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40+ Christmas MoneySaving Tips

Act now to slash festive costs

Each January, many complain "I'm skint", as if Christmas was a surprise. Well, here's a date for you - it'll be on 25 December again. This sackful of tips shows how to get cheap fancy perfume, bag hidden local eBay bargains, spread the cost and more (it works for Chanucah, Eid etc).

Every January, many complain "I'm skint now", as if Christmas was a surprise. Well, here's a date for your diary - it'll be on 25 December again this year, and preparation is everything.

This sackful of Christmas tips shows you how to get cheap fancy perfume, bag hidden local eBay bargains as gifts, spread the cost and much more (it works for Chanukah, Eid and others too).

Plan for affordability not desirability

Too many list every lusted-for item, gifts for all, and a corking meal, then only afterwards consider: "How will I pay for it?" That's a recipe to be broke.

Instead, calculate your budget (see the free Budget Planner), and ask: "What can I afford to spend on Christmas?" Christmas is one day - don't ruin the whole of the new year for it.

Time to BAN Christmas presents?

Consider not giving this Christmas. This isn’t about gifts from parents or to grandchildren, but the ever-widening glut of friends, extended family and colleagues.

Get fancy perfumes for a basic price

Forget department stores. A whole bunch of specialist online sellers offer perfume for a fraction of the high street price.

Give charity gifts

Want to give, but don't want to waste cash on tat? Yule love our rundown of wonderful and weird Charity Gifts, which includes how much goes to good causes.

Gifts start from a few pounds and include school supplies, clean water or a livestock. Or see the the fab Good Gifts, which lets you donate 50 bowls of rice to feed fifty hungry children for £5.

Save with the free Christmas IOU generator

Before Christmas is the year's costliest shopping time, January sales the cheapest. So if you’re after a big-ticket family purchase like a telly or games console… wait. Give the kids a nicely-wrapped IOU, telling them you're waiting for the sales.

You could also buy a small extra gift from potential savings to show the benefit of waiting. This way, kids get a triple whammy: the gift, the extra and a lesson in money sense. Use our Christmas IOU Generator.

Amazon hidden gift discounts of 80%+

It's the original e-giant, and like any megastore the challenge is to see behind the shelves to grab mega-discounts. Ideal for stocking-filler hunting, our ever-popular Amazon Discount Finder manipulates Amazon web links to create customised bargain basement pages, such as beauty 70% off*, TV 25% off* and handbags 75% off*.

Remember - just because it's discounted doesn't mean it's a bargain. In the tool there's an input box for the CamelCamelCamel site, which lets you instantly check a product's Amazon price history to see if it has sold for less. Then use our MegaShopBot to check its price elsewhere.

Got a top tip we haven't listed? Tell us in the 40 Christmas tips discussion.

Downshift your turkey (and sprouts and Xmas pud)

With an “It’s Christmas! We need the best!” battle cry, everyone hits the supermarket shelves. Yet don’t assume you’ll prefer higher-brand goods.

50 Festive Fiver gift ideas

Our Festive Fivers contest challenges forumites to come up with the best 'make or buy' sub-£5 presents.

Among the inspirational ideas was the 12 Dates of Christmas, a date night package for someone you love (or lust after) - from a picnic in the park to a candlelit bubble bath. Or how about a homemade vinyl wall clock, or personalised e-reader case? See 50 Festive Fivers for a full list.

Swap the bank's chequebook for our free Christmas gift cheques

Presents don't have to equate to big bucks. Whether it's a 'massage' (nudge, nudge) for your loved one, babysitting or letting the kids have a sleepover, your time could be the best present. So pledge to do something nice, not spend, by printing our free Christmas gift cheques.

Be wary when buying gift cards

If you're considering giving gift cards or vouchers, read our Gift Voucher Warning guide first. There are three key things you should be aware of:

Remember, kids aren’t retail snobs

Young children don’t value your gift based on price - they often seem more interested playing with the wrapping. So don't shell out big bucks unnecessarily. A perennial favourite of this site's Festive Fiver Christmas gift contests is the balloon box. Get a huge box, fill it tight with blown-up balloons, then wrap it. Though be careful to ensure burst balloon bits don't get in mouths.

Pay by credit card if it’s over £100

Sadly, firms go bust. If that happens and ordered goods haven't arrived, or have but are faulty, it's a nightmare. However, Section 75 laws mean if you use a credit card (not debit card, cheque or cash) to pay even partly for something costing between £100 and £30,000, the card company's jointly liable for the whole amount.

Find the cheapest place to buy gifts in seconds

The web usually smacks the high street's bottom on price. To help, shopbots are special shopping robots that search the net to find the cheapest CDs, books, games or anything else. As different shopbots are better at different things, we built a free MegaShopBot tool to auto-search for you. For a full 'how-to' guide, see 40+ Online Shopping Tricks.

Watch Martin's cost effective Christmas video tips

To really cut the cost of the festive season, watch this top Christmas tips video from Martin.

The Video Guide - The twelve saves of Christmas

Courtesy of Watchdog, BBC, December 2009

Find hidden eBay local bargains

Whether Wiis or children's books, eBay sellers often specify items must be collected in person. As this means fewer bids, there are bargains to be had.

Find and share Christmas tips on the MSE forum

To help with the Crimbo preparation, the Special Occasions board is full of top tips to cut the festive season's cost. MoneySavers post bargain pressies and decorations, and share suggestions on having a more affordable Christmas.

Write 'it's a gift' on the receipt (if it is)

Legally, only the person who bought the gift has rights, so the recipient can't exchange. Many shops ignore this, but for safety, use a gift receipt or get the shop to write on its copy of the receipt, and yours, that it's a gift and who it's for. Rights are then transferred. For more info, see the Consumer Rights guide.

Free petrol? Big Xmas spenders' extreme couponing

This is an awesome bit of extreme couponing. It's fiddly and only works if you're already planning to make a big purchase at certain high street stores, such as Homebase or Currys. But play it to the max and you could potentially get a free tank of petrol.

Grab cashback on pressies

With cashback sites, you sign up for free, then click through them to buy something. They get paid for sending traffic and give some of this to you, netting some £100s a year. Never let the cashback dictate where you spend. Focus on the cheapest deal, then see if cashback's available. Full explanation in Top Cashback Sites.

Free message from Santa

Important message from Santa: "No need to pay for letters from me, my elves and I have arranged them for free (ho, ho, ho)." See the Free Santa Letter and Video guide for a nifty site that, with a few personal details, creates a personalised video message.

Chat to family and friends for free via the web

Christmas should be a time for family and friends but if yours are a long way away, save on the phone costs with free alternatives and talk for free anywhere in the world over the web. Most smartphones also let you download apps to do this via wi-fi, 3G or 4G. See Free Web Calls.

Sell old gold for a quick cash hit

It's not just the three wise men who are interested in gold at Christmas. If you've unwanted gold lying around you could sell it and use the proceeds to help with the cost of Crimbo.

Slash the cost of sending Xmas cash abroad

Whether for a Stateside nephew or a grandchild in Australia, transferring money overseas doubles the currencies, complication and cost. See our Sending Money Abroad guide for best buys, including your protection if it goes wrong.

Double-check Christmas delivery’s specified

If Christmas goods are late, you can only complain if you or the retailer specified (and can prove) it was for pre-Christmas delivery. Then it's a breach of contract, and you've a right to a refund. Even if Christmas delivery isn’t specified, things should be delivered within a 'reasonable time'.

Bag 5% off ALL Christmas shopping

Cashback credit cards pay you every time you spend on 'em. You grab one, set up a direct debit to repay in full every month so it's interest-free, and to boost the gain, use it for all spending.

American Express's Platinum Everyday* credit card pays a big 5% cashback (max £100) on ALL spending in the first 3 months (up to 1.25% after). Apply now to use for spending over to Christmas period. ALWAYS set up a monthly direct debit to avoid its 19.9% rep APR. Full help and options for those with poor credit scores in Top Cashback Cards (Official APRs).

Track Santa as he delivers prezzies

Check out this nifty site to watch Santa's progress bringing gifts for your little ones on Christmas Eve. Log onto NoradSanta from 1 December and see how he's getting on.

Need fast Christmas cash? Flog it

If a few quid more in the Xmas fund will really help, act now. Flogging owt via eBay usually pays best. Our 40+ eBay Selling Tricks guide is a crash course, from cutting eBay fees by tweaking start prices and using no-charge listing weekends, to adding extra pics with special tools.

If you prefer speed and ease rather than max price, several sites let you enter details, they offer a price, and you post goods free. Full info in our Flog It guide.

Free Christmas wallet armour

Shops can be sticklers at Xmas, so arm yourself by printing our free Christmas consumer rights wallet mini-guide and you'll be permanently tooled up with your legal rights.

Online outlet stores discount finder

Many drive miles to outlet villages to snap up end-of-line bargains. Yet now, lots of high street and high-end stores have online outlet stores, either via eBay or special websites.

