The Ghost of Christmas Present(s)

I know, I know, it’s still November. However, if you’re trying to keep the costs down, it’s never too early to think about gifts for the festive season. As far as I’m concerned, it really IS the thought that counts.

This year sees many of us having cash flow problems, trying to cope with rising prices and reduced incomes, so I’ve been trying to think of lots of different ways to stretch the Christmas pressie pennies. It’s supposed to be a fun time, not a miserable stressful one, so here are some of my current suggestions for getting the best out of what you’ve got to spend.

If you’re seriously cutting back your gift budget this year it’s a good idea to let people know your plans, preferably well ahead of time. You can agree amongst your nearest and dearest whether there should be a price cap on what you’re spending on each other, or whether you’d prefer an exchange of homemade gifts (see article next week) or even a total gift amnesty.

I’ve found that it helps to do quite a bit of planning before I start buying. I like to set a budget and make a list of everyone I’m going to buy for, otherwise I get completely carried away when I see all the pretty things in the shops. Then I hunt around for a while to try to find small, thoughtful presents that are within my price range.


Anything’s better than resorting to buying pants, socks and hankies, but if you’re really stuck for ideas then most people will gratefully receive DVDs, books, CDs, magazine subscriptions or branded toiletries – so long as you have a reasonable idea of their personal taste. With a little shopping around you can find big discounts on all of those things and more.

A collection of tiny hand-picked themed gifts, nicely presented in a gift bag or basket, can go down a storm if you get the theme right. For example, I have a friend who loves ginger, so one year I made her a cute little package containing a box of ginger tea, some chocolate-ginger sweets, and a scented shower gel, soap and candle. Other sets I’ve made have been themed around roses, mango, herbs, cars, sci-fi, glitter, cats, cake, kwaii, spas, gardening, and coffee. Not all at the same time, of course. That would be silly.


Once you’ve made a rough list of what you’re hoping to buy, it’s time to put some effort into getting it for the lowest price possible.

  • Got any gift vouchers going spare? Use them to pay, or part pay, for things if you’re strapped for cash.
  • Exchange Nectar points or Tesco Clubcard points for their catalogue gift offers to get the most value per point. You can also spend Nectar points at Argos.
  • Have a quick recce of the high street to compare prices before you part with any of your hard-earned.
  • Look out for special discount days in the bigger shops, such as Debenhams.
  • Don’t forget to check discount shops like TKMaxx, including their homewares and toiletries departments.


For online gift shopping:

  • Use price comparison websites to find some of the best web deals.
  • Remember that price comparison websites don’t check every shop on the web – double check with your favourite individual sites in case they haven’t been included in searches.
  • Look in the ‘clearance’ sections of well-known sites for extra deals.
  • Hunt down money-off vouchers and online discount codes, keeping an eye on their expiry dates.
  • Check with cashback websites such as Topcashback to find out what rebates are available at certain retailers.
  • Work out the best combination of cashback, discount code and cheap online price for the item you want to buy. For an extra few minutes of effort, you can usually cut your costs significantly.


There are some great deals available this week and next week, but as time goes by lots of the offers expire.  It’s harder to get a bargain if you wait until December, unless you keep your nerve and leave it right until the last minute in the hope of picking up some of the very late discounts.

Me, I’d rather get it out of the way now and avoid the frantic scrum at the end, since there’s no guarantee I’d be able to find exactly what I wanted at the right price. And because I’d sooner be relaxing at a festive party instead, of course.

In the next few days I’ll be looking at gift wrapping, decorating on a budget, and making a few of your own homemade presents. Drop me a line if there’s anything you’d especially like me to mention.

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One Comment

  1. Thanks Pete. I like the idea of Invisible Hand very much, especially the freaky name 🙂

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