A MUM’S clever money hack has helped her stash away more than £400 already for Christmas – covering the cost of almost all of the presents for her family.
Sarah Lloyd, who works in PR, lives in Farnborough, Hampshire, with her husband, and two daughters, aged nine and seven.
The 46-year-old says the key to her hack is a feature that comes with her Starling bank account – and it's available with other banks too.
She opened this account when she started her business back in 2018.
Sarah told The Sun: “There’s a facility which automatically ‘swipes’ a set sum of money into savings for me, so I have a dedicated pot building in time for Christmas.
"A sum has been slotted away every month since January. I typically set this at £50, though sometimes I manage to save more."
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Sarah uses this fund to cover the cost of gifts, and then tries to top this up a little further as December approaches, with any spare cash she has.
She said: “This saving hack gives me enough money to buy gifts for the whole family, and also to fund Christmas – with all the trimmings.
"My target is to get to a total close to £1,000 ahead of the festive period.”
Being organised about saving up for presents is especially important for Sarah, as both her daughters have birthdays at this time of year, too.
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“One of the birthdays is in November, and the other is in December,” said the money-saving mum who is also the author of Wake up Mother, and co-founder of the Mother Speaks podcast.
“As a result, the weeks leading up to Christmas can be a pretty expensive time for us as a family.”
With Starling, the clever facility that Sarah uses is known as "saving spaces."
This is essentially akin to having virtual change jars where your money is kept separate from your balance.
“I like this approach because it means I never accidentally dip into my savings,” she said.
“Equally, as the set-up is also very visual, I can see how close I am to reaching my goal.
"I simply set a target amount, name a ring-fenced saving space as ‘Christmas fund,’ and add money each month.
"At the same time, with the ‘round-ups’ feature, I can round up whatever I spend to the nearest pound, and send my spare change to this space, too.”
For the hard-working mum, all of this amounts to speedier savings.
“I don’t want to sound smug, but I’m already all saved up for Christmas, as well as for my girls’ birthdays,” said Sarah.
“With the cost-of-living taking its toll on our family budget, saving a little and often makes big expenses a lot more affordable.
"Saving this way also feels very doable, as you don’t have to think about it.”
According to Sarah, anyone can do the same.
She said: “It was super easy to open a Starling account, and very straightforward to put the savings facility in place.
"I’d urge other mums and dads to do it too. It’s made a big difference to us.”
There are now a host of other banks and apps which can help you save in a similar way, with "round-up" facilities and other clever tools, including the likes of Plum, Chase and also Monzo.
Other ways to save for Christmas
In addition to using Starling, the savvy mum takes other steps to try and help ease the cost of Christmas.
“I begin to declutter our home every year in August, and continue this process during September,” she said.
“I sell old clothes on Vinted – and recently made £50 selling stuff we’d all grown out of.
"I also sell old bikes and toys on Facebook Marketplace.
"One of my best sales involved getting £50 for an Early Learning Centre ‘Happyland Village’ set.
"All the money I make from selling stuff goes towards birthdays and Christmas.”
Another of Sarah’s hacks involves going bargain-hunting in the autumn sales.
When seeking out deals and discounts at this time of year, she then boosts the savings she makes by taking advantage of Tesco Clubcard offers and voucher codes.
“I’ve been known to pick up some real steals,” she said.
“Last autumn, I bought Lego sets from Tesco for both girls for half the normal price, and gave them as Christmas presents.”
Sarah is also a big fan of Facebook Marketplace.
“I’m not shy about buying second-hand items,” she said.
“This is especially the case when it comes to things the girls might grow out of quickly, such as bikes and scooters.
"One of my best purchases on Facebook Marketplace was a Barbie Dreamhouse, still in its packaging, for £25.
"This would easily have cost me £45 if I’d bought it new.”
Sarah loves being organised.
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“I even have some of my gifts already purchased and hidden in the loft,” she said.
“Thinking ahead and being prepared takes a lot of the stress out of the festive season, making it a lot more enjoyable for all of us.”
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