8 min read

Your Christmas shopping survival guide

Hannah Salih
30 November 2017

The Christmas shopping strategy that will get you through the festive period without you losing your entire pay cheque (or your marbles) along the way

Whether you’re a Christmas fanatic or you like your festivities more relaxed, there’s no denying Christmas shopping can be stressful. You’ve got to get inspired gifts for your nearest and dearest, pick up all the essential decorations you'll need and try to not forget that secret Santa for Gareth in accounts. With all that stress it’s easy to lose track of what you’re buying and give into festive temptation in the shops.

So we've put together 6 simple tips to help steer you away from those Christmas shopping pitfalls and keep your budget in tact.

TIP 1: Act like Santa and make a list (or get an app that can do this for you)

Heading to the shops with no idea about what you’re looking for is a sure-fire way to overspend.

So making a list could work wonders to keep your spending on track. Write down the names of everyone you need to buy gifts for and put down a ball park figure of how much you’re willing to spend on them. Once you’ve got that, try to list out a few ideas of what to get them, and from which shop.

If this is a method you've tried before with no success, this year you may want to use the free 'Manage Christmas' app. The app allows you to create your list and tick things off as you go, and then helpfully, it updates your budget too - so you've no excuses for losing track of your spending.

TIP 2: Stuck for inspiration? Get help from the experts

If you’re making your list and hit a brick wall, consult the online pros for inspiration. A quick Google search will bring up curated lists of gift ideas for almost any hobby.

  • For sporty types try Not On The High Street's edits for unique gift ideas for football, cricket and rugby fans. For more practical gifts try specialised sports magazines like BikeRadar or Runner's World for gift guides.

  • For the person who's always after the hottest gadgets try Tech Radar, Wired and this list from The Telegraph.

  • If you’re buying for someone who's into fashion or beauty, take a look at the gift guides from bloggers like Fleur De Force or Tanya Burr. Bloggers often get exclusive discount codes, so if you see something on their lists that you like, you may be able to get a good deal.

Check out some independent reviews
If you do get ideas from a list or blogger, make sure to search for some independent reviews, just to make sure you're making a wise purchase. If you're making a bigger purchase, you may want to use a review website like Which? to see if they've tested your product. (Although Which? is behind a paywall, you can subscribe for a month for just £1 - just make sure to cancel before the end of your first month if you don't want to pay the full subscription fee).

TIP 3: Get the best price, not the first price you see

Now that you have a list of great ideas it’s time to buy. It can be easy to just head to one shop, pick up what you need, and then call it a day. But it's actually much simpler than you'd think to compare prices without having to put in the legwork:

  • Use the website PriceRunner to compare prices of hundreds of items from children’s toys to laptops. It even pulls in any reviews on the product.

  • If it’s something on Amazon you’re after, try the site camelcamelcamel. It shows you the history of any item’s price on Amazon and alerts you if it drops.

  • If you’re worried that waiting for a price drop means you’ll be caught out with delivery, download a free trial of Amazon Prime for December. Just make sure to cancel it during the trial month if you want to avoid paying the full annual fee. If you do this, you’ll still be able to use it until the end of the trial period.

  • If you prefer to shop in store, the website Idealo (which works in a similar way to PriceRunner) also has an app, which lets you compare prices by scanning an item's barcode.

TIP 4: Don’t forget about vouchers when you’re at the checkout

This one applies whether you’re shopping online or in-store.

If you’re shopping in-store, make sure you’ve downloaded any money-saving apps before you head out. You can use the apps from sites like VoucherCodes and VoucherCloud to get money off-instore. Some retailers may have exclusive offers on their apps, so if you know where you want to shop, it’s worth checking.

Don’t forget to take a look on a deals site such as Groupon too. They often have deals on everything from experiences, to electrical goods to clothes, as well as their own discount codes.

For online shopping, the browser extension, Honey, will automatically apply the best voucher code when you reach the checkout.

TIP 5: Watch out for store cards

With the rush and pressure of Christmas shopping, shop assistants may extra keen to promote store credit cards.

Often customers in this position aren't actually sure what they're being offered, so don't be afraid to ask outright if you're being sold a credit card or a loyalty card.

Store cards often have expensive interest rates, and they do count as credit - so if you don't use them carefully they can affect your credit score. If you do pick one up in store, make sure you review the paperwork once you're home so you know exactly what you've signed up for.

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TIP 6: Don't fall for too-good to be true websites

If all your bargain hunting brings you to a dubious-looking site with too-good-to-be-true deals, you should approach with caution.

Before you spend any money, make sure you check reviews online from other shoppers - run the name through Google and check the site name on Trustpilot. Remember that a lot of big retailers do get some negative reviews - but what's helpful to look out for is what customers are saying overall. For example, are most of the reviews negative? Do people complain about goods not being delivered or not being as advertised on site?

If you're trying to work out if an online retailer is legit, you could also see if they have a physical store - this is usually a good sign as if something does go wrong, you've got somewhere to go to (or write to if you're far away). You should also make sure you only ever enter payment details into a site with HTTPS (not HTTP) in the address.

If you do decide to go for it, and you're a little unsure, you may want to use a credit card as you’ll be able to claim for any goods that don’t turn up if their value is between £100 - £30,000.

by Hannah Salih

Hannah reads all the finance info on the web so you don't have to. She knows all there is to know about your finances but still spends all her money on brunch. 

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