Tell the Outlet Store Discount Finder what you want, the price and discount, and it'll find it for you. You can also drill down to specific stores, too - big names include M&S, Argos, Net-A-Porter and many more.

Uncover hidden BIG brand flash sales

To hint at exclusivity, a range of branded and designer goods e-tailers operate 'membership clubs'. You register for free, then they send alerts for online flash sales lasting 2-5 days. A bit poncy, but it can mean big discounts. Our big list of Secret Sales reveals the best.

If you've strong elbows, try a non-virtual version with our list of 70%-off designer Sample Sales.

Feed the starving for free

It's become an MSE tradition at Christmas to remind MoneySavers of those in need. You may still be counting the pennies, yet there are many ways to donate for free.

Corking wine and bubbly deals

Whether you want to search by type, country or grape, you can use our Wine Discount Finder to find the biggest discount or cheapest crate at Tesco Wine, M&S, Majestic and more. We also list codes to save you more in there.

For bargain Christmas bubbly, see Champagne Deals. We hope you pay less, not drink more - be Drinkaware.

Don’t save Tesco vouchers for festive food

First, quickly check if you can Reclaim Tesco Vouchers online. So many find big cash, often £100, we can't stop banging on about this.

Debt worries over Xmas?

Sadly, Christmas isn't jolly for all. If you (or a friend) have debt worries, read the Debt Help guide for free one-on-one help. Many say, after help, "I finally got a decent night's sleep."

Boring, but make a list, check it twice

Christmas shopping on impulse is dangerous. So make an old-fashioned shopping list and stick to it. Remember, shops spend a fortune on targeting your spending impulses – a list helps you beat them.

Even if you're shopping on the high street, remember to benchmark the prices using shopbots first.

Sort Xmas post early

If you use Royal Mail, ensure you send parcels and letters before the last posting date - bear in mind there are different dates depending on what you send and where, particularly for international destinations. Each year the Royal Mail posts these dates on its website - those for 2014 haven't yet come out, though.

Use the web to cut delivery costs

Sending a package to friends? If it's more than 2kg, you can save a packet (sorry) using a discount web courier instead of Royal Mail - and even have goods collected from your home. See Cheap Parcel Delivery.

DON’T think ‘no receipt’ means ‘no return’

With faulty goods, you just need to prove you purchased them. This could be the receipt but other legit records, such as bank statements, should be fine.

If you’ve no legal right but are just utilising a store's returns policy, if it requires a receipt, you need it. See Consumer Rights for more.

Comping for Crimbo prezzies

Try comping - systematically sourcing and entering 100s of the right competitions using web gadgets. From cars to five-star USA holidays, MoneySavers have won it all. Smaller prizes such as toys, handbags and gift vouchers make cracking gifts. No guarantees, but why not try? See the 40 Comping Tips guide.

Start saving early to spread the cost

A typical family spends more than £820 on Christmas, according to YouGov. Yet many struggle to foot it from December’s pay-packet alone and end up borrowing.

Secret Santa can keep costs down

Why not follow the old tradition of Secret Santa? This is where a group of work colleagues, friends, or even a school class, set a budget and secretly draw names for who needs to buy for whom. This way you need only buy one present for the group, rather than for scores.

Take prezzies back as quickly as possible

If something’s faulty, returning it speedily is crucial.

Within four weeks. You can usually still get a full refund as you’re unlikely to be seen as having ‘accepted’ the goods. After, only expect exchange, repair or part-refund.

Within six months. The shop must prove goods weren't faulty when they sold ‘em – after, you must prove they were.

Earn with DemoHoHotivation

Small sacrifices can boost your Christmas coffers. People swear by (and at) our DemoHoHotivator tool, which reveals how much you could save on coffees, snacks and other discretionary purchases to cut back. Try it to see how much you could save.

Always be ready to pounce for your Xmas cupboard

Make a list of who you need to buy for and whenever you see goods at kick-bum prices, grab, wrap, and stuff 'em in a Christmas cupboard - the earlier the better.

Use supermarket saving schemes to boost your Xmas cash

Supermarket saving stamps schemes encourage year-long saving for Christmas, yet a loophole allows you to get a year’s bonus in one day.

Most stores pay it depending on how much you’ve saved by a specific day. So save it in a bank first (see Top Savings), dunk the cash in the day before, and it’ll add up to 4% on top, but the cash must be spent at its stores. Full info in the Xmas Spending Boost guide.