Martin Lewis: How to save on Christmas presents

iStock_000077252097_SmallBah humbug. Christmas (and Chanukah and Eid) is coming, and millions will celebrate it as a retail festival. Call me Scrooge – and many do – but I’d love to ban the giving of unnecessary presents and I’ve been campaigning on it for years.

I’m not talking about gifts for your partner and kids under the tree, but that ever growing list of  extended family, work colleagues and more for whom buying feels like a chore rather than a boon. We end up with tit-for-tat giving, and the end result is by definition tat – that few want, need or use.

Now you may say to me what about the joy of giving? But there’s a cost to that too. While it may feel generous to give to someone – you are effectively obligating them to buy you back.

This can mis-prioritise their finances. After all, if you give them a £10 bobble hat and they give you a £10 novelty pair of socks in return, the net result is they’ve spent £10 on a hat they neither wanted nor needed.

So why not set up a pre-NUPP (pre Christmas No Unnecessary Present Pact) to say I won’t buy for you and you don’t buy for me – or at least limit the cost.  Right that’s it, I shall step off my soap box at this point (if you want more of my Scrooge rantings read If you do need to buy (or will do it regardless), here are top tips to at least keep costs down:

  • Buy stocking fillers to trick Amazon into giving you free delivery.  The giant e-retailer used to give free delivery on its goods (not its third party Marketplace sellers) if you spent £10, but in May it increased that to £20. Delivery costs anything from £1.50 to £6, but a new tool (developed by a clever chap called Adam who used to work for me), scours Amazon for filler items.For example, a £19.73 hairdryer comes with a £6.01 delivery charge so £25.74 total. But the tool shows how you can add a 29p keyring gets you over the £20 free delivery threshold, so you’d only pay £20.02, saving £5.72 and a keyring into the bargain.
  • Don’t spend your Tesco points on your Christmas lunch. If you’re a Tesco shopper, don’t spend vouchers on a festive grocery shop– you can get far better value using them on gifts (for others or yourself!).Until Sun 27 Dec, you can swap every £5 of Clubcard vouchers for £10 in various categories at Tesco, and most things in its Tesco Direct catalogue (its equivalent of Argos), eg, Xbox One with Kinect £175 in vouchers (usually £350) and a Barbie Glitter Hair Doll for £10 in vouchers (usually £20). Go to

    Before that though, check if you can quadruple rewards. Redeem vouchers via Tesco Clubcard partners and you can get 3x or 4x points’ value, eg, £10 voucher becomes £40 at Café Rouge, £30 at Goldsmiths jewellers and more.

  • Give time not money – give personal gift cheques. Whether it’s a promise to babysit for pals on demand, lets your kids have a sleepover, or give your special someone a back-rub (nudge-nudge, wink wink) – these money can’t buy gifts are fanatastic, and often mean more.To help I got my designers to make some gift cheques you can print for free, to make your promise at 
  • Find hidden eBay bargains with sneaky tools

    Shopping on eBay? Most people just bid, but there’s a range of hidden tools to help you track down uber-bargains.Wrongly-spelled products attract fewer bids because many people miss them. Type a product into or and they trawl eBay for all possible spelling mistake combinations.

On a similar note, searches hunts for eBay auctions due to finish within an hour, but which still cost £1 or less.

Whether Wiis or children’s books, eBay sellers often specify items must be collected in person. As this means fewer bids, there are bargains to be had. Tell my Local eBay Deals Mapper at your postcode, how far you’re prepared to schlep, and it maps nearby gems.

  • Shop online and you can change your mind. Buy goods in store and you can only take them back if they’re faulty. So buy the wrong size or colour, or just change your mind, and you’ve no legal rights. Some stores do have returns policies that allow it – though even these can be suspended in sales.

Yet buy goods online and you have 14 days to cancel for any reason, even if you just change your mind. You’ve then 14 days to send it back. So time it right and buy online, then if you spot a better deal or change your mind (as they haven’t bought for you), you can send it back.

  • Posh looking gifts for less at online outlets. Out of town outlet stores are famed for selling last year’s clothes at big reductions (though beware stock ‘‘made for outlets’’). Yet these days the likes of Asos, French Connection and Net-a-Porter and more than 40 others have launched online versions – some even via ebay.  For a full list
  • Don’t know what to give? Donate to charity. Why not simply tell friends and family you’re stuck buying for that this year that you will instead give to charity in their name – then at least you know your money is actually doing something – and it’s far nearer the true Christmas spirit.At £12 vaccinates 100 developing world kids against polio, while £27.50 delivers a baby (provides midwifery equipment and medicines for a safe birth). Or a £5 donation pays for 50 bowls of rice to feed 50 hungry children via

And a final Scrooge thought – while there’s still time (sorry I can’t help it).  Most people manage their Christmas the wrong way round – trying to work out what’d make the perfect Christmas with a lust list of items, gifts for all, decorations a tree and more.  That tends to be a recipe for either debt or disappointment.

Instead, it’s far better (and I accept more boring, but still better) to ask “How much do I have to spend at Christmas?” And then work out what the best Christmas you can have on it is. And if the answer is you don’t have much, it’s time to go, cold turkey.

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