Top 10 Christmas present planning tips

Written by

Luke Hilton

Luke Hilton is a Warrington-based email content writer and designer in the financial services industry. He enjoys mixing analytics and creativity and can usually be found with his head buried in stats, piecing together the patterns that make good content. In his spare time, the drive to figure things out continues with what can only be described as a love-hate relationship with DIY. With a keen love of the outdoors, Luke is usually up a mountain somewhere or in his garden growing his own oasis.

Thursday 2nd November 2023

With Christmas just around the corner, you may be thinking about gift shopping for your loved ones. But when should you start your present-buying mission, how can you make sure you’re getting a good deal and what are the best tricks to help you stick to your spending limit?

Our research suggests that almost one in three Brits are planning to reduce their spending on presents for family and friends this year - so it's more important than ever to make the most of your budget.

Our present buying guide will help you to become a super savvy shopper. You’ll be the envy of all Santa’s elves!

1. Don't be afraid to set a budget

Set a budget in advance so there’s plenty of time to get through your shopping list. Last-minute buying often leads to panic purchases that can quickly become expensive.

You should always know how much you want to spend – both in total and per person – before you hit the shops or start browsing online. This will help to make sure you don’t overspend which could make the festive season more stressful.

Why not create a shopping spreadsheet to help you keep track of both planned purchases and any unexpected festive spending?

Even if you don’t necessarily start shopping early, it’s a good idea to start saving up in advance of Christmas. Set aside a chunk of cash each month in the run-up to December to make sure your funds aren’t too depleted – especially when you have lots of other Christmas-related costs to consider. Our guide on ways to manage a budget could be helpful if you’re looking for tips on how to control your spending.

2. Time is (less) money

Once you know what to gift your loved ones (and how much you want to spend in total) you can start buying as you spot things you know your gift-ees will love.

It might be in the January sales, on your summer holidays or just as the Christmas decorations hit the shops. You never know when inspiration might strike! This is a great way to shop without pressure building. Plus, if you buy things as you see them you won’t run the risk of an item selling out or increasing in price later down the line.

3. Decide on spending limits

Why not speak to your loved ones to set mutual spending limits? While it might take some of the spontaneity out of gift giving, you might feel better knowing you’re both spending an amount you can comfortably afford.

Make sure you budget for all aspects of the gift – including any delivery fees or wrapping. These little costs soon add up and can tip you over your spending limit if you don’t consider them from the get-go!

4. Look for bargains... but know your benchmarks

Lots of great deals, sales and discounts pop up around this time of year, including Black Friday at the end of November. In fact, one in three (30%) Brits say they plan to shop on Black Friday this year, with two in five (38%) doing so to save money.

However, it can be easy to get drawn in to the excitement of the sales and head to the checkout without really doing your research.

Before diving into the sales, create a list of the items you want to buy and how much each one should cost on a normal day. This will help you really spot a bargain, rather than being tempted by a ‘special’ price that you could probably get on any day of the year.

There are even online tools that allow you to track Amazon prices, so you can swoop in and make a purchase when the price drops. It's always worth using comparison sites or shopping around on the high street to make sure you're getting the very best deal.

5. Get cashback or rewards

Look out for apps or websites that will give you cashback when you spend with certain retailers. You may be able to earn some money back as you make your way through your Christmas shopping list.

There are also sites that allow you to buy discounted gift cards. You can then either use these cards to buy the items on your Christmas gift list for less or offer the digital gift card as a present. It’s a win-win either way!

6. Make sure a site's reputable before checking out

Only shop with e-commerce sites you trust. There are far too many fake sites out there designed to take your money and simply never ship the product you ordered. Don’t take any risks when it comes to shopping online!

The site should be secure (make sure the web address begins with https://), and the terms and conditions of your purchase (such as the returns policy) should be clearly visible on the site. There should also be an easy way to get in touch with customer service if you want to ask a question about a product – look out for a phone number and a physical address.

Remember that if an offer looks too good to be true, it usually is. If you’ve spotted a fantastic deal on social media taking you to a site you’ve never heard of before, you may have landed on a fake e-commerce site. So be extra vigilant and don’t make a purchase unless you’re confident the brand you’re buying from is the real deal.

7. Shop on your own

Hitting the high street with friends or family can be a great day out, but if you’re watching your wallet you may find it better to shop solo. You’ll be less tempted to deviate from your shopping list and make impulse purchases if you’re sticking to a strict agenda for the day.

If you struggle to stick to a budget when shopping, why not leave your cards at home and shop with cash only? That way, you won’t spend more than you can afford.

8. Thoughtful gifts can mean the most

Our study shows the average Christmas gift budget is £90 per family member this year - a 10% drop compared to the £101 average budget in 2022. But present buying doesn’t need to be so expensive. Your friends and family might well prefer a personal gift, such as a homemade candle or a framed photograph of you together, over a pricey prezzie. It really is the thought that counts this time of year, so don’t worry too much about splashing the cash and consider what your loved ones will really appreciate.

Head to our cheap but cheerful Christmas gift guide for some extra inspiration!

9. Consider combined gifts

If you’re buying for several family members, or a friendship group, consider whether a more expensive combined gift could mean more than several smaller ones. Experience vouchers, annual passes to local attractions, home décor items or board games all make great combined presents.

There's also the option to buddy up and see if siblings or close friends will split the cost of a present someone really wants with you.

You could also suggest a ‘Secret Santa’ to your friendship group or family. One in ten say they use it as a budgeting tool, spending just £10.87 on average on their Secret Santa gift - so it can be a great way to save some cash.

It works like this: you’ll each buy one gift and get one in return from a mystery present-buyer. This helps to reduce the number of presents you all have to buy, ultimately bringing the cost of Christmas shopping down.

10. Don't overthink it

Christmas shopping can feel overwhelming. But don’t worry – you’ve got this!

Your friends and family will appreciate anything left under the tree this season. Gift cards, charitable donations and luxury versions of classic items (think bath bombs, scarves or candles) are all great gift ideas if you can’t think of something more specific.

If you’re still struggling for inspiration, use the four gift rule: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. By using this present-buying structure, you can make sure you’re buying your loved ones a varied selection of gifts they’ll appreciate.

Our research shows a clear shift in spending habits, with people budgeting less on Christmas gifts than last year. Heading into the festive season, we can see consumers readily making cutbacks in their plans for gifting.

At a time when finances are being stretched, it’s good to see that many people have identified ways to save money this year, even though for some it means delaying Christmas and snapping up early Boxing Day bargains on the big day itself.

- Theresa Lindsay, Group Marketing Director

The main thing to remember? Always set a budget before starting your Christmas shopping. And, more importantly, stick to it. If you do this, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a stress-free gifting experience.

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