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Money: Nudge, nudge… Now’s time to prepare for a frugal Yule

© GettyBook your train home far in advance of the festive rush to save cash
Book your train home far in advance of the festive rush to save cash

It may still be too early for many people to want to think about Christmas (unless you’re one of those hyper-organised 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…

Grab a cheap train ticket

The savings can be huge by booking in advance – leaving more money to spend on “fun” stuff this Christmas.

According to booking service Trainline, last year UK travellers saved a collective £21 million by booking their train tickets in advance, saving as much as £185 on popular routes such as Manchester to London.

Those travelling from London to Edinburgh saved as much as £133 by booking in advance.

Trainline’s advance train travel booking window is now open, with train operators releasing their tickets for travel home this Christmas.

Based on last year’s searches for travelling over Christmas, Trainline predicts this year’s most popular Christmas journeys will include London to Manchester, London to Edinburgh, London to Birmingham, Liverpool to London, London to Leeds and London to Newcastle.

So if you’re planning to travel one of these routes, it could well pay to make sure you book well in advance.

To make sure you’re ahead in the queue and have a chance of reserving a seat, Trainline has a free “ticket alert” service enabling passengers to input their desired journey and be notified by email as soon as it becomes available.

Make your shopping lists now

Once all the shops have Christmas music blaring out, it’s easy to 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 overspending.

Also look out for food bargains on the supermarket shelves which could be put in the freezer to keep them fresh for Christmas.

Research present prices

Don’t just wait for Black Friday to look for price discounts – do your research now to see what prices are being charged now for 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 prices often going up and down like a yo-yo, some “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 prices plunge.

Make some extra cash

You could boost your budget by having a pre-Christmas clearout and put 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.