Great gifts with a small price tag (bye bye January debt).

By Rosie Earl
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Is it possible to bring festive cheer without spending January in debt? YES. And here's how.

Christmas is around the corner, & that means putting your hand in your pocket for presents.

Lights are twinkling, wine is mulling, snow is falling, and Shakin' Stevens is playing in all the shops. It can mean only one thing: IT'S CHRISTMAS! Cue wallet action like you've never seen before in preparation for the big day. It seems like now is the right time to think about how you can approach Christmas shopping in a savvy, price-conscious way.  

 

Set a budget

Work out how much you can afford to spend all together then break it down per person. You might spend more on your kids than your nan, but be strict with yourself. If you can afford £20 for your best friend (for example) and you know she wants a Chanel handbag, then you have to say too bad, sister! I'm also a big fan of setting present budgets with family, e.g shall we only spend £20 per person or whatever. That means no one feels obliged to overspend and no one gets embarrassed.

Go homemade

Remember when you were a kid and you would make presents at school to take home for your folks? Embrace that thought on a grown up scale! Last year, I made pots of cranberry sauce and caramelised onion chutney for my family - you can pick up the ingredients fairly cheaply (especially from budget supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl), recycle your old jars at a receptacle and decorate with nice paper. They were delicious and my folks were very impressed at my mad preserving skills (it is actually very simple but looks super thoughtful - not bad for an afternoon's work and some minor sugar burns!) Check out Pinterest for some cool ideas.  

Shopping around

If your family is anything like mine, they'll have an Amazon wish list, but don't let that limit your buying options. Look up what the person wants and check if anywhere is selling it cheaper. You can buy from any website, then use the "buying elsewhere" option on the list to avoid duplications. I also really recommend the Amazon market place, as the New and Used-Like New items are often really good quality at a fraction of the price.   

Also, keep an eye out for deals run by catalogues. I got a voucher from Very saying if I spent over £50 I would get £20 off, so using a bonus 3 of 2 offer, I got 6 gifts for £30 - £5 per present! And some of the presents were pretty fancy! Also, because of the original cost, I could put it on interest free buy now pay later, so I can pay it off after Christmas too.  

Vouchers

I really hate buying vouchers or giving money, purely because I can make £10 look like £20 through careful shopping, but a voucher is a voucher and it costs what it costs. However, you can get some good deals if you keep your peepers as peeled as a fine Brussels sprout! Tesco often do special offers on their gift cards, where you can get money off certain brands (like iTunes) and Zeek runs a voucher market place where you can get money off top brands. It's not going to save you masses of money, but could mean you get a £25 voucher for £20, making you look uber generous while maintaining that strict budget we were talking about. Don't pretend you've forgotten already...

Start your shopping early

Ok, I know I'm giving you advice after the horse has bolted, but someone needs to tell you. There are some great sales throughout the year, and if you're thinking you can pick up some cracking bargains in from January through to Black Friday. In the January sales this year I bought a load of those over priced bath gift sets from Tesco that were reduced down to about £2. Now I have several emergency gifts for friends and co-workers that look way more expensive than they actually were. So put this good advice in your brain storage for like 4 weeks, then start prepping for 2017 in the January sales. It's never to early to start!

Top takeaway

Make a comfortable budget and stick to it, no matter how much someone begs you for a fancy schmancy watch. Shop around, keeping an eye out for money off deals in catalogues and on websites. Be creative with homemade gifts. And for crying out loud, next year don't leave it so late!  

 

By Rosie Earl.

Author bio: Rosie is a massive geek who loves anything Hello Kitty or penguin related. She writes every day and wants to be Caitlin Moran when she grows up. If she was an animal, she would be a baby dragon (with a solid background in finance). The Sorting Hat would have put her in Hufflepuff, and she is cool with that.

 

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