It’s a week to go until Christmas, so here’s Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis with his sackful of seven last minute tips to giving without breaking the bank.
Free Christmas gift cheques
Why spend money? Instead give a bit of time with a personal cheque or voucher for something special. Whether it’s a promise to give your special someone a back-rub, let the kids have a sleepover or babysit for pals - pledge kindness instead of cash. All you need is a bit of card or paper and some coloured pens and you’re set.
Slash perfume or aftershave costs
It’s said more money is spent on fragrances on 24 December than in the whole of August. But be honest with yourself, if you’ll end up last minute panic buying, get the perfume now, it’s far cheaper in advance.
- Buy online and specialist websites including Fragrance Direct or Half Price Perfumes sell mainstream perfumes that are usually cheaper than buying in-store. For example Calvin Klein Eternity Eau de Parfum Spray (100ml) is £59.24 online at Boots but £41.75 at Fragrance Direct.
- Some internet retailers, including Half Price Perfumes, Fragrance Direct and FragranceX.com also sell testers and unboxed perfume or aftershave at an even cheaper price. While at first this may not seem like a good idea for a prezzie, it's easy to turn it around with a nice looking gift box or ribbon.
Give the gift of sight or adopt a vegetable... for charity
Don’t bother giving people tat they’ll never use, instead why not give to charity? Many now have online gift catalogues so you can buy a specific gift in honour of your friends at Christmas.
Types of gift include adopting a vegetable for £15 from Good Gifts, which saves rare varieties from extinction, an eye operation for £8 from Gift of Sight (Sightsavers) and polio vaccines for 100 kids for £11.50 from Unicef Inspired Gifts. (See the useful links).
Can't afford to donate to charity this year?
Here’s an idea, of a way to do good at no cost, why not pledge to give blood – our blood banks are struggling. Check on the relevant blood donation website for your country to find out how to donate. Most will let you drop into a session in your local area, although some may require advance booking.
Festive Fiver gifts
A little bit of creativity can go a long way if you make your own gifts this year. Here are four ideas all costing less than £5:
- 12 dates of Christmas: Make a date night package which plans a date for each month of the new year, such as a picnic in the park, or a candleit bubble bath. Once you’ve planned the dates write them on cards and decorate.
- Paint sample calendar: Gather a collection of paint sample cards and cut them out so there’s one colour for each day of the month. Next, buy a large glass picture frame (about £5 from Wilkinson) - cut the