Day 3: Substitute to save

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It's day three of our advent calendar designed to help you get on top of your finances for a happier Christmas. And today is all about substitution.

This is the only way to save without sacrifice, and it should help keep your Christmas dinner costs down too.

Ditch brand loyalty

Substitution is easiest in the supermarket. It's a simple matter of letting go of brand loyalty. Often we reach for the same brands time and again without really thinking about it. It's at eye level, we have seen the adverts, for some reason we trust the quality.

However, by shifting your eyes lower you could easily take more than 10% off the cost of your shopping. Try the supermarket's own brand, or a lesser-known alternative. Even in a posh grocery shop like Marks & Spencer, you might be surprised to learn that the generic supermarket products are cheaper than the brands.

Surprises

I won't lie to you, you will have some disappointments. In experimenting you may come across some oddities and some unpleasant tastes. However, in by far the majority of cases you will just not notice the difference. You will have saved, without having to give anything up. You can't lose.

You may want to stop here, or try saving another 5% off your bill by going for the value range. Again there is a bit of risk associated with this, but you will find a good proportion of things in your trolley taste identical and cost a small fraction of the brands you started with.

Think bigger

And this shouldn't just be something you do in the supermarket. You may feel slightly cheap doing this for the presents you buy, but often the feel of quality for the present comes in the wrapping. Get hold of some tissue paper and some festive ribbon on a reel. That way you'll be able to wrap the glasses you bought in Ikea, the Poundland felt tips and the Avon mascara and give the impression you have spared no expense.

But what do you think? Have you used this approach? Does it work for you? Let us know in the comments.

Day 4: Bag a cheap holiday
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