Christmas is, for most people, an incredibly expensive time of the year. Getting to December and having no money saved for all your Christmas presents, food and socialising can put a downer on the festive period. Many people choose to build up a Christmas savings pot throughout the year using a savings scheme. These are designed to help you put money away regularly throughout the year and leave you with a nice reserve to cover your festive spending.
However, there is uncertainty surrounding the stability of Christmas saving schemes and some big companies in the field recently went into liquidation.
Is this the best way to save for Christmas? We explore three alternative ways for you to save this year.
1. Savings Accounts
Banks and building societies have a wide selection of savings accounts including regular savers, e-savers and ISAs. Which one is best for you will depend on your personal situation and savings goals.
Regular Savings Accounts
Regular savings accounts work in the same way as bank accounts and are easily accessible. You should probably avoid these if you are likely to be tempted to withdraw money. Most regular savings accounts have a minimum balance of £1 at the time of opening. You’ll need to ensure this pound stays in the account at the very least to keep it open! However, some will require a monthly minimum saving deposit. Make sure you check you are happy to pay this before applying for an account. You can usually deposit as little or as much as you like, whenever you want.
E-savers are very similar to regular savers except they only appear online. They are therefore less accessible as you do not get a card for these and can only transfer money in and out of them by using your online banking. You can also set up a standing order from your current account to your savings account so that the money transfers automatically, meaning you don’t have to remember to move the money each month. E-savers sometimes have an upper monthly savings limit, so make sure you check this before applying.
Cash ISAs can be a great option for saving large amounts of money long term, as you can save up to £15,240 per year in this type of account. They usually have a higher interest rate than other types of savings account. All the interest gained is tax free, meaning you’ll get more money just by storing your savings in there. They are also a safe place to store your cash. The Money Advice Service says that in a cash ISA, ‘Your original savings are protected’ and that ‘Cash you put into UK banks or building societies (that are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority) is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS)’.
If you’re the type of person who is very easily tempted into spending your savings, you can choose a fixed term ISA. You must wait a certain amount of time before withdrawing the money in these ISAs. It would be a good idea to set the date for the time you’ll be buying your Christmas shopping. That way you won’t be able to spend it early!
2. Supermarket Saving Schemes
You may not have realised it, but your local supermarket could be a good place for you to save your money. Many now offer cards which allow you to save each time you shop, making saving regularly easier and more achievable. You could simply round your entire spend up to the nearest £10, and the pounds add up rapidly.
In most cases, the amount you want to save has no limits, so you can top it up with as much as you can afford week to week. Then, at the end of the year, simply use the balance on your card to get all your supermarket shopping. You might be surprised at how much you’ve managed to save by December!
Some supermarkets also offer money-saving coupons and special offers to customers who use their savings schemes. The Money Advice Service says ‘You may be able to take out more than one saver card and take advantage of multiple bonuses’. By being savvy, you could end up saving lots. Especially if you tend to visit more than one supermarket for different things.
3. Piggy Bank
Whilst you’re probably thinking piggy banks are just a place for children to store their pocket money, they can also be a great way for you to save your extra cash, too. Every penny counts, so going old-school could be a great solution for you. If you saved £5 every week for the next 10 months, you would have an extra £200 to spend!
To ensure you aren’t tempted to dip into your stash, buy a piggy bank that can only be opened by smashing it. That way, you won’t be able to ‘borrow’ from the savings and will be forced to wait until you’re ready to use the money for Christmas. You could even get your children involved or buy them their own piggy bank so they can save for family presents. This is a great way to introduce them to money saving early on.