Do you really need to give a present?
Buying gifts creates an obligation for recipients to give back, whether they can afford to or not. For some, the gift of ‘not obliging you to buy for me’ is more welcome than unwanted tat.
Martin Lewis’s Money Saving Expert website suggests forming a NUPP with family and friends – a No Unnecessary Present Pact. There is even a form and template email you can use at moneysavingexpert.com/nupp. Or at least agree to a Secret Santa – or a price cap.
Avoid expensive add-ons
Don’t pay for extra warranty insurance for gifts, such as that offered by electrical retailers. You are covered by consumer law and many shops, such as John Lewis, offer extra free cover beyond this.
Sites such as Quidco and Topcashback give you cashback when you click through to big retailers such as Debenhams and Argos.
Compare prices for the same item from different retailers by using a ‘shop bot’ such as pricerunner.co.uk or kelkoo.co.uk. If you like to shop on Amazon use uk.camelcamel camel.com, which reveals the price history of the item you’re thinking of buying. You can also set up an alert to be notified if the price drops.
Use up your points or rewards
Now is the time to use those supermarket points. Don’t forget that a day out, a theatre trip or a magazine subscription could make a good gift.
Remember that if the recipient does not use the card before its expiry date, or if the retailer goes bust, your money could be lost. The bottom line is that if you want your relative to choose their own gift, cold, hard cash is safer.
Mind where you shop
Be wary of buying online from businesses you’ve never heard of or that don’t accept payment by credit card, which gives you extra consumer protection. If you are not sure, search for the name of the firm or website along with the word ‘scam’ and see if anyone has issued an alert.
You’ve read this a hundred times before, but it’s true. Match your entertaining and gift ambitions with what you can afford.
According to TSB Bank, the average shopper plans to spend £427 this Christmas. But by the time they’ve added in all the things they haven’t budgeted for, such as travel, party costs and last-minute gifts, they’ll end up spending nearly double, at £773.
So make two main shopping lists: one for presents to buy, and one for food and drink, with menus and ingredients.
Plan your travel, too. Train fares are cheaper booked in advance. Share car transport and cabs home from parties.
Spread the cost
In an ideal world you would have saved up during the year, but you’re only human. Using the right credit card can help. If you aren’t going to be able to pay off your bill as soon as you receive it, consider switching to a card with a lower interest rate. You’ve still time to apply for a card that offers a 0% interest-free period for purchases, or one you can shift your balance to for a lower rate.
Take out a loan
If you need a long time to pay off Christmas debts, or will add them to existing borrowing, consider a personal loan to spread the cost over a fixed number of months. It could work out cheaper than overshooting on a credit card.