With Christmas just over a week away, MoneySavingExpert.com has rounded up its top tips for cutting costs for shoppers planning to splurge on presents and festive trimmings.
On average UK consumers will splash out £350 each on presents this year, according to a festive report by ING.
But it's possible to be festive and frugal by following our sackful of MoneySaving tips:
- Give free Christmas gift cheques. Spend time, not money this year. Use our Free Christmas Cheques to promise someone special a cooked meal or an offer to babysit for the day. And if you do end up babysitting on a rainy day, consider £10 theatre tickets or £1.35 kids' cinema tickets to keep the young 'uns entertained.
- A gift that makes a difference – £11 vaccinates 100 children for polio. Don't waste cash on tat. Instead, see our Charity Gifts list, which includes how much of your donation goes directly to good causes. At Inspired Gifts for example, £11 vaccinates 100 developing world kids for polio, or a £5 donation pays for 50 bowls of rice to feed 50 hungry children via Good Gifts.
- Delay Christmas until the January sales. Use our Xmas IOU generator to create a gift certificate telling family you're waiting till the sales when presents are likely to be cheaper. You could also buy a small extra gift from potential savings to show the benefit of waiting. This way, kids get a triple win: the gift, the extra gift and a money sense lesson.
- Ban unnecessary presents. If you're strapped for cash then maybe agree to a Pre-Nupp (a pre-Christmas No Unnecessary Present Pact) with loved ones to avoid over-spending. Martin's Ban unnecessary Christmas presents blog post has more information.
- Save on your turkey for Christmas. It's the supermarket that says 'Finest' is finest. It doesn't automatically mean it tastes better. See the How to find the cheapest Christmas turkey blog. Also take a peek at the What not to buy this Christmas forum thread and see how much you can save with the Downshift Challenge Calculator.
- Find the cheapest place to buy a gift in seconds. The web usually smacks the high street's bottom on price, use our MegaShopBot to find the best price. I found the same 40-inch HDTV for example, was on sale for £650 and £425 using the tool – a saving of £225.
- Top sub-£5 gifts to make or buy. Find lots of fab ideas you can make yourself in our 50 Festive Fivers guide, including the 12 Dates of Christmas. If you need a quick Secret Santa present try one of our 40 gifts for under £5. Our Christmas 2014 forum post has more too.
- Phone abroad for peanuts, including Australia for 50p AN HOUR. Want to call loved ones abroad this Christmas? If you've both got broadband access, you can make Free Web Calls. If you're making a traditional phone call, to find the cheapest for each country, use the International CallChecker. For example, pay 50p from a landline to Australia for an hour compared to Skype's £10 and BT's standard £21.
- Try some DemoHoHotivation. Use the DemoHoHotivation tool to see how small sacrifices can save large, eg, cutting the daily coffee can save £803/year.
- Don't use Tesco vouchers for food – double-up or get 4x value. You can exchange Clubcard points before 21 December to spend on toys, console games, electricals and more (you've got till 24 December to spend), or get up to 4x value on rewards including days out. See Reclaim & Boost Tesco Vouchers.
- Free personalised Santa video. Enter simple details and Santa gives bespoke words of wisdom. See our Free Santa video page for more info.
- Bag hidden local eBay bargains as gifts. Use our eBay Local Deals Mapper to find bargains near you. Caution: 'Buy it now' purchases give the same protection as shops, but 'auction-style' purchases count as second-hand with less protection.
- Got it and don't need it? Flog for fast cash. Many old items can be worth serious cash that could help keep your finances in shape. See eBay Selling for tools and tips and our MobileValuer comparison finds the best payer for any handset – you can get £100s. More in our Boost your income guide.
- Agree with shops that goods must arrive by Christmas or you've few rights. By law, delivery only needs to be "within a reasonable time", which could be up to 30 days, so no use for Christmas. To get a refund if an item doesn't arrive in time, the retailer must agree goods will arrive by 25 December. If you can't prove this, you've no comeback.
- Buy online or phone and you've more rights. Consumer Contracts Regulations mean you can return anything bought online or by phone (with some exceptions such as personalised items) within 14 days of receipt, even if you just change your mind. You don't get this if something is bought in a store. See the full allowed returns list.
- If faulty you always have the right to return thanks to SAD FART rules. Whether in a store, online or even if in a sale or with a voucher, take something back quickly and you've full refund rights. To help you remember, all goods must be of "Satisfactory quality, As Described, Fit for purpose, And last a Reasonable length of Time". Free wallet sad fart mini-guide.
- Shops often suspend extra rights in sales. We've quoted the law in the two points above but shops sometimes go above and beyond by allowing you to return items if you change your mind, though these policies are often suspended on sale items, so always check and try clothes on in stores before buying.
- Write 'it's a gift' on the receipt (if it is). Normally, only the person who bought the gift has rights. So if a gift, use a gift receipt or get the shop to write on its copy who the gift is for so rights are then transferred, see gift rights.
- Buying on a credit card gives you more protection. Pay on credit card (not debit card, cash or cheque) and if the goods cost £100 or more the card company's jointly liable if anything goes wrong. Full info in Section 75. Just remember to always repay in full each month to avoid interest.
- Beware of giving gift cards. If the retailer goes bust, you'll likely lose the cash. So consider giving cash instead. See Gift Card Warning.
For more help, see our Top 40+ Christmas MoneySaving Tips.