Take a winter wealth check with festive finance tips from gift cards to bargain buys

IF you have overdone it on the festive spend and are fretting about money, worry not.

You are certainly not alone and help is at hand to get your house in order for the New Year and to banish the winter blues.

From dealing with all those unwanted presents and making the most of gift cards, to even planning ahead for next Christmas, there is plenty you can do right now . . .  or can start doing.

So ditch the delay and get cracking with our clever action plan.

Offload unwanted presents quick

A GIFT can be a lovely treat or surprise but what can you do if you simply do not want it, it’s the wrong size or you already have one?

One in four of us received an unwanted present last year, according to consumer group Which?.

But you don’t have to be stuck with it. One good idea is to plan ahead and re-gift it next Christmas.

But just make sure you keep a note of who gave it to you so you do not give it back to the same person.

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What about returning it for something you do like, or even cash?

Adam French from Which? says: “If your present came with a gift receipt, it should be easy to exchange for something else or to get a full refund.”

It is common for shops to offer an extended returns policy at Christmas but it is always wise to check the terms because some are more generous than others.

If you have missed the returns window you could also look into reselling the unwanted gift online or donating it to charity.

Set alarms for gift cards

IF you have been given a gift card, make sure to check when it is valid until – do not just stash it away somewhere and forget about it.

Otherwise you will be kicking yourself you missed out on a treat.

And when Aunt Beryl asks you what you bought with her money, you’ll have some explaining to do.

Many retailer or event cards must be used within 12 months. So whatever the cut-off point is, make a diary note and set an alarm on your phone.

Busy people cannot have too many reminders.

If you have a gift card you cannot think what to do with because there is nothing you want, there are still some options open.

Adam French says: “For unwanted gift cards, it might be worth looking online to see if you can maybe sell them on.

“Or try exchanging them with your friends or family who shop with the company for which you have a voucher.”

 Start putting aside a small weekly sum  and it will grow fast

ONE in ten of us has started to stash money for indulgences this time next year.

It is partly because the pandemic restricted celebrations last year and to a lesser degree this time round, says Tesco Bank.

So people are desperate for a major blowout in 2022.

Gail Goldie, savings chief at Tesco Bank, says: “It seems we’re all holding out for a bigger and better celebration.”

If you believe you can’t afford to save now, think again. Start by putting aside just £1 and you will soon see your next egg grow.

If you can put a tenner aside every week, you will have £500 saved by next Christmas.

Download a budgeting app – such as Chip, Emma, HyperJar or Plum – to help you get on top of your finances and into the savings habit.

There are also savings clubs you can join, to build up the funds to pay for next year’s festivities.

But check the small print to make sure you can get the cash whenever you need it – and there is no risk of penalties if you must get at it early.

Make a gifts list for next time

IT may seem crazy, or at least the last thing you want to be thinking about right now, but there is no time like today to start planning for next year’s round of present-giving.

You may not be able to buy for every-one in the New Year sales but make a gifts list now and you will be ready to snap up bargains as and when they pop up through 2022.

You do not need to have it all bought, wrapped and paid for by January, May or even September, as that would take away a lot of the fun.

But a bit of forward planning is easy to do and can pay off in spades.

A tip is to organise boxes, labelled with names of family and friends, and slowly fill them.

When you see a present for someone at a good price, buy it and put it in the box.

This simple, savvy planning means you will not only cut your costs 12 months from now but spread your spend over the whole year to make it easier on your finances. You will also avoid the dreaded panic-buying.

Buy seasonal items now

WRAPPING paper, crackers, festive decorations, stocking fillers and other bits and bobs are all going for a song right now – and you would be wise to snap them up.

There really is no reason to leave this basic shopping until the very last minute, rushing up and down the high street like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and paying top whack for your efforts.

It will cost you dear, both in terms of money and stress, yet we do it again and again, year after year, and never seem to learn.

With shops and online retailers desperate to offload seasonal stock, you can expect bargains aplenty right now and get a lot of next year’s fun in the bag extra-early.

Then all you need do is find a corner of the house, away from prying eyes, where you can stash your goodies.

Roam raid

MOBILE roaming charges are back with a bang in 2022.

EE’s start today, Vodafone’s on Thursday and Three’s on May 23.

If you are planning a trip abroad, check your network’s charges and take action to reduce the hit.

Fees are generally £2 a day to make calls or use data abroad, but some providers offer multi-day options that can cut the cost.

If you are an existing customer of EE, Vodafone or Three, check your contract to see whether or not the charges will apply to you.

If you signed up to your contract before specific dates, you could be safe.

Cash hack

WERE you one of the 31,271 who took time out on Christmas Day to . . . file your tax return?

It may sound Grinch-like but is a reminder it must be in by the end of January to avoid fines and interest charges.

Kevin Sefton, of tax app Untied, says: “We estimate that 5.67million people have yet to file, and that 700,000 risk penalties.”

See gov.uk/check-if-you-need-tax-return.

Make 2022 a misery for fraud

Beat the scammers – By Paul Davis, Fraud Director at TSB

ALONG with New Year good intentions, we’d all benefit from sticking to some fraud resolutions too.

Here are my top five . . . 

  1. When shopping online, pay by card. If something does go wrong, every bank covers you for a fraudulent payment. Alarm bells should be ringing if you are being pushed into paying via bank transfer.
  2. Always wait at least an hour after receiving a bank transfer request before paying. This vital step allows you to calmly think it all through and confirm whether the request is genuine by speaking to the person requesting the money directly. Fraudsters thrive on causing panic and getting you to rush – don’t let them. Take time out.
  3. Pledge to properly read messages from your bank, as they contain important advice and warnings. And don’t ignore your bank telling you a name doesn’t match when you are trying to make a transfer. Confirmation of payee is there for a reason.
  4. Remember that your savings and pension pots are the most important funds you’ll ever have. Neither should be invested without conducting thorough research or receiving financial advice. Banks saw far too many people losing life savings last year as social media adverts and cold calls tricked a lot of people.
  5. Finally, keep reading and acting on fraud advice. Share tips with those around you. Don’t let you and yours make a fraudster’s year.

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