I love Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but unfortunately it is also usually the most expensive.
Last year, I left my shopping to the last minute, and consequently found myself rushing around in the middle of enormous crowds a few days before Christmas Eve in an effort to get everything done as quickly as possible. When I returned home, I realised that I had spent an enormous amount of money, with seemingly very little to show for it.
This year, I decided to do things differently, and at the beginning of November I realised that I had nearly completed my shopping for a fraction of what I spent previously. This is what I did:
1. I decided to go for quality rather than quantity. I’ve made the mistake in the past of frittering lots of money away on small novelty items (which I refer to as ‘padding’) just for the sake of buying them. Inevitably, I’ve found that these have been left in drawers, on shelves collecting dust for the next twelve months or re-gifted and were a total waste of money. This time, I decided that I would buy one or two things for each person that would be of use and/or have some sort of meaning.
2. I wrote a list of what I needed to buy for each person. I have a small family of four, but when considering The Bloke and his family, my youngest sister’s husband, my middle sister’s boyfriend and my closest friends, I worked out that I had approximately fifteen people to get presents for. I then spoke to each of them earlier in the year to ask them for ideas of what they might like or requests for specific items.
3. I spent some time researching the prices of the same products in different stores, and worked out where I could buy things for the cheapest amount. I also regularly looked for when these stores had sales or offers on items that I knew I wanted, and as a result I bought a DVD box set for 70% off a few months ago.
4. For generic items like vouchers (of which I discovered I needed to get a number of them), I budgeted to buy one voucher a month instead of having to spend a fortune all in one go. So, since April I have done just that, as most vouchers for large stores will be valid for up to a year afterwards. For people like my mother, I wanted to spend a little more, so I bought two vouchers from the same store on two separate months.
5. For friends and relatives that like cosmetics and beauty products, I find high street drugs stores like Boots and Superdrug to be really useful. I have a Boots Advantage Card, which offers four points (the equivalent of four pence) for every pound that is spent, with occasional special offers over a weekend where ten points will be awarded instead. Throughout the year, I have purchased all of my toiletries and beauty products from there, slowly collecting up my points as I go. With the Advantage Card, Boots will send vouchers through the post that will allow money off items that have been purchased previously, or additional amounts of points when a certain amount of money is spent. At the end of the year, I will have amassed about 3000 points buying just essentials, which is the equivalent of £30. I will leave this till as late as possible and then redeem the points towards a large electrical item that my sister wants, meaning that I will spend £20 instead of £50.
Additionally, I have also discovered little ways to get even more for your money from here:
- I look out for free gifts with products. Two of my friends and my sister are make-up obsessives, and I know that they wanted make-up items as their present so I have regularly looked for the offers given at the counters for free gifts when certain items are purchased. For example, I needed a new mascara the other day, and discovered that a free make-up bag, complete with good quality miniatures in the colours that my sister uses (she also travels a lot and often complains about the fact that miniatures aren’t sold in the way that toiletries are), was offered with the purchase of the mascara that I wanted. I got the points, and the free gift. Now, instead of spending money on two or three larger make-up items for her, I’ll buy one and give her the extra gift as I know it is going to be useful for her, and I’ve saved money!
- I get cheeky when I’ve spent a large amount of money on products at the counters, and ask the assistant if she has any extra free samples of the brand I have just purchased. Of course, this requires a certain level of charm, but you’d be surprised at what is available – my sister was recently given an enormous bag of free Clarins samples when she purchased a rather expensive set for my mother simply by asking for some. Remember, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
- I look at the 3 for 2 offers that appear every year where appropriate, usually as part of boxed sets. Admittedly, a lot of this falls into what I consider to be the ‘padding’ category, but I have been able to find some really beautiful gifts in the past – it’s just a question of taking the time to look.
6. If you have contacts, use them! I have friends that work in several stores, and have asked them throughout the year to purchase items I need using their staff discount.
7. eBay! For specialist and/or discontinued items eBay is perfect. Just recently I managed to find a rare figurine for The Bloke for a fraction of it’s original price, and the seller had 1200 positive reviews. I received it within two days in perfect condition. Awesome.
8. I’ve tapped into my creative side! For those who have a hobby or interest in crafts, design or baking, making your own presents is a brilliant way to save money. Paint pictures, bake shortbread, make preserves or chocolates, design bespoke jewellery, sew or knit items of clothing, print your favourite photographs and put them into an ornately decorated frame. A friend of mine puts together beautiful bespoke hampers of treats every year for her family, another knits absolutely stunning accessories. This year (and to feed both their Star Wars and Lego obsessions), I have made The Bloke and my brother-in-law a picture using a box frame, a printed background and a Lego minifigure for a quarter of what I have seen them being sold for in the shops. (Incidentally, you can save money on decorations and wrapping paper by making your own too – Pinterest has thousands of fantastic ideas!)
9. For my friends and family who love reading or baking, but haven’t requested a specific book, I have regularly visited my local charity shops. Yes, some of the books are old and worn (or loved, as I like to call it) but I have found several that are brand new, or at least look like they are, with no bends in the spine or marks on the cover or pages. The last two I bought were hardback recipe books by a well-known chef with the cover sleeve in perfect condition… for £3.00. Bargain.
10. I have collected all of my small coins throughout the year. It’s amazing how much change can be dropped on the floor, found lying around the house, in the pockets of coats and trousers, down the side of the sofa… Over time, it all adds up, but can be difficult to spend. This may sound ridiculous to some, but since January I have stored all of my spare change in a large box, occasionally counting it up and putting it into money bags. By the end of November I will have about £50, and I am going to take it to the bank and pay it into my account (which I’m sure the cashier will be absolutely delighted about), and I will use that to buy the last of my Christmas presents. Ok, I may not have technically saved money on a product, but by being very fastidious in making sure that I don’t waste anything, I’ve got that little bit extra that I can spend that I wouldn’t have done otherwise.
What about you guys? Any hints and tips to save money when buying presents?
You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks.