In Depth

Christmas shopping: 12 ways to save money on presents

Britons spend more on Christmas gifts than anyone else in Europe - here are tips to save some cash

The average person in Britain plans to spend £350 on Christmas presents this year, more than any other country in the rest of Europe, according to a study by ING. The same poll found that Britons ended up in more debt after Christmas last year than nearly anywhere else in Europe. So how can we reduce our spending? Here are 12 tips to save money this Christmas:

1 Black Friday: The American celebration of discount shopping held in the US the day after Thanksgiving is fast becoming one of the most important days in the UK retail calendar too. Sainsbury's, Argos, Asos, Amazon and John Lewis are among the retailers offering widespread deals tomorrow.

2 A cap on Christmas: If you can't bring yourself to ban exchanging presents with certain friends or family members, a cash limit can help stop spending get out of hand.

3 IOUs: It could be an IOU for an item in the January sales, a homemade voucher to go on an outing when you're less strapped for cash or a completely free promise to do the ironing, babysitting or to make dinner.

4 Use robots: Find the best deals online by using a shopping robot or "shopbot", websites designed to search the web for the cheapest deals on the products you want to buy. MegaShopBot enables you to search from several shopbots at the same time.

5 Homemade gifts: The trend for homemade gifts has been growing more popular each year. Think homemade jam, loose tea and gingerbread or personalised calendars and candles in second-hand teacups. A big cardboard box of balloons is always a winner for children.

6 Secret Santa: In a big group of friends or work colleagues, Secret Santa can help make shopping easier and less costly. You just need to put your names into a hat, pick one out and set a price limit for your gift.

7 Cash-back credit cards: These reward the buyer with cash when they spend, which can work well at Christmas when your spending increases. One of the best current deals offers five per cent cash-back on spending up to £2,000 for the first three months. However, it is advisable to set up a direct debit to pay off the card in full every month – otherwise you're likely to rack up some hefty interest fees.

8 Free messages from Santa: Children can receive a free letter from Father Christmas if they send their wish list via Royal Mail before 6 December. Children and adults may also enjoy receiving a video message from Father Christmas via Portable North Pole.

9 Recycle gifts: Free exchange sites, such as Freecycle, are often filled with sofas and fridges, but they also have items that could make perfect gifts. (Also useful when you're trying to get rid of unwanted gifts after 25 December.)

10 Vouchers: Christmas is a great time to use up any unused vouchers lying around the house. There are also websites, such as Voucher Box, that offer the latest vouchers for online retailers.

11 Cash-back sites: Shopping online via websites such as TopCashBack and Quidco can also save you cash. They are generally funded by advertising and sponsorship, enabling them to offer users discounts on their shopping.

12 Clearance stores: Many large retailers, including Argos, House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer, offer clearance or outlet sites with discounted offers – sometimes as part of a section on their own site or through eBay. MoneySavingExpert has built a tool to help find them. There are also real-life outlet villages such as Bicester Village that offer discounts on designer ranges.

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