Buying Christmas presents can cost a fortune – but there are ways to bag a bargain. Here are 17 tips, so you can avoid paying full price
The run-up to Christmas can be the most expensive time of year, with UK households typically splurging £726 on festivities – with half of this going on gifts, according to GoCompare Money. Here are our top tips on how to keep costs down but still get into the festive spirit.
SHOP ON SPECIAL DAYS
Gone are the days when the sales start on Boxing Day or even in January. In recent years, several sale days have crept into the calendar ahead of Christmas, particularly aimed at online shoppers. If you’re savvy, these early-bird sales can offer a great way to bag a bargain.
1 Black Friday
This US sale day – traditionally after Thanksgiving – is now popular in the UK and lands on 24 November this year.
You can find good discounts, but be sure to track prices of anything you’re planning to buy, though, to make sure you are getting a bargain. Remember, not all discounts will be better than you could have got before – or after – the event. Shopping comparison sites, such as Idealo.co.uk, let you track an item’s price history across a range of retailers. Camelcamelcamel lets you do the same for Amazon.
“Before you out head out to the shops, scroll through your favourite store’s Twitter feed, as it may update it with exclusive deals only available on social media,” says Darren Williams of Promotionalcodes.org.uk.
“Some websites have been known in recent years to launch their Black Friday sales up to a week before the big day, so watch online to see which sites are jumping the gun. Most importantly, don’t buy for the sake of it,” he says.
2 Cyber Monday
If visiting the shops on Black Friday is out of the question, Mr Williams recommends waiting until Cyber Monday, which this year falls on 26 November, to grab bargains. “Many online stores wait until this day to further slash prices,” he says.
3 Giving Tuesday
Give back to your favourite causes on 27 November – the day after Cyber Monday – by Christmas shopping in charity shops.
Research by the Charities Aid Foundation, which runs Giving Tuesday (Givingtuesday.org.uk), found that more than half of us has given away or donated an unwanted Christmas gifts to a charity.
SHOP SMART ONLINE
4 Amazon Warehouse deals
Head to Amazon and search under ‘warehouse deals’ to track down used or warehouse-damaged items from toys to wine. You could find items that are cheaper simply because the box has been opened. We spotted a ghd air hair dryer with ‘a minor cosmetic imperfection’ for £82.66, compared to £99 at Asos.com.
5 eBay outlets
These are where brands go to sell new, end-of-line or refurbished items – and are often cheaper than elsewhere. Argos, Currys, Debenhams, Lakeland, Sports Direct, Superdry and Tesco all have eBay outlets. We found an Acer Chromebook 14in laptop for £179 (plus £3 delivery) at Tesco, saving £41 – complete with a 12-month Tesco outlet warranty.
6 Facebook Marketplace
“This is an Aladdin’s cave brimming with second-hand tat, but some magic lamps,” says Sophie Phillipson of HelloGrads.com. “Keep your eyes peeled for things that are even better vintage than new, such as leather goods, between now and Christmas. Refi ne your search to your local area, so you don’t have to spend money to collect.”
7 Crack codes
Check out discount codes from HotDeals.co.uk, MyVoucherCodes.co.uk and VoucherCloud.com, which offer anything from free delivery to percentages off items. Also check out for top weekly deals at Moneywise.co.uk/codes.
You can also save time by using free internet browser add-on Pouch (Joinpouch.com), which shows the best voucher codes as you shop online.
8 Cashback websites
Make extra savings by shopping through cashback websites such as TopCashback.co.uk and Quidco.com. Simply click through to your chosen retailer, shop as normal, and you will get a percentage of your money back. With TopCashBack, you can withdraw cashback via BACS, PayPal, Amazon Gift certificate, Love2shop card, M&S e-giftcard or store giftcards.
9 Sign up online
Subscribe to your favourite retailer’s newsletters in advance. “Newsletters are often laced with special discounts, free delivery codes and sales previews. If you can stomach the frequent emails, they can save you a small fortune,” says Hannah Maundrell at Money.co.uk.
However, make sure that receiving a stream of special offers from your favourite retailers doesn’t tempt you to buy things you wouldn’t have otherwise. If so, you can always set up a separate email address for them so that you only browse through them when you intend to buy something in particular.
10 Abandon your basket
If you leave an item in your online basket, many retailers will track your shopping activity and nudge you with an email including a discount code to motivate you to buy. It took just two hours for Buyagift.co.uk to offer us a 15% off voucher when we tried this. Remember to log in when browsing and adding items to your basket, so the retailer can track you.
A tough ask for reserved Brits, but don’t be afraid to haggle when shopping for bargains on Gumtree or in Christmas markets and on the high street. “Buy in bulk to negotiate a lower price, or make the person serving you aware that it’s cheaper online. The most important thing is to be brave. If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” advises Miss Phillipson.
