With an average family Christmas in the UK costing upwards of £750, it’s easy to see why millions of us struggle. Keeping up with essential household bills and payments over the holiday season can be a real challenge. Here are a few quick RIFT tips to get you through to 2019 with your festive spirit and your finances intact.

Be smart with your spending

This goes way beyond just keeping a tighter grip on your wallet. When it comes to shopping wisely, how and where you lay down your cash is as important as what you’re paying for. If you’re dumping the Christmas payload onto a credit card, think about using one with a cashback scheme, for example. It’s a simple system that nets you a little money back on everything you spend.

If you’ve got loyalty cards or voucher on-hand – use them! That sounds obvious, but there’s a slight catch to it. If you’ve got to use your cards or vouchers in a physical store, you still might not be getting the best deals. Hunt around online, and check out the websites of the brands you’re buying before you hit the department stores.

Don’t wait until the last minute

If there are travel plans to make, book up early. For one thing, train fares can be way cheaper if you book ahead far enough. We’re talking months ahead of time, here. Don’t expect a massive discount if you leave it until December to get your tickets. For other purchases, planning before spending means you won’t end up with agonising last-minute panic-purchases on things like food and presents.

The other great thing about planning ahead is that you get to save up before you splash out. It only takes a little each month to save up what you’ll need without dipping into your critical bill-paying funds. We’ve said it before: a perfect take-off comes down to the length of your runway.

Timing is everything

While we’re talking about knowing when to buy, keep an eye on the calendar and circle the 23rd and 26th of November. That’s when Black Friday and Cyber Monday fall this year.

While we don’t pretend to understand this annual madness we’ve imported from the United States in recent years, there’s no denying that these dates have officially become A Thing in the UK now. We’re not as committed to it over here yet, but there are still some impressive sales going on for those brave enough to leave the house on the Friday.

Cyber Monday is more of a sit-at-home-with-a-laptop-and-hot-chocolate kind of thing, but it can still be a fantastic way to save some cash.

Think about the money you’re NOT spending

There are lots of ways to make the most of your savings and bank accounts, but a lot of them require a little leg-work. Some banks, for instance, offer cash bonuses for switching your account to them. An extra £100 or so might plug a gap in your Christmas finances pretty nicely.

Credit card providers sometimes toss out incentives like Amazon vouchers, too, so it’s worth sniffing around to see what they’re offering. You really ought to avoid putting Christmas on tick if you can, of course. If you’re borrowing, though, look for a scheme that offers a 0% card and pay it off before the free period expires.

It’s all about friends and family

For an ideal way to stuff your stockings a little tighter this Christmas, remember RIFT’s Refer a Friend scheme. You’ll earn a £50 cash reward whenever you recommend us to someone with a valid tax refund claim – plus £150 on top for every 5 referrals you make.

In addition, you’ll be entered into our prize draws, with a current Star Prize of £1,000 in Christmas spending money! Have fun with your holiday shopping, and find out more about Refer a Friend.

RIFT are the UK's leading tax rebate and tax return experts who've been helping people like you claim overpaid overpaid tax back from HMRC since 1999.