up-front perks.
With switching offers, there will be certain time periods you'll need to wait before you get your reward - but if it's not in time for Christmas it could come in handy in the New Year when budgets are really stretched.