PLAY YOUR CARDS RIGHT
12 Save on gift cards
Save a typical 6% by snapping up unwanted giftcards from the likes of App Store & iTunes, Jack Wills, Pandora, Halfords, John Lewis and New Look, using online marketplace Zeek.me. You will be charged a 30p transaction fee.
13 Present points
If you regularly use a card that offers cashback or rewards on spending, check how many rewards points or cashback you’ve accrued and how you can spend it. You may find you have enough to get a gift with your points – for instance, last Christmas I bought stocking fillers with Boots Advantage points. Helpfully, Stocard stores your loyalty cards in one free app so you don’t have to search your wallet at the checkout.
14 Bank deals
Some banks offer customers cashback deals based on spending habits. Lloyds has everyday offers with up to 15% cashback when customers shop with retailers including Morrisons, Superdrug and New Look. You activate the deals when you log in to your online bank account. Halifax has a version called Cashback Extras and Barclays offers Blue Rewards. To check what is on offer, using Moneyfacts.co.uk.
15 Discount outlets
Visit factory shops for discount prices on fashion, beauty, jewellery, toys, electrical items, to name but a few. Typically, items are seconds or from last season, and up to 60% off. Gretna Gateway in Dumfriesshire houses M&S Outlet, Thornton’s and The Body Shop, while Oxfordshire’s Bicester Village has high-end brands Calvin Klein, The White Company and Mulberry. To find outlets near you, visit Shopping-villages.co.uk.
16 Delivery savers Compare prices and send gifts using discount parcel-delivery services. For example, sending a 4kg medium, signed-for next-day parcel in the UK costs £8.69 with DPD, compared to £16.85 with Royal Mail. With all discount couriers, check the list of prohibited goods and consider paying extra for insurance as it can be hard to make a claim if things go wrong. Meanwhile, Amazon offers free delivery if you spend £20. If your order is a few pence short, SuperSaverDeliverytool.com checks Amazon for filler items to bring up your total, so avoiding delivery costs.
17 Prepare for next Christmas
Agreeing present limits with loved ones and sticking to a budget will set you in good stead for this year.
But Karen Barrett, chief executive of Unbiased.co.uk, says it’s essential to budget for next year: “Every year, we’re caught out by Christmas, as if we didn’t know it would be expensive. But whenever you have a known cost ahead of you, you can spread it evenly and make it manageable.
“Make a note of everything you spend this Christmas, divide it by 12 and save that much monthly into a regular savings account. Set up a direct debit to ensure you stick to your plan. That’s every Christmas paid for.”
“I spread the cost of Christmas throughout the year”
Finance manager Sharon Greenwood-Mercer (above right), 52, from Buckinghamshire likes to keep a tight hold on the festive purse strings at home as well as at work.
“I spread the cost of Christmas by buying gifts throughout the year from bargains in the Boxing Day sales to deals at discount outlets on our annual holiday in the US,” says Sharon.
“My daughter, Savannah (above left), is 21 and at university so I look out for treats to stash away such as ‘smellies’, chilli oil and socks. My husband Ian is a keen eBayer so he keeps an eye out for unusual presents for my 16-year-old son, Angus. We also like to scour charity shops for gifts. Last year, we got Angus a Wii with a load of games at a snip!”
Sharon says she’s also likes to get crafty for Christmas.
“I got bitten by the jewellery-making and knitting bug a couple of years ago, so enjoy making presents. I recycle unwanted jewellery and wool remnants, so it doesn’t cost me much at all. So far, I’ve knitted cushions, beanie hats and bunting – and made necklaces and bracelets. People like that, as they get a unique, handmade gift.”
“We see who earns the most for Christmas via cashback”
Web designer Claire Plant (above), 32, and her husband, Adi, live in Lincolnshire and have a fun approach to saving for Christmas.
“Every month we add £50 to a sealed tin and don’t open it until December, meaning we’ve already got £600 for our shopping. On top of that, we have a cashback competition throughout the year to see who can earn the most money by doing all of their shopping through TopCashback.co.uk, and then pool our earnings to pay for presents.
“Adi is already in the hundreds because he’s offered to do all the big purchases – car insurance, TV package and energy switching,” she says.
Claire and her husband also take a less-is-more approach to living and ahead of the festivities pick out items they haven’t used since last Christmas to sell on eBay to boost coffers.
This year, the couple have also realised how much money they spend on alcohol and have decided to go sober for November. “We plan to use the money we’ve saved for indulgences over Christmas,” says Claire.
What are your best Christmas money-saving tips? We’d love to hear them. Email firstname.lastname@example.org