Christmas dinner, presents, travel, drinks, decorations and all the traditional trimmings - not to mention Christmas jumpers - can put a huge dent into people's budgets - a dent that sometimes cannot be filled out for several months to come in the new year.
According to The Guardian, the average UK household is expected to have spent £800 in 2016 on Christmas alone.
This is much money for things that may not last, or even be remembered come Christmas 2017. It's also so much stress for a season that is meant to be about joy, peace and happiness, a time to be with our loved ones, not shoulder-barging thousands of other shoppers in a mad panic, buying Christmas presents at sky-high prices.
Several years ago, I vowed to make Christmas more about the real season and less about the rush and stress that comes in the few weeks' build-up. This came after I collapsed during a Christmas dinner I was hosting; I had lost nearly a stone in the few weeks ahead of Christmas Day with all the shopping, cleaning, clearing, decorating, partying, preparing and baking.
As a result, I vowed to enjoy Christmas more and worry less.
Around this time I was also made redundant during the financial crisis. I had been relying on my Nectar or Boots points cards to help me through each month. But I decided to stop spending my Boots points on smaller things throughout the year; instead I would save them all up and buy Christmas gift sets in Boots' half-price sale come January. I realised this would save me money and stress.
Since then, this has proved to be a wonderful money-saving idea as well as a great time-saver at Christmastime.
During the year, I have made the most of Boots' generous bonus points scheme. I ensure I wait for the things I need to buy from Boots so that I can maximise all the points-generative specials and weekends the company holds in order to get even more to use towards the January post-Christmas spendathon.
This year I had £83.71 on my Boots Points card. I visited the Sutton Boots, which is not only a large enough store to have plenty of choice available, but also boasts a genius store manager. Each January, the store packs out a whole 'room' with Christmas and other half-price gift sets. It's a store card shopper's wet dream.
Surprisingly, I did not spend the entirety of my points; in our seemingly everlasting quest for a child (IVF has failed twice now), I have been concerned to make sure I set aside £30 or so on my Boots and Nectar cards to help cover the cost of the newborn we hope will be with us this coming Christmas.
I did spend £49.00 worth of points however, and received the following gifts. Some of these will be Christmas presents for next year; some will be Mothers' Day presents, birthday presents and gifts for the Greek family when we go to visit at some point this year.
|Boots Haul 2017|
It's not just about a bargain, despite the fact I got all these things from Boots for free with my points card:
It's also about thinking strategically and lovingly about how to find the perfect gift for the perfect person. I know who will love those Soap and Glory crackers. I can't wait to see her face when I give those to her. I enjoy giving to other people and getting nice things for them.
Personally, I am not against re-gifting per se. I know this can be a good way of recycling unwanted gifts, but I prefer to keep what people have given me as it reminds me of them. It also reduces the likelihood of re-gifting to someone what they gave you the year before. Where we have re-gifted is when duplication has happened; for example, two people one year both gave the same Lynx set to my husband for Christmas.
Yes, re-gifting can help save the pennies at Christmastime; but I prefer using points schemes. I hope it works for you as well! To recap, here are Seven Top Tips:
1) Make sure you register your card. If you lose it and your card is replete with points, you could lose everything.
2) Try to only use your Boots card when there's a 4x points or 3x points or bonus points day or weekend on. For example, if you know you need to get shampoo or vitamins, etc, keep an eye out for stores that are doing points specials, and do one big shop at that time.
3) Make the most of any vouchers that come with a purchase. Sometimes these have a two to three-week shelf life and these can be exceptionally points generative.
4) Keep an eye out before Christmas for particular gift sets that you might like to get for friends and family and make a note of these ready for the January sales.
5) Avoid the temptation to use your card during the year. It's a savings plan, if you like, not easy-spend cash.
6) Don't forget some prescriptions such as contact lenses. These also count for Boots points so make the most of these, as they can be high-ticket items.
7) Lastly, smile at people. Okay, this is a bit of a cheeky tip but it might just pay out for you. Let me explain: I once smiled at some guy with his friend who was trying to buy make-up for his wife at a counter in Boots. The two men were making jokes and glancing at me for approval. As he was paying, the assistant asked him if he had a points card. "No", he said, and turned to me. "Young lady" (now there's a compliment I don't get much these days). "Can I borrow your Boots card?" He then proceeded to give me his 500 points (which were doubled to 1000). All because I smiled at his jokes.
Good luck and happy hunting!