Wednesday, 27 November 2013

How to: Give fabulous presents without emptying your purse

Christmas is coming so be a Pocket Money Princess and don't blow all your pennies! It worries me how many people get in serious debt every year for the sake of Christmas, and spend months suffering as a result. I'm not going to talk about how it's all too commercialised or how you should boycott Christmas because I understand why people love it and why they want to make it a good one for their friends and family. When people are struggling to get jobs, suffering from illness and we don't have enough time to see the people we love, we want to make Christmas extra special for them. But when did something being special have to be about how much we spend? I feel that there are too many occasions in life where an occasion being special is associated with spending a shedload of cash - weddings, birthdays and romance! So I'm here to talk about how you can save your pennies this Christmas but still make it special.

1. Make your own gifts, or put a personalised touch to a shop bought item
There is an amazing thread on Money Saving Expert where crafty forum members post photos of their handmade Christmas gifts, some of them are so simple to make but look amazing!! From pints of socks, to pots of gold and homemade selection boxes, the thread offers loads of ideas to make something a bit different for the ones that you love.
If you have a skill or are a bit crafty then use this to your advantage. If you're a dab hand at website design, create a website or blog for a friend. If you're a pro-baker make them some special homemade goods and present them in some decorative packaging. If you're an exercise queen then offer your friends and family some fun personal training sessions of your own. I knitted my dad a Dr Who Dalek using a pattern from Ravelry and he loved it!

If you're not the crafty type and you think you have no skills to offer, then think about making up your own gift sets or selection boxes. Those beauty gift sets that you buy in Boots sometimes cost more than buying the products individually, just because they come in some pretty packaging. I've noticed that most of the time, there's one or two items in the gift set that I'll actually use and the rest gets left rotting away in a draw somewhere! Make your loved one a gift set of the things that they'll really love and use and get your own pretty box/wrap it in some cellophane with pretty ribbon/put it in a nice basket. You can quite often get travel sized toiletries on 3 for 2 offers, or in your local pound shop. A fab idea that I've seen for selection boxes is to buy a plastic toolbox/organiser type box with separators and fill each section with the person's favourite sweets!

2. Get the best deal for the gifts that you want to purchase

  • Search around for the best price. Don't just buy it on the high street at the first place you see, this is the ultimate mistake of people who spend too much money at Christmas! Take a note of the price, go home and have a search around online. I find googling the item name is a good place to start, don't just check google shopping though, look in the main web searches too. Then check out other places that are likely to stock it. It doesn't have to take ages but you might just find you get a better deal.
  • Take a look on eBay. I am an eBay addict and I can quite often find what I'm looking for with a bit of searching and the right search criteria. Their money back guarantee can cover you if the item arrives broken/not as described/doesn't arrive at all, and I recently used this successfully when a camera I purchased arrived broken.
  • Is there likely to be a similar/the same last season item? Some shops sell the same item or something very similar year after year and so it's worth a look in their sale section to see if they have the version from last season at a cheaper price, or having a look on eBay. This is a particular point to note if you do want to buy a gift set, they're usually very similar year after year and no-one will know the difference or care if the packaging is slightly different!
  • Look for discount vouchers. Money Saving Expert have a great advent calendar which shows discounts and deals which happen every year and are likely to happen this year too, so take a look before you make any purchases. Websites like Vouchercodes and Vouchercloud list discounts for a variety of different stores. Sometimes vouchers can be used at events where stores are already giving a discount, a recent example is that Debenhams had a 25% off event but there was also a discount code for 10% off. Both could be used together which meant you could get 35% off, which is a substantial saving!
  • Join a cashback website. I don't know why more people aren't members of these!! I've been a member of TopCashBack for years and have had hundreds of pounds worth of cashback. My boyfriend recently bought a Christmas present where he received more cashback than he paid for the item, so essentially he got paid to buy his Christmas present! Sometimes the cashback is only 1% but every little helps, a saving is a saving. Quite often you can use a discount voucher and still get cashback via cashback sites which helps to save even more pennies. Check the top two cashback websites, TopCashBack and QuidCo before making any purchases.
  • Make use of loyalty schemes. My favourite is Tesco Clubcard Boost. If you shop at Tesco or even buy your petrol there, get a clubcard and start earning points. Points are turned into vouchers which can then be doubled using Clubcard Boost. Therefore £5 worth of vouchers is worth £10 in store. If the present that you want to buy is available in Tesco for a good price then the clubcard boost can bring the cost down even further. Another favourite is Boots Advantage Card. Either use your points to buy presents, or alternatively make use of special shopping events where they give you extra points for making a purchase over a certain amount. Last year my brother wanted a Chanel aftershave which was £50 and cheapest at Boots. I purchased it at an event where they were giving you 1500 points if you made a purchase of £50 or more, which is the equivalent of £15. This meant that the overall cost of the aftershave was £35 and I used the 1500 points to buy toiletries and make-up I would be buying in Boots anyway!
3. Decide a realistic budget and stick to it (or come in under it)
I think that setting a budget that is realistic for you is an essential part of not getting into debt over the Christmas period. Just because your sister spends X on you, it doesn't mean that you necessarily have to match or beat it. For my first Christmas with my boyfriend I was a student and I couldn't afford to spend as much as him, but it wasn't about how much we spent, it was about putting effort into buying gifts that the other person would love to receive!

I would also say that you should consider the cost of each gift as it's original cost rather than the cost that you actually got it for. If a loved one has asked for an item and you've managed to get it £10 cheaper, don't feel that you need to spend that £10 on something else! They don't know that you got it cheaper, you got it cheaper because you're clearly a savvy shopper and you've put the effort in and I believe that you should reap the rewards of that and not them! Likewise, if you've set a budget of £100 and managed to get items to the value of £100 but actually spent £80 then the same applies, well done you!!

Current Deals (as of 27th November 2013):
Debenhams - 30% off in store and online (on most, but not all departments), plus use 10% off code TM76 as well to get your pressies at a reduced price!
Amazon - Amazon have Black Friday deals going on all week so see whether you can grab a deal on a gift you were planning to buy anyway!
Selfridges - 20% off fashion, homeware and accessories, or 10& off fragrance, wine, toys and beauty using code SELF2013. Valid 28th Nov - 1st Dec.

So what do you think? Do you normally go over budget at Christmas or are you a savvy shopper like me?

1 comment:

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