Saving Money For Christmas – 5 Simple Tips That Wont Leave You Cash Strapped

Christmas is an extremely expensive time of year. Not only do we have the decorations, the tree, the food and the drink to buy but we also have to buy presents for our loved ones plus potentially attend a number of festive themed activities in the run up to the big day. This leaves our wallets and purses feeling incredibly tighter come New Year and we rue spending so much, insisting we won’t do it again next year – yet we always do.

Every year we fall for it again and spend out loads on food and drink (plenty of which gets thrown away), presents (often for people we don’t particularly want to or often something that is only used for five minutes then put aside) and decor (which only lasts for the festive season and usually gets tossed away too). Why put ourselves through this when we can save some money and still have a fantastic time?

Here are five simple tips to save money for Christmas where you won’t be left so cash strapped come the New Year.

Make A List…And Check It Twice

First thing to do is to make a list of everything you need to buy and everyone you need to buy for. Where can you cut down? Do you absolutely need to buy for everyone – or can you cut some people off the list – perhaps have a conversation about not exchanging gifts this year? Do you need to a get a real tree every year or can you bring out an artificial one year after year for years to come. Set up a budget for those you do end up having to buy for – or perhaps even consider another option. Have a ‘children only’ rule where no one needs to buy for the adults or maybe even go one step further and set up a Secret Santa – thus only one gift needs to be bought. It is totally up to you.

Make The Switch

It can be tempting to stay shopping at our usual supermarket as we are so used to the quality of their products but with Christmas being such an expensive time of year, it may be a good time to consider switching to a slightly cheaper one. Even if you only switch to the slightly cheaper stores for a few of the items, you will still be making a decent saving, money that can go back in your pocket for those tough few financial weeks we all suffer after Christmas. Make sure you aren’t buying too much too – you don’t want to be throwing it out!

Get Started Early – And Take Advantage Of The Sales

Retailers hold sales throughout the years so if you can bear starting Christmas shopping month’s earlier, this may be a good tip for you. Picking up items you know your loved ones will adore once the festive season rolls around will feel even better if you manage to get a good saving on them. You could even enter competitions to try to win them. Get stockpiling in advance and by Christmas you might not even need to go out and buy any!

One of the best sales for early Christmas shopping is Black Friday. It takes place at the end of November each year and offers savvy shoppers the opportunity to pick up gifts at bargain prices. The sale normally lasts one day making it a little stressful. However there are a few handy websites that are dedicated to helping you navigate the offers on the day:

Make Some Room

Why not make some cash whilst trying to save some? Get any unwanted items in your house onto eBay or the local selling sites on Facebook and put that money towards Christmas items. After all you need to make enough room for the new things everyone will have – why not have a clearout and see if you can make loads, enough to pay for the whole of Christmas?

Plenty of those toys from last year haven’t been played with for months and that dress is no longer your taste. Why keep them in the house doing nothing when someone else could be using them and loving them and you could get some cash in your pocket for the pleasure of selling them? It is a great way to boost your bank account whilst managing to declutter your home – why wouldn’t you give it a go?

Utilise social media

Social media keeps cropping up as a handy resource and that is because it is. Get connected with retailers and with money saving pages or accounts so you are always kept in the loop when a decent deal comes along. These money saving pages and accounts always get super busy during the festive season as they seek out the best deals for you to get the items you need. You will often find big retailers talking about their latest deals and even occasionally giving out promotional codes for their followers – if you aren’t following or connecting with these pages, you are really missing a trick. They are a fantastic resource and can save you lots of money which you can then put towards New Years instead!

It can be so tempting to spend out lots of money at Christmas time but then we thoroughly regret it later – these simple tips should help you to keep your festive costs down but everyone happy. It is all about discussion and staying connected with people – take advantage of the opportunities that come your way and keep your eyes peeled for the most recent deals – you will often be able to tick some things off your loved ones Christmas lists for just a fraction of the price – why wouldn’t you want to save some money this way?

