Everyone wants their family to have the perfect Christmas, but the cost of all that food and all those presents soon adds up – families in the UK spend an average of £800 during the festive season. Here, we offer some tips on how to have a brilliant Christmas for less cash.

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Sell stuff you don’t need

Consider having a pre-Christmas clear-out and selling unwanted items on ebay or at a car boot sale. It may look like junk to you, but if you have stuff that works, or clothes in a reasonable condition, chances are that someone will want it. If you’re using ebay, be sure to check the website’s Sell an Item – Getting Started page for information on how to be a successful seller. If you’re trying a car boot sale, read up online for tips on how to make your stall a success.

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Buy gifts second-hand

You can make magic Christmas memories for little children – and save money too – by buying gifts second-hand. There are loads of toys on eBayNetmums has a nearly new section on its website; and Amazon Warehouse stocks returned, warehouse-damaged, used or refurbished products. Pack your gifts in a cute box and tiny children won’t even notice (and they won’t be bothered by the odd scratch either). You won’t be able to fool your older ones, but once they start playing those video games you found on Amazon Warehouse, will they really care?

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Send your Christmas cards early

If you post your Christmas cards before 18th December, you can send them second-class and still be sure they’ll arrive in time for Christmas. The deadline for the first-class post is just a couple of days later, on 20th December. With a first-class stamp costing 65p, and second-class letters going for 55p, you may think it’s hardly worth the hassle. But send 50 cards and you’ll save £4.50 – enough for a well-earned drink once you’ve finished writing them!

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Take advantage of your loyalty cards

Don’t forget all those points you’ve been building up throughout the year on your loyalty cards. The Boots Advantage Card lets you spend your points in store – ideal for some Christmas perfume, perhaps? Tesco Clubcard points are translated into vouchers for spending in store or with a variety of restaurants, airlines, holiday companies and retailers. Nectar awards points for money spent in Sainsbury’s, Argos, Debenhams, BP and many other retailers. Points translate into vouchers to be spent in stores or on anything from a meal out to a day at Alton Towers.

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Book Christmas trains early

Spending Christmas with friends or family elsewhere in the UK? If you’re planning to travel by train it pays to book ahead, for long journeys at least. That way you can secure a seat reservation too – a must on crowded Christmas trains. Tickets generally go on sale 12 weeks before travel, but it’s still worth having a look at train companies’ websites to see if cheaper tickets are available. You can also use Nectar points for journeys on Virgin East Coast and Great Western Railways.

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Shop late (or early)

We all know how much teenagers love their brands and gadgets – and that they’re not cheap. If they just have to have a certain style of trainers, say, tell them you’re happy to get them if they’re willing to wait for the January sales. Then buy them a nice, low-priced surprise or two to open on Christmas Day. The sales aren’t just good for belated Christmas presents. With next Christmas in mind, you’ll find cards, crackers and decorations at knockdown prices in January.

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Do a Secret Santa

If you’ve got a big group of friends or adult family members to buy for and you’re worrying about the cost, how about doing a Secret Santa? It works like this: first, agree on a price limit, £10 say. Then everyone in the group puts their name into a hat. Next, everyone picks a name and buys a gift for that person. Keep the identity of who you’re buying for a secret and you’ll have a lot of Christmas fun guessing who your gift is from.

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