The season to put spending on ice with five budgeting secrets

Festive cheer needn't throw common sense out of the window. Picture: PA
Festive cheer needn't throw common sense out of the window. Picture: PA
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Winter can put a chill on the wallet, with Christmas bills throwing even the most carefully planned budgets off course, and plunging temperatures leaving us whacking up the heating in our homes.

But there are some simple ways you may be able to cut back, which could make life easier when those January bills start landing on your doormat.

Here are five simple ways to save money this winter.

1. Have a clear-out

If you’ve overdone it on Black Friday, why not sell on unwanted items now? About 12 per cent of shoppers will have bought items on Black Friday only to find they already had something similar at home, a survey from Gumtree has found.

2. Going away? Book early

According to research from American Express, on average, people in the UK spend £88 travelling to meet friends and family over the festive period, so it’s worth trying to book any rooms, flights or train fares early to try to secure the best prices. You may also have rewards or points on your spending that could be used towards a hotel room deal.

3. Sort your energy bills

Recent research from MoneySuperMarket.com found that more than 30 fixed energy deals are set to expire in December – with a similar number having ended in November – meaning many customers risk being rolled on to more expensive tariffs during the coldest part of winter, when energy usage is at its peak. Often, when these tariffs end, providers will move customers on to a standard variable rate tariff, which could be their most expensive deal. MoneySuperMarket.com says the end-to-end switching process can take up to three weeks, but is often quicker.

Meanwhile, British Gas has just announced plans to scrap standard variable tariffs for new customers as part of moves to introduce simpler bills by the end of March.

Stephen Murray, an energy expert at MoneySuperMarket.com, says: “With temperatures dropping and the thermostat creeping up every day, this is definitely not the time to be languishing on an expensive standard variable tariff, or rolling on to one at the end of a fixed rate deal because you’ve done nothing.”

4. Insulate your home

As temperatures drop, bodies like Energy Saving Trust Scotland can offer information on how people can insulate their homes and save on heating bills. Lagging pipes and insulating the loft can be effective ways to reduce heat loss.

5. Look out for cashback

With prices rising, cards that offer cashback can help to take some of the pressure off when it comes to paying bills. But research from Moneyfacts.co.uk warns that shoppers will find that interest-free deals on credit cards have been shrinking over the past six months, giving consumers fewer months to spread the cost of Christmas.

Rachel Springall, finance expert at Moneyfacts.co.uk, says: “There are still some ways for shoppers to make the most of any spending, such as by earning some cashback with a credit card or current account, or even by making use of an interest-free purchase card to spread the cost of Christmas, but the offers are not as rewarding as they once were.”