How to Avoid Getting Spammed When Claiming Free Samples or Entering Competitions

So many people want to give entering competitions or receiving a free samples a try but won’t because they are too scared. What are they scared of though? It is simple…they are scared of getting spammed.

Spam is such a big thing nowadays – we receive spam emails into our inbox, spam text messages to our phone and even spam phone calls letting us know that we’ve been in a car accident and that we are entitled to some money. All of this is spam and quite often they can be scams too – so it is important to be wary about them. But how do they get our data? Through different companies selling it on. We might like to think our personal data is safe but sometimes when we are sharing it with a company we trust, we don’t realise that they are going to sell our details on for a fee. So how can we avoid getting spammed? Here are some top tips to keep you from getting overwhelmed with junk emails and texts.

Use a Second email When Signing up for Things

Some people create an email address simply for competitions and freebies and only sign up using this email, leaving their main email free from any potential spam. Others actually create a throwaway email address through a site such as Throwaway Mail – this would work well for free samples and instant win competitions but probably wouldn’t be the best idea for other competitions as the email may cease to exist before the competition ends and you could lose out on the prize! It is totally up to you what you do but a separate email address is always handy.

Take Advantage of Free SIM Cards

Use a free sample to get free samples! So many network providers offer free SIMs to consumers so why not take advantage and grab one for yourself? Then you can use this number on forms which absolutely require a phone number – this way your real daily use phone number won’t be a potential target for spam.

You can get free sims from the following networks:

One thing to be aware of with these free sim cards is that you will need to put credit on them and keep them active or risk having them deactivated. So whilst they’re free to receive you will need to top them up with a token £5 or £10 (depending on the network).

The best one we’ve found is actually O2 – whilst you need to purchase a minimum of £10 when getting the sim the credit lasts forever, you just need to make a call every 6 months to keep your number active. I have one which was set up 7 years ago and still going strong off the initial £10.

Ask to be put on Restricted Lists

Some companies who provide home phone plans will enable you to go on some form of restricted list meaning that only certain calls can make it through. This may be handy if you are in fear of being spammed as you know that only certain people can actually get through to you. Some people may choose to go ex directory to reduce spam but if you have given out your number, being ex directory won’t do anything to help that.

Make Complaints

If you are continually getting spammed and you are fed up, make a complaint. If you are getting spam emails and you’ve unsubscribed, sent them to spam and yet you are still receiving them, you can complain to your email provider for still letting them through and also make a complaint against the company for not taking you off the list when you unsubscribed. If you are still receiving such emails after unsubscribing or after asking the sender to stop, then make a complaint to the ICO. They are responsible for enforcement in this area – you can ring their helpline on 03031231113 or visit their website.

Be Informed

It is important to know what a company can and can’t do. As mentioned above, a company cannot keep sending you emails after you have unsubscribed – they no longer have your permission to email you which means they are breaking the law. If you haven’t given your permission in the first place and they keep emailing you, they are already breaking the law and it would be wise to let the ICO know about this too – but never forward your spam emails to the ICO – just let them know the details.

When providing information to an organisation, it is important to check the terms and conditions. Most companies are trustworthy and won’t sell on your data; some will be completely underhand and do it behind your back but some do happen to make mention of it in their terms and conditions so read them fully before agreeing to anything.

In regards to information sharing, certain information can be shared without your consent. In this instance, the information sharing will be reasonable and expected – but why it is being shared and who with should be clear. However if the information is more sensitive or perhaps even confidential, then companies do need your consent. You do have a legal right to know what information is being held about you and how to access it. You can also ask someone to stop sharing your information – but they only have to do so if it is causing you distress or damage.

Be Careful

Hopefully these tips help you in avoiding spam – hopefully your inboxes, texts and calls are free from spam from now on. Be careful with what boxes you are ticking and be sure to keep these tips in mind in order to reduce the potential spam to an absolute minimum – ensure you know exactly what you are signing up to.

Main image credit: Mike Mozart

What are Free Samples and How Do I Get Them?

Many believe that nothing in life is free – but how wrong are they? It is possible to get plenty of things for free, if only you know how. But what exactly are free samples – and more importantly, how do we get our hands on them?

A free sample, by definition, is a portion of food OR product (e.g. beauty products, cleaning products), given to consumers in shopping centres, supermarkets, shops and even across the internet. Sometimes non perishables are even included within products bought – those perfume samples you get in magazines are the perfect example of this.

Stay Attentive

Sometimes free samples aren’t quite so obvious – a person giving out samples in the supermarket may be hidden in a corner and you won’t necessarily see them. A person handing out free samples on the street may be missed as you try to avoid all of the other people who are trying to sell something unlike this person – it is easy to miss these situations if you aren’t looking for them. Unfortunately we always feel pretty rubbish if we notice afterwards – and by then it is too late. Keeping your eyes out for any potential ‘freebie’ opportunity is the best way to get free samples when out and about.

Get Online

There are plenty of places to find free samples online. Businesses are often giving away free products on their social media pages or their websites – all you usually need to do is submit your details.

A number of facebook groups and websites have popped up over the years which help you track down these kinds of offers. As a starting point we would suggest the following:

Note: Some of these are closed groups, which means you need to join the group before seeing any of the deals but you can always leave if you don’t find what you’re looking for (but you will, trust me).

If you really want the sample but aren’t too interested in their emails, set up a specific separate email address just for free samples – that way, any emails you sign up to won’t encroach on your usual email inbox. Some people can deal with all of the marketing emails they receive but if you can’t, a new email is key to getting free samples – especially as most brands will send a confirmation email to your email address before you actually get sent the sample. You don’t want to miss that email!

Keep An Eye On The Amount Or Date

Sometimes freebies are only available for a certain amount of time – until a certain date or when the 100 all get snapped up. It can be disheartening to submit our details to get a message saying we were too late and that they are all gone so make sure you are checking exactly when you need to apply by.

Be Aware Of What Is Real And What Isn’t

Going back to the phrase ‘nothing is free’, sometimes the offer is too good to be true. Apply for free samples but make sure you are getting into nothing untoward along the way. Make sure you don’t sign anything or give away your details unless you know exactly where they are going. It can be tempting to sign up to those ‘get the new iPhone to test’ emails but they’re always a scam. Unfortunately most free sample opportunities are genuine but there will always be someone trying to scam others out of something.

DO sign up to newsletters

Once you have established a newsletter is real, definitely sign up to it as you may be able to take advantage of freebies on your birthday. Many brands give away a small item to their customers on their birthday – whether that is a free drink or dessert at a restaurant or an extra £5 to spend on a bingo site. Making sure you are signed up to these emails with your date of birth clearly available gives you the opportunity to receive freebies without even really applying for any.

Just Ask

Something that has become more and more popular in recent weeks is simply by just asking the company if they have some free samples. Find out the details of the company you would like some free samples from and email or write to them mentioning how interested you would be in trying their products and how reluctant you are to spend out on them just yet in case you are disappointed. Some companies will come back and say that they cannot send any samples out but plenty send some out to consumers, hoping that they do indeed like them and will add them to their weekly shop.

As well as asking, there is also the option of samples for feedback. Whether you want to heap praise on an establishment and a particular member of stuff or if you want to complain, let the brand know and they may either compensate you for your complaint with some freebies or show you their gratitude for your praise with something free too. Companies love a bit of feedback, whether it is good or bad, as it shows them where their strengths and weaknesses are. By letting them know your thoughts and opinions, they can focus their attentions on certain areas and work on improving those they are weak on and then showcasing those areas they are stronger on.

Free samples are the perfect way to be introduced to a brand and its products and plenty of brands are starting to realise this – it is certainly a good marketing tool. After all, the companies get our continued custom and we get something for free to try – no one loses! With so many avenues you can try to get some free samples, here’s hoping some freebies start coming through your letterbox very soon!

Main image credit: Myrtle Beach TheDigitel