Shop smart: eight money-saving tips for savvy Christmas shoppers
We are entering the busiest shopping week of the year, when Christmas gift hunters begin to panic for fear of overspending. Here are our tips on how to remain a frugal shopper amid the seasonal mayhem and into the January sales.
1. ARMCHAIR CASHBACK
Save yourself money when online shopping through free cashback sites such as Quidco or TopCashback. You simply sign up, log in, click through their site to your store of choice, make your purchase and receive cashback in your account. To make your money go further, swap the cashback for vouchers.
For regular users, a premium £5 membership means more cashback and bigger bonuses. Decide which works best for you and withdraw your cash as soon as you are able — some sites require a minimum amount to be accrued first. Be aware some sites have gone bust in the past. Your account is non-interest paying.
2. CASHBACK CREDIT CARD
Pay no annual fee and get a five per cent discount on your shopping with the Amex Platinum Cashback Everyday Credit card, for your first three months, to a £100 maximum.
After that the cashback drops to one per cent or less depending on how much you spend. The APR is a hefty 22.9 per cent so set your direct debit to pay it off in one go. The cashback isn’t paid out until your card’s 12-month anniversary.
3. SPEND TIME, NOT MONEY
Why not give your time rather than spend your money? You could promise a movie night at your house, a picnic in the park for a loved one, or babysit a friend’s children for free.
4. THE GIFT OF EXCITEMENT
From £15, the same price as a couple of pairs of socks, experience firms such as Into The Blue offer a wide range of activities. The recipient can choose their own experience with the Action and Adventure gift box from Red Letter Days with more than 525 experiences from £49.99. A word of warning: check the small print to ensure the voucher has sufficient longevity and can be used at a convenient time and location.
5. GIFTS THAT KEEP ON GIVING
Gift memberships make great presents. National Trust membership starts from £69 per year and gives free access to 500-plus amazing places. For those with kids, the London Transport Museum is an absolute steal at just £17 per adult for 12 months’ entry (children go free).
The Wine Society is well-respected and good-value, and the wine buff in your life will love a lifetime membership for £40, including £20 for the recipient to spend on their first order.
In all cases, do check sites such as Groupon or VoucherCodes for discount codes first.
6. GIVE TWICE
For the person who has everything, consider making a donation to charity in their name. Just £20 to Macmillan Cancer Support can provide an hour of care for someone in need, while £10 to Oxfam will buy safe water for a family of four. Alternatively, a year’s animal adoption through World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) from just £36, or an annual membership to a charity such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, from £48, can bring the recipient regular updates, a welcome gift or even free entry to its UK sites.
7. SAVVY FOOD SHOPPING
Make Christmas food savings with comparison website mysupermarket.com — click on the items you wish to buy, enter your postcode and the website tells you if you could buy your food for less at another local store. If you don’t fancy switching shops, it can also suggest “smart swaps” and replacement items to keep the cost down. The website suggests grocery shoppers save an average 30 per cent.
8. SAVE ON POSTAGE
Post your cards by Tuesday 18 December, to qualify for 2nd class delivery prices. Consider lightweight presents or send a voucher. The One4all gift card is one of the best as it can be spent in 55,000 stores, put towards an experience day, or even a holiday. For the truly personal touch, gift cards bought through the website can be personalised with a photo or message and topped up with anything from £10 to £400.
For parcels larger than 1kg Royal Mail is rarely the cheapest or the most convenient option. Use a courier, such as Parcels2go instead. Just type in the parcel’s destination and weight and you will receive instant quotes and delivery options. These generally include a collect-from-home option.