Shape up your spending for the countdown to Christmas

Festive shopping doesn't have to be stressful – if you know what you want in advance. Rob Griffin presents a selection of cost- and time-saving ideas

The countdown has begun. There are now just 26 shopping days to Christmas, with industry observers predicting that UK shoppers will splash out a whopping £44.7bn on presents, food, drink and decorations over the next three weeks.

Richard Lim, British Retail Consortium economist, said the sales figures of many shops were already well up on last year, when people were dealing with the credit crunch and feeling extremely nervous about spending.

"Consumer confidence is rising and there's some spending out there to be fought over," he says. But where can you find the best bargains, and what tricks do you need to master in order to make the most of your shopping expeditions? Your Money has consulted the experts to compile a Christmas shopping guide.

Plan your attack

The most successful shoppers will plan their attack with military precision – and the earlier you start, the better. Few things at this time of year are more frustrating than trying to think what to buy for people, so try to keep a running list of ideas.

Put together a list of their interests and scour websites devoted to these subjects. You can even join the online forums of these sites and see if fellow enthusiasts can come up with any suggestions. They can also be a source of consumer advice, too.

Do your research

It's worth finding out about the experiences of fellow shoppers, so visit websites such as for unbiased product reviews, and for accounts of problems with companies.

Once you have a list of items, you need to decide where to buy. Visit the online homes of retailers that sell such items, as well as the specialist price-comparison sites.

You might find the ideal gift for a fraction of the price on online auction sites such as

You can pick up plenty of bargains online – particularly when sellers have made spelling mistakes in the keywords of the item title or placed it in the wrong category, says Dan Wilson, author of Make Serious Money on eBay UK. "There is no fast track for finding bargains – you've just got to hunt them out and second-guess the other bargain hunters out there," he adds.

You might even get the item for free. Put a request on Freecycle (, where people in your local area can post up things they are prepared to give away.

Voucher codes

Websites such as and enable you to search for discount voucher codes from thousands of retailers.

Be clever with your plastic

You also need to decide how to pay for your presents – and credit cards can

provide plenty of benefits to the shopper, as some not only enable them to delay paying the money back for a few months, but also give decent rewards.

However, time is running out, warns Kevin Mountford, head of banking and credit cards at "The time needed from applying to getting the plastic in your hands may mean you won't have much chance to take advantage of it before Christmas, although some providers will instantly decide."

If you want a card for new purchases, only then can you get those offering 0 per cent for 10 months. However, if you also want to transfer an existing balance on to your new card, make sure you will be paying the same rate for both debts. "There are certain cards, such as the Halifax All-in-One card, that is offering 0 per cent on both new purchases and balance transfers," says Mountford.

"Amex is offering 5 per cent for the first three months, which can be quite useful in terms of Christmas spend," he says. "Equally you have got reward cards that can help boost your air miles or provide you with vouchers to spend in certain shops."

Pick the right times to shop

Saturday 19 December is the day to avoid heading into town, as this is predicted to be the busiest sales day on the high street, according to Kelkoo. Go during the week – and as early as possible to avoid the lunchtime and post-work rushes.

It's a similar story online. Consumers are expected to flood the internet on 7 December. This is the day when online sales are anticipated to hit a whopping £417m, and help online retailers record annual sales of £8.9bn – a 24 per cent increase on last year.

Bruce Fair, managing director of Kelkoo UK, expects online spending will fare well, despite the ongoing recession. "The peak weeks of Christmas trading are vitally important, accounting for up to 60 per cent of annual profits," he said. "The internet can offer substantial average savings of 15 per cent over the high street."

Learn how to haggle

There are plenty of haggling techniques you need to master, according to Sarah Flower, author of Live More, Spend Less. These include identifying the right person with whom to negotiate, being able to read them, and having the gift of the gab.

"Some retailers may not be able to offer reductions but may be happy to throw in 'extras'," she adds.

You need to pick your moment carefully, suggests James Daley, money editor at Which? "Go in at a quiet time," he says. "Be confident and prepared to walk away if you do not think the deal is good enough."

Stay safe

Almost 27 million people will be doing their Christmas shopping online this year – but some may be sacrificing their security as well, warns Garreth Griffith, head of risk and security at PayPal.

Griffith's tips include making sure you understand the refund policies for the online retailer with whom you're planning to deal; and ensuring the site is legitimate – such as looking for the padlock symbol in the browser and for the address to start with "https".

It is also worth credit card holders registering with the MasterCard SecureCode and Verified by Visa payment systems that make shopping on the internet even more secure, according to the UK Cards Association.

Finally, make sure you scrutinise your monthly bank and credit card statements for unusual activity. After all, Christmas is an expensive enough time as it is without fraudsters adding to your personal debt mountain.

... and something for the kids

The Peppa Pig Tumble and Spin Memo electronic memory game, which won the Children's Game of the Year at Toy Fair this year, is sure to be popular with children this Christmas.

Other sure-fire hits include the Creative Building 5585 Pink Brick Box from Lego, the Star Wars Science Jedi Telescope, the Ben 10 Alien Force Quickshot Game and the Bakugan Battle pack.

Source: Kelkoo

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Services - City, London

    £50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions