Regular readers will know that my mantra is – plan in advance. No matter what you need to buy, a little research and some forward planning can often bring the price down. Here are a few basics for you to think about on the lead up to Christmas.

Christmas cards

Post before December 19 and you can get away with a second class stamp, that’s 58p instead of 67p, worth saving if you have a box full to send.

Also, when you buy your cards, make sure that they are the right size for a standard postage stamp.

Anything larger, thicker or heavier than 16.5cm x 24cm, 0.5cm thick and weighing more than 100g pushes the price of a stamp up to 79p second class and £1.01 first and the bigger you go, the more it costs.

Christmas gifts

I you have a group of people to buy for, why not organise a Secret Santa? This is where everyone picks a name out of the hat and they buy for just that one person. Perfect for work, playgroups and so on.

Homemade gifts are always special. Bake a cake, take a photograph or plant a garden container and you can save money.

And the gift of your time never fails. A computer printed certificate ‘awarding’ the lucky recipient: a car valet, an evening’s baby sitting, a week’s ironing or a day’s gardening will works time and time again.

Christmas food

Tis the season of over-indulgence and with all those extra goodies comes a hefty grocery bill.

If your are the one hosting this year’s big dinner, don’t be shy, ask your guests to bring the canapés, pudding or wine.

It gets them involved, adds to the general bonhomie and they may even offer to help with the washing up.