Martin Lewis: How to cut the cost of Christmas getaway

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Some folks are Driving Home for Christmas, some are off on their very own National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and others are leaving their Homes Alone.

So if you’re travelling this Christmas, here’s A Wonderful List of festive tips to cut the cost of travel and ensure the home you leave behind is protected.

Free tank of fuel via extreme couponing trick.

If you’re planning a big spend at any one of 50+ retailers (including House of Fraser, Homebase and PC World), buy the gift card in Morrisons and you get 1p/litre off fuel per £10 spend. So £100 gets 10p off and £1,000ish gets a free tank.

The real trick isn’t to use them as gifts, but that if you’re planning a big purchase in that store anyway, first pop into Morrisons and buy the gift card. Then a few days later, once it’s active, go and use it to buy your planned purchase, giving you a potentially whopping petrol discount. There’s a full list of retailers and more info at www.morrisonsfuelsaver.co.uk.

Turn your heating down, but not off if you’re going away

If it gets cold, no heating risks burst pipes. So much so that some insurers won’t cover you for damage if your home’s unoccupied for more than five days and you turned the heating off. The rule of thumb is keep it to a minimum 14 degrees.

Buying two tickets for one train journey can save you £100s

Split ticketing makes about as much sense as Chewbacca, but it works. It’s where you buy tickets for a journey’s constituent parts separately to slash the price. It’s allowed by the conditions of carriage – the only rule is that the train must call at the stations you buy tickets for.

For example, a single from Manchester to Cornwall costs £158, but the train stops at Cheltenham Spa. Buy a £52 ticket from Manchester to Cheltenham Spa, then a £58 one from there to Cornwall and the total’s £110. That’s the same train, the same time – possibly even the same seat.

To help find if you can do this for your journey, use my free TicketySplit tool at mse.me/ticketysplit. As Justine tweeted me: “Genius – tickety split has just saved me £50, no effort, exact same journey.”

Free winter car check (normally £15) from Halfords.

Halfords.com is offering a free £15 winter car check. It’ll check your battery, bulbs, wiper blades, oil levels and top up screen wash.

You don’t need to book in advance, though you can online if you want, and the check should take about 15 minutes. There is no obligation to buy anything, but be prepared that staff might try to upsell you. The winter car check is on until spring.

Cheap boiler cover – you don’t need to stick with your energy firm

Boiler cover is a free market, yet energy firms like you to think you need to stick with them. You don’t. While British Gas charges £12/month, you may be able to get similar cover for as little as £6. My quick tips:

a) Renters usually don’t need it, as their landlord’s likely responsible. Check.

b) Ensure you know what cover you need. Choose between boiler-only, the cheaper option that covers your boiler and its controls, or central heating cover, which includes full central heating cover on top (including radiators, pipes, etc).

c) To find the cheapest, compare prices via uSwitch.com and add in Energyhelpline.com if you’ve time.

Cheap Christmas and NY train tickets still on – never think it’s too late.

Even this close to Christmas, you can still bag cheap advance tickets. This week, my team found London to Edinburgh singles at £40 for Christmas Eve – check via booking sites such as Takethetrain.co.uk and RedSpottedHanky.com.

And even if you don’t know your plans yet, never just assume you’ll need to buy at the station – some rail firms still let you book cheap advance tickets (if they’re still available) up to 15mins before the journey.

Get a year’s breakdown cover for £17.

If your car has trouble during the winter season, it can be a cold and costly time. Thankfully, if you know what you’re doing you can get super cheap cover. There are four things you need to know:

- If you’re renewing, haggle. 84 per cent of AA and 76 per cent of RAC customers who tried reported success.

- If you’re new then for basic cover use a cashback site. A standard RAC policy is £28 online and an AA policy £35, but sites like Topcashback.co.uk and Quidco.com give around £10-£15 back so the effective cost to you is £18ish. This usually works, though do note the cashback isn’t 100 per cent guaranteed.

- If you have Tesco clubcard points you can swap them in for RAC cover, so £16 of vouchers gives you basic breakdown.

- For full service, Autoaidbreakdown.co.uk is a pay and reclaim policy for £42/year, which covers you and your spouse for home start, breakdown and onward travel. A local delivery firm is sent out, and you pay then send in receipts to get the cost back.

Do you know where your stopcock is?

No nudge nudge wink wink needed. Everyone should know where their stopcock – mains water tap – is. Frozen pipe bursts create an average £4,000 of damage, made worse if you can’t find the off switch as your home floods. So be prepared.

Under the kitchen sink’s a very common place. To locate yours, Thames Water has a helpful video at thameswater.co.uk/help-and-advice/13526.htm

Can you find sub-£1/litre petrol?

Petrol prices are now under £1/litre in some places, but the range is huge. Use Petrolprices.com to find your cheapest, nearest forecourt. The difference even within one postcode is 10 per cent. It’s an easy check to fill up on savings.