Christmas seems to come round earlier and earlier each year. Retailers start tempting ‘early gifters’ as soon as the Back to School stock has disappeared. And competitive Christmas light displays begin appearing in some neighbourhoods from as early as November.
While this may run the risk of detracting from the main event, some preparation is good. So we’ve drawn up a list of our four top tips to help reduce the financial stress of Christmas.
Has your Christmas gift circle got too wide?
Christmas is a time for giving. Agreed! But sometimes it becomes a sense of ‘obliged giving’.
If you’re buying for a wide group of friends, colleagues and extended family, some of whom you really don’t know very well at all, maybe this is the year to be bold. Suggest a mutual agreement whereby you just stop. They may be just as glad as you not to get yet another pair of novelty socks or tube of exotic flavoured hand cream.
The real gift could be the relief of ‘not obliging them‘ to buy for you. And just think how much smaller ‘The Mountain of Unwanted Gifts’ will be come January.
Think about alternatives
If totally stopping buying presents for family members feels too radical, you might want to try one of the robo secret Santa schemes like Elfster or Drawnames that many workplaces use. That way, you’re only buying for one member of the family, you can set a limit and wish lists can be circulated. You can still treat the kids the traditional way, if you prefer!
Or you may decide to give charity gifts instead. Most of the main charities offer these schemes, offering gifts from life saving vaccines for children overseas to school supplies, clean water and goats!
Points to bear in mind about gift cards
You may be buying for teenagers who really only want money so you may decide to go down the gift card route. Just be aware though, that if a retailer goes into liquidation (as some of the major ones have done in recent years, there’s little you can do to get your money back. This makes some of the multi-shop gift cards like Love 2Shop or One4all a safer bet as the recipient can still use the other shops in the scheme. Some of these cards do start reducing the balance by a certain amount each month, though, after a certain length of time. Make sure too that the recipient is aware of the expiry date so that it doesn’t become a wasted gift.
If you are going to buy actual presents, always ask for a gift receipt so there is no issue with exchanges. Pay by credit card if the present is over £100 so that you’re covered should the firm go bust and the goods don’t arrive or are faulty. At least then, the card company is jointly liable
Think about your online rights
Don’t give up your consumer rights in the Christmas rush. Usually when you buy from the Internet you’ve got 14 days after the goods arrive to cancel the order and a further 14 days to send them back. But if you’ve ordered a Christmas present for someone online, the chances are that by the time the big day has arrived, that timeframe will have passed. So make sure you’re happy with the item before you start covering it in gift paper and squirreling it away. Some stores will extend their return policies in honour of the season of goodwill but they’re not obliged to so it’s always worth checking.