The 12 cons of Christmas revealed

Top tips on how to avoid them

The 12 cons of Christmas revealed

It's the season to be jolly but it seems not everyone has the same idea.

Christmas can be a pricey time - and even more expensive if you're not careful.

See also: Could you be an elf this Christmas?

See also: How you can earn almost £2,000 before Christmas

But here are 12 top tips to avoid being conned this festive season

1 Festive menus

Con: The price of Christmas menus for parties or the big day always seem to be twice what the restaurant would normally charge.

How to avoid it: The cheapest way is to put off your outing until January, when few people go out and restaurants are so desperate they have half-price offers.

Or think about going for lunch instead of dinner when menus are cheaper. Also check last-minute offers at OpenTable.co.uk.

If you do go out for a special meal, tip good staff directly as a lot of tips that go on a credit or debit card don't make it to the waiting staff.

2 Charity Christmas cards

Con: The actual amount that goes to charity can be as little as 7% of the overall price.

How to avoid it: Buy your cards direct from charity shops or catalogues or online at cardaid.co.uk where at least 40% of the price goes to charity.

Also, Sreepur Cards (sreepurcards.org) creates handmade designs, right, and all the money goes to supporting a children's village in Bangladesh.

3 Extended warranties

Con: At the till buying a flat-screen TV for your other half, you're suddenly getting the hard sell on an extended warranty. Are they worth it? Most of the time, no.

How to avoid it: Typically you get a one-year manufacturer's warranty free and if you paid by credit card and the item costs £100 or more you'll be covered by the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

And you could put money away for your own warranty in a "repairs" savings account you top up monthly with a few pounds.

If any item breaks you can use this cash – you'll save a whole lot – and if you don't end up using it you can treat yourself to something nice too.

If you do need to purchase an extended warranty, check out price-comparison site www.compareextendedwarranties.co.uk

4 Overpriced travel

Con: Coach, train and flight companies know seats are in demand so prices are often bumped up.

How to avoid it: Book tickets as far in advance if possible. Even one day prior to travel is better than buying a ticket on the day.

Also, with train fares, look at Raileasy's Trainsplit.com to see if you can divide your journey into a number of legs, buying a separate ticket for each.

This can save you a fortune.

5 Christmas savings clubs

Con: They're not covered by the Fin­­ancial Services Compensation Scheme if they go bust although some are members of the Christmas Prepayment Association, so you could be protected.

Also, you may not get a choice of where to spend your money.

How to avoid it: There are better ways to save for the festive season.

Set up a Christmas savings account with a credit union (find your nearest at Findyourcreditunion.co.uk) or the Post Office.

6 Dodgy Christmas emails

Con: One in four people fall victim to scams, according to Santander, and Christmas is a bumper time for fraudsters.

That lovely online card or the email offer of a voucher could contain malware which would be installed on your phone or computer and collect personal data, passwords and user names.

How to avoid it: If your e-card is from someone you don't know, just delete it. Never open an email or attachment from an unknown sender and do not download "exe" files as these often contain adware, unwanted downloads and spyware.

7 Christmas loans

Con: Extortionate payday loans or even bogus lenders.

How to avoid it: Make a budget and stick to it. It's easier said than done but tell the kids that times are tight and work together to make Christmas fun but cheap.

If you do need to borrow, do so by dipping into a low-cost overdraft, using a 0% interest credit card (if your credit rating is good enough) or borrowing from a credit union.

8 Fake money

Con: Scammers have been paying for goods on Gumtree and Facebook with forged £5 notes.

How to avoid it: If you're selling things for cash, just take a bit of extra time to look at the notes – the new fivers in particular.

Check the see-through window and the portrait of the Queen, make sure Big Ben is gold on the front and silver on the back and that the foil patch below the window changes from "Five" to "Pounds" when tilted.

9 Bogus websites

Con: Fake websites using copied logos and photos – and fake listings on genuine sites such as eBay – are rife at this time of year.

How to avoid it: Make sure you are shopping on a genuine site by typing in the address yourself rather than clicking on a link in an email or found on another site.

Also look for a contact number and office address on the site. If there isn't anything then it's likely to be fake.

10 Santa experiences

Credits: MiraMax

MiraMax

Con: Parents pay through the nose to get a personalised reply to their letter to the big man.

How to avoid it: The Post Office does a free reply from Santa but only if letters were sent in by December 9. So, at this stage if your child writes a letter to Santa maybe reply to it yourself.

Alternatively, for a suggested donation of £5, the NSPCC will send a personalised letter from Santa.

So as well as making your child smile, you'll be helping other children too.

11 3-for-2 offers

Con: Christmas 3-for-2 offers are all over the place right now. Occasionally they'll be a good deal but the unit price is often too high to make it worth taking up.

How to avoid it: Add up how much the items will cost altogether then divide that by three to find the cost per item. If that price is more than you would be happy to pay, put them back.

12 The perfect Christmas

Con: Arguably the biggest con of all and one we're all guilty of believing: that we have to have a perfect family Christmas.

How to avoid it: Ignore the adverts and the hype or it will make you and the family miserable. It doesn't matter if the turkey is burnt and the crackers don't snap. Don't stress about the details, just love each other.

​​​​​​Jasmine Birtles runs money saving website www.moneymagpie.com

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