Plan to have points, not debt, in January…
Let’s face it, whether we like it or not, we probably all spend more money in December than we do at any other time of the year. Every year I’m careful to plan my spending and I like to think I’m fairly sensible and don’t get swept up in the hype, but I still definitely spend more on luxuries in December than in the average month. If you’ve been reading my previous posts, you’ll know that this means one thing – to me December represents a good opportunity for earning on your spending! In fact, this is true not just because we spend more, but also because of the offers available as a result of how competitive the retail market is at this time of year. So now is the time to start thinking about how you can capitalise on this by planning your spending. Just being organised with your spending can make your money go significantly further, and maybe even build you a bank of points and cashback for the new year. Here are some things worth doing over this period:
1) If you’re considering getting a rewards card with a spend bonus anyway, then now might be the time to get it.
Most rewards cards have a spend target over 3 months – so you’re far more likely to hit that target in Nov/Dec/Jan, that in Jan/Feb/Mar. Putting your Christmas gifts and luxuries on a rewards card during a bonus period can earn you anything up to 12% back on them in the new year. However, be careful not to spend more just because you have the target, and don’t borrow on a rewards card – the return is only worth it if it’s on your normal spend, to be paid back in full when you receive your statement. That said, if you’re really running close to the target at the end of the 3 months, and can afford to, then pre-buying a supermarket gift card to use against fuel/groceries you would’ve bought anyway in the following month, is a useful trick! See our article here for more info about rewards cards and accounts.
2) If you have an American Express card, definitely save the shop small offer.
£5 back on every £10+ spent is an amazing return of up to 50%, and you’re supporting your local economy at the same time (and earning Amex points!). It seems an obvious choice for buying thoughtful gifts in local shops during December. The promotion runs 1st-16th December. I’ll be making a conscious effort to buy as many of my Christmas gifts through this offer as possible. See our article here for more details.
3) Check the ‘save to card’ offers on your account regularly.
At this time of year there will be plenty of good offers on your account – I recently highlighted this to a colleague who’d never even checked their card offers and they discovered many of the retailers they used anyway were offering deals they could use. For 5 minutes of your time, opening the app(s)/logging in online and saving these deals is really worthwhile. For example Morrisons are offering 6% back on every transaction over £50 through Amex and NatWest at the moment – if you shop there anyway it’s a no-brainer to click ‘save offer’.
4) If you shop online, make sure to run everything through Quidco or TopCashback.
Again, this only takes a few minutes and potentially offers good additional returns for money you’d be spending anyway. Before you spend anything online, check if you can do it through the cashback sites.
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5) Consider whether you can use points to buy a really meaningful gift (I know technically this tip is saving cash by spending points, not earning points!)
Marriott Moments in particular offers some decent points redemption rates on some quite unique experiences. So if you’re points rich and considering buying someone tickets, a night away or a one-off experience, then it might be worth considering spending points to save cash at Christmas. If you’re after ideas then try reading our post about what you can get for 20,000 Amex points (here).
And one final note – it’s definitely worth setting yourself a budget to avoid getting swept along with the advertising and hype. Whatever your views on the meaning of Christmas, it definitely isn’t about going into January worrying about debts. Organise your spending, get the best deals and rewards where you can, and enjoy the festive period in the knowledge that perhaps your building a bank of cashback and points for that city break in the spring (that’s my plan!)…
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N.B.. Disclaimer: This is an amateur, personal blog. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances.