The festive season is nearly here, and Christmas markets are opening everywhere! For some, enchanting wooden huts, colourful fairgrounds and gleaming skating rinks, mean we’ll soon be spending more money than we bargained for. But fear not, we’ve enlisted the help of Anna Burgin, Travel Money Expert for Thomas Cook Money to give her top tips on how to save money when you visit a Christmas market:
Do some background reading
Get to grips with where you’re going. Having local knowledge will not only help you route out all the wonderful things on offer, but will also give you a good idea on costs. This is especially useful if you’re visiting a foreign country where you may be unfamiliar with currency or exchange rates.
Don’t be afraid to barter
Don’t be intimidated by the price tag. Lots of Christmas markets are run by locals and are cash only, which generally gives you the opportunity to haggle and negotiate with the vendor. If you’re buying for family and friends, why not quote another price you’ve seen or ask if they’ll do a bulk discount. Familiarising yourself with the local language can be a big benefit when haggling because the locals will respect the effort and may reduce the price. Brush up on exchange rates before you try to barter, so you know exactly what you’re paying.
Resist overbuying food and drink
While there’s nothing better than the delicious smell of Bratwurst and Gluhwein, there’s such a thing as spending too much on things you could enjoy at home for cheaper. Figure out the foods you’d like to try before you go or do some research into the local delicacy; you might eat something you’ve never tasted before.
Don’t worry if you’re charged for a mug deposit
It’s fairly common for market stalls to take a deposit for the mug, so don’t be shocked if the drink seems more expensive than you originally thought. You’ll get the money back when you return the mug; just enjoy your drink and relax!
Organise your travel money
For lots of market stalls, cash is still the primary method of payment. While there’s often a cashpoint on site, this can leave you with an unnecessary transaction charge. It’s best to visit a local cashpoint before you go or if you’re visiting a Christmas market abroad, plan ahead and order your money online in advance. You can then collect it before you head off, or better still, take advantage of free secure home delivery.
You can lock in a foreign exchange rate for a trip before Christmas by adding currency to a prepaid card or visiting your local Thomas Cook store.
Try not to buy for yourself
We’re all guilty of browsing for gifts and ending up buying something for ourselves. A lot of the time, it ends up being something you don’t really need. Resist the urge to treat yourself, however enchanting the markets might be. Even the most careful planners sometimes get swept up in the moment.
Live like a local
If you’re abroad, there’s a lovely opportunity to buy family and friends a present you might not find in the UK. Ask locals for recommendations on where to buy souvenirs or mementos that are unique to the destination, and more importantly, within your budget.
Be strict with your budget
This is the simplest, yet most effective way to control your spending while at a Christmas market. Make a list of family members or friends you’re looking to buy gifts for and how much you’re willing to spend. It’ll become much easier to resist impulse spending on unnecessary presents (or that extra hot chocolate) if you’ve it written down.