Ask An Expert: Deals & Shopping

The MSE Forum staged its second Ask An Expert event last month. This time, deals and shopping were the focus. Our expert MSE Oli,  Assistant Deals & Features Editor, took questions on everything from return rights to fancy Advent calendars.

A headshot of Oli, MSE's Assistant Deals & features Editor

MSE Oli has been a fixture of since 2015. If his face is familiar to you, it may be that you've seen one of the myriad MSE videos he's presented. He's also a veteran of the radio waves, having been interviewed about MoneySaving matters on various national and regional radio stations. In other words, this is someone who knows his stuff.

Following the success of the first Ask An Expert event, during which MSE Gary and MSE Andrew answered your energy questions, we thought it was time for another crack at it.

Thank you to everyone who posted.

This Ask An Expert ran from 16-25 November 2022 (but sorry folks – it's not possible to post a new question for Oli now the event's over).

Below are some of the questions and their answers. Keep in mind these were correct as of 25 November 2022 and won't be updated.

IMPORTANT: doesn't give personal financial advice. This applies to the Ask An Expert event too. While the experts are able to explain things in general terms and point to extra help, you should always do your own research when applying their knowledge to your specific circumstances.

Black Friday or pre-Christmas sales – which is best?

The big question. You can watch Oli answer the question below, and you can visit the Black Friday or pre-Christmas sales thread for useful links and a transcript of the answer.

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If I buy in the sales, what are my return rights?

Here's a question that gets asked across the MSE Forum fairly regularly, and which is definitely worth knowing when buying (or receiving) gifts. Watch MSE Oli explain your return rights when you buy something in the sales.

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What are your tips for making the most of the sales?

Alongside answering Forumites' questions, Oli added some important tips of his own. One of them is his list of tips for getting the most out of the sales. A full transcript can be found just below the video.

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So I think the first thing to always do is make a list, and there's a few reasons for that. If you make a list, then you're less likely to buy anything on impulse.

You can also use the Money Mantras: take a look at your list, say: Do I need it? Will I use it? Can I afford it? If you answered ‘no’ to any of those, grab your pen and cross it out, because you don't need to buy it.

You can also take a look at the prices for those items now and note that down so you can see how much they're discounted in the sales.

And then use price comparison websites. Google Shopping, PriceRunner and there are others as well. Check those because they'll show you the cheapest prices on the day itself. If you've got time, look at individual retailers as well because they don't always include everything on those price comparisons.

And then take a look at price history tracking websites, too. So Camelcamelcamel, as in the animal with the hump, that does Amazon price checking so that you can take a look at graphs going back a few years I think, if you really want to. And then PriceSpy as well does a similar thing. It tracks the prices of items at multiple retailers. And what you can do there is – because so many Black Friday sales are going to say, hey, it's the best Black Friday deal we've had – well, you can actually go into those sites and check, is it cheapest on Black Friday or was it perhaps cheaper another time of year?

~ MSE Oli

REMINDER: These answers were filmed in November 2022 and may not be fully accurate at the time of viewing. Always do your own research before buying something, and remember Martin's Money Mantras.

Are fancy Advent calendars worth it?

MSE Forumite Lolfo asked whether fancy Advent calendars are a gimmick (think of cheese or beauty product Advent calendars, for example). Remember, you can find useful links and a transcript by following the link and visiting the MSE Forum.

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What deals are available for over 65s?

RobM99 wanted to know what over-65s deals there are to be had. MSE Oli obliged with some of the travel, supermarket and cafe deals that were available at the time of recording.

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Where can I buy discounted gift cards?

Here MSE Oli shared some information about sites that let you buy discounted gift cards, in response to theshed's question. He included some important warnings about buying gift cards, so make sure to watch to the end.

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Where can I find pre-Christmas Xbox deals?

Lolfo was in the market for a gaming console or bundle to give as a Christmas present to nephews. They asked for tips on finding the best Xbox deals before Christmas.

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During Black Friday, are the best deals on the day itself?

Black Friday extends far beyond the one Friday now; it's more like a month-long event. But are the best deals still to be had on the Friday itself? A transcript can be found below the video.

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You’re absolutely right, Black Friday deals are getting stretched and stretched and stretched every year. It seems some retailers started their Black Friday sales a month early this year.

And what we tend to find is that actually, the deals don't really get stronger as you come to Black Friday itself. What usually happens, and what some retailers have told us they'll be doing instead, is adding more items to the sale when you come to Black Friday.

So if you see an item in the sale now, you don't necessarily need to hang about to see if it's going to get cheaper because it likely won't. But if you see an item is not in the Black Friday sale currently – the early Black Friday sale – then it may be when it comes to the day itself so worth having a look again.

~ MSE Oli

Over to you, reader

Would you like to see more Ask An Expert events? If so, what topics would be most useful to you? Let us know in the comments below, or by emailing