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Dreading the cost of Christmas? Don’t! Our savvy tips from sales to homemade gifts will help you start preparing now

THERE are only 101 sleeps until Christmas – so rather than find yourself in a hole before the big day, why not start preparing now?

From saving apps to discount dates for your diaries and cashback tips, our experts are full of ideas about what you can be doing each month to make your pennies go further.

Our panel includes, clockwise from top left, The Sun’s Coupon Queen Maddy Tooke, blogger Lynn Beattie – AKA Mrs Mummypenny – Oli Townsend of finance website moneysavingexpert.com, Kara Gammell, blogger at Your Best Friend’s Guide To Cash, Anita Naik, lifestyle editor at vouchercodes.co.uk and Graham Jenner, director at discount site mymoneypocket.co.uk.

Julia Richardson and Yasmin Harisha bring you the experts’ tips in a guide for you to cut out and keep.

Mrs Mummypenny says: “If you replace a canteen lunch with a packed lunch each week and put that £20 into a savings pot or set up an autosave app account such as PLUM, you could have squirrelled away nearly £300 by Christmas.

“Build up your cashback balance and loyalty points balance too. I use Nectar points to buy Christmas booze and Boots points to buy gift sets.”

Maddy says: “Register for Save the Change with your bank. Whenever you buy something with your debit card, it will be rounded to the nearest pound and the difference is transferred to your nominated savings account.

“For example, if a coffee costs £2.89 it will be rounded to £3 and the 11p will be transferred into savings.”

Kara says: “Google Alerts is a great tool for any savvy online shopper. Set up alerts by typing google.com/alerts in your browser and then enter keywords. Google will email you any new content that contains these search terms whenever it is published online.”

Mrs Mummypenny adds: “Set up price alerts on Idealo for the items on your shopping list to monitor the pricing changes at the big retailers.”

These are perfect festive presents and cost pennies.

Mrs Mummypenny says: “Making your own flavoured gin, chutneys and jams are a great gift to give. The hedgerows are adorned with blackberries, apples, sloe berries, and elderberries so go foraging and use your treasure to make home-made presents. These need a good three months to mature before gifting on Christmas Day.”

Anita says: “The run-up to Christmas can be mind-boggling, with lots of brands claiming to have the best offer around.

“Luckily, DealFinder by VoucherCodes, which is downloaded for free from the Chrome browser, will automatically find the best promo codes available for the site you’re on – which means there is no need to spend lots of time hunting down individual deals and codes.”

Mrs Mummypenny says: “Most rail companies release advance tickets ten to 12 weeks before the departure date. So if you’re planning to travel the Thursday before Christmas, you’d expect tickets to be available around October 1.

“Use sites such as Trainline to buy tickets and use a cashback site, like TopCashback, to make the most of discounts and rewards.”

Maddy says: “The actual date for Amazon Prime Day is yet to be released but it is rumoured to be in early October.

“It’s a great opportunity to get Amazon’s own products, like Echo smart speakers, Kindles and Amazon Fire sticks at a great discount.”

Oli says: “For the past few years, we’ve seen Sainsbury’s and Tesco offer ‘up to 50 per cent off all toys’ sales around mid-October. They usually last one to two weeks, but be quick as savvy parents pounce on these deals as soon as they launch.

“Look out for short-lived money-off codes at big toy retailers such as The Entertainer and Smyths who, last October, gave £6 off a £50 spend. ShopDisney tends to offer a flash ‘24 per cent off toys and fancy dress’ code for 24 hours on the second Tuesday in November.”

Kara says: “Use the Reuse and Recycle programme for old Apple devices – the same also applies to GHD hair appliances at GHD Spares.

“Or head to an Apple store and they will offer you a price on your device. If the offer isn’t good enough, start a bidding war on your item on eBay.”

Graham says: “For cheap treats and sweets, this handy trick of stocking up on sweets after Halloween on October 31 will save you pounds.

“The week directly after the spooky day is when supermarkets will want to clear the shelves of multi-packs and tubs of sweets and Halloween-themed treats to get ready for Christmas.”

Graham says: “When you find the perfect gift online, add it to your shopping basket, then sit on your hands for a few days.

“Retailers will see your activity and likely nudge you with a discount code to get you to carry out your purchase. A discount with zero effort.”

Oli says: “The third week of November is when we often see some corking champagne deals.

“In previous years we’ve spotted £9-£10 bottles at Lidl and Tesco. If Baileys is your preferred tipple, then the past two years have seen 1-litre bottles reduced from £20 to £10 at Asda and Morrisons at the end of November or the beginning of December, but only for a few days.”

Maddy says: “Black Friday is a great time for sales and deals, especially on electronics such as TVs, laptops, phones and games consoles. In previous years, retailers like Argos, John Lewis and Currys PC World have had some great deals.

“With the current pandemic situation, I expect to see fewer in-store-only deals – like the Asda Nintendo Switch deal last year – and more online deals instead.”

Maddy says: “Cyber Monday follows Black Friday. Often retailers will offer similar deals – great if you get paid at the end of the month.

“The new Xbox Series X being released in November could mean a big discount on the older consoles.”

Mrs Mummypenny says: “I won’t cash in my TopCashback balance until the end of November, to spend it on presents and the Christmas food shop.

“Another bonus is that I can turn my cashback cash into gift vouchers using the rewards wallet in my Topcashback account, which means I get an extra boost in value – because they prefer you to take your rewards in vouchers.”

Oli says: “If you’re missing some baubles when you put up the tree, then mid-December is often the best time to pick up cheap decorations, crackers and wrapping paper.

“Biggies such as M&S, John Lewis and Argos slash prices so they can flog as much as they can before the big day.”

Anita says: “While nothing beats a real Christmas tree, they’re not cheap or environmentally friendly. Rent one for as little as £19.95, and after Christmas they go back outside where they belong.”

There are Christmas tree rentals across the UK. Do an online search to find one near you.

Oli says: “Several retailers kick off what would traditionally be their Boxing Day or January sales pre-Christmas.

“Last year Asos, Topshop and Topman launched ‘up to 60 per cent off’ sales on December 20 – but if you wait, sales are boosted further after Christmas.”

Oli says: “December 20 is when we usually see a supermarket price war on festive vegetables.

“Last year Aldi and Lidl offered packs of Brussels sprouts, carrots and parsnips for just 15p, while Tesco veg was reduced to 19p to 29p.”

Graham says: “If you’re hosting Christmas for six, opt for a ‘white elephant’ gift-exchange party where you only have to buy one – often cheap – present.

“This is sure to be lots of fun and means you aren’t buying gifts for every guest, which can get very expensive.”

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