The Countdown to Christmas: Begin bagging your Christmas bargains now!
It can be difficult to take any talk of Christmas seriously when it still feels like it’s such a long way off. Granted, our calendar may tell us that technically the festive season is now only a matter of weeks away, but honestly – surely another Indian Summer means that we’ve still got a few more days and nights of t-shirts and barbeques to go before its time to throw in the towel and reach for our coats and the tinsel?
Well as seemingly ridiculous as the idea of Christmas might be when summer hasn’t even left yet, the fact remains that winter is coming and so too is Santa. To avoid the prospect of doing a last-minute round of frenzied panic shopping in the final days before Christmas, it is important to start preparing for the holiday season now. Quite simply, the sooner that you begin planning your Christmas shop tactical campaign, the easier and cheaper it’ll be.
After all, last-minute panic shopping in the run-up to Christmas is great news for high street stores, to the tune of around £4.7billion in 2014, but it isn’t going to do your finances or blood pressure any favours. By taking a smart, sensible and organised approach to doing your Christmas shop you can take the financial sting and stress away from the festive season, and ensure that, come January, you’re not flat-broke or, worse still, heavily in debt – an outcome which, on its own, is worth its weight in gold.
Here are a few handy things to consider before you begin buying Christmas gifts.
Set a maximum spending limit for your Christmas shopping
Before you even begin to think about what gifts you are going to buy for your nearest and dearest, or what names are going on the gift list this year, for that matter, the most important thing to do is to calculate how much money you can afford to spend.
Think about it – how many times in the past have you taken the rookie approach to Christmas shopping by shopping first and counting the cost later? Buying much-desired extravagant gifts which are in excess of what you can really afford will lead to only one thing: a very, very miserable January and February.
So remember, whilst getting everybody great, memorable gifts has that ‘joy of giving’ Christmas feel-good factor attached to it, that feel-good glow will disappear in a puff of smoke when, come Boxing Day, you waken to the realisation that you’re horribly broke and indebted.
Christmas is glorious but it is only one day – bear this in mind.
You DON’T need to buy gifts for all – implement the Unnecessary Present Pact
Even the most tight-fisted Grinch will grudgingly accept that Christmas is a time of giving, to our families, our children, and those friends who are our chosen family. But what of everybody else?
Be honest – do you wince a little at the ever-growing circle of extended family, colleagues, friends and acquaintances that you feel obligated to buy presents for? Well the chances are that they’re not happy about it either, for what it’s worth!
Whereas in the past we were only expected to buy Christmas presents for our nearest and dearest, the business of buying festive gifts has now become a bit of a retail free-for-all, but there is a solution: The No Unnecessary Present Pact.
By making a No Unnecessary Present Pact with your friends, pals, acquaintances and colleagues, you can simply agree not to buy each other a Christmas gift – an outcome which in itself might be the perfect gift to your cash strapped pals. It’s a socially acceptable way of tackling a growing budget-breaking problem. Barring this, there’s always Secret Santa, or you can just get a round in on the inevitable Christmas evening of dinner and drinks.
Get your online shopping done early
Many of us do a majority of our shopping online these days, and we both spend and save a fortune on a daily basis because of it.
The benefits of online shopping need little explanation – we all know that there is always an opportunity for a super-cheap bargain on Ebay or Gumtree, for example, and that most websites offer deals and prices which are better than you’d tend to find on the high street. And cost aside, the amazing variety of weird and wonderful knick knacks and bric-a-brack means that there is an endless source of potential goodies to buy. All of these factors make online shopping an integral part of getting your Christmas shop done.
However if you plan on doing some or all of your Christmas shopping online, you’ll need to get it done early for a couple of key reasons.
It’ll be a sellers-market for starters, and you’ll find that the frenzied demand for an online bargain by your fellow Christmas shoppers may jack the cost of your Christmas shop up. Supply and demand forces work in predictable ways. Additionally, leaving your online shop until the last minute also means that you run the risk of not getting your purchases on time. To the credit of Royal Mail and other courier firms, who often get their fair share of stick when deliveries are late or lost, it’s not easy to deliver things to people quickly and bother-free when millions upon millions of people are all buying millions upon millions of things in a short space of time.
So, in short, do your online shopping early – your future self will thank you for it.
Use cashback websites
Have you ever thought that it would be really, really great to get paid to do your Christmas shopping? Well guess what – using a cashback website like Quidco or TopCashBack means that you actually can.
While such websites have slowly grown in popularity in recent years, it is surprising how few people in the UK take advantage of the impressive cashback offers which are there for the taking. The way it works is quite simple – after signing up with a cashback website, you’ll be able to browse through pages of products and services, such as mobile phone contract packages, laptops, cosmetic goods, clothes and hotel deals, for example. Upon seeing something that you want to buy, all you need to do is click a tab which will take you via a unique link to the product/service’s website so that you can buy them as normal, and voila! The cashback, which could be 10% of the value of the good/service that you bought, or a fixed sum of money, will be deposited in your account at a later date. It really is that simple.
It is important to mention that you will not receive your cashback immediately, or even soon afterwards – you could have to wait months for your cashback earnings to be paid into your account. This is a small price to pay for what is in effect free money. Enjoy!
Bag a bargain on Black Friday
Friday 28th November, 2015 – be sure to mark this date in your diary. In case you haven’t heard of the event, or seen any of the utterly bonkers videos on Youtube, Black Friday – a retail event that is notable for incredible sales offers and the riotous disorder this sometimes incites amongst bargain hunters – is a recent export from our American cousins.
Black Friday is a great day to get incredible deals on all manner of potential gifts, like TV’s and laptops, or childrens toys, furniture, and so on, although as the Youtube videos reveal you may have to jostle shoulder-to-shoulder with a crowd of fellow thrift-seekers to get them. Virtually all high street shops and an ever growing number of independent retailers are now doing battle with each other to get customers in the door, so wherever you are there will be opportunities aplenty to get great stuff for a fraction of the price.
Keep your ear to the ground about what’s happening in your area on Black Friday – just Google Black Friday and where you live to keep abreast of what’s happening.
5 other ways of avoiding over-spending at Christmas
The above mentioned ideas are all guaranteed money-saving Christmas wins, but they are only the tip of the iceberg – there are countless more ways of taking the financial sting out of doing your Christmas shop.
- Some upcycling ideas
- Make stuff – Kirsty Allsopp has been doing it every Christmas since her and TV hubby Phil Spencer decided to progress ‘solo careers’, and you can do it to! Make glorious decorations, hampers and hand-made gifts for next to nothing using bits and bobs from around the home and garden.
- Gift yourself – time is precious, and what better gift can you give a frantic parent or stressed-out mate than some precious down-time whilst you look after the kids or offer to do their chores for them?
- Use your bank or loyalty card – a lot of banks offer shopping discounts now and a classic use of loyalty points is to spend them up at Christmas. Do some digging to find out the best ways to spend your discounts/points and you could be bagging pressies for next to nothing.
- Flee the country – if your family and friends can’t find you, they won’t expect presents.
- Make some outstanding Christmas food – food is the way to a man’s heart…and probably a woman’s, if we’re honest. Make some quality home-made fayre, wrap it in a bow and you’ve got yourself a winning present.
Winter is coming and so too is Christmas – start your shopping now
As wonderful a time as the Christmas season undoubtedly is, the obligation to buy presents for those closest to us can make the festive period financially challenging. Most of us simply don’t have the kind of budget to spend freely and without concern, so it is incredibly important to make sure that whatever our budget might be, we stretch the money we have in order to get the most bang for our buck.
If we strip away all the expectation and pressure, the truth is that Christmas is the one time of the year when our inner child is released in all of us – when we can switch off for a few days and enjoy the time with family, the tinsel, Christmas lights, food and gift-giving. Why run the risk of spoiling it all by leaving your Christmas shopping to the last minute, or by letting your spending spiral out of control?
Your wedding doesn’t have to cost the earth
We look back at a few blockbuster classics and their budgets from years gone by.
What hidden costs are involved when buying a house?
Money Life explores exactly how much premier league promotion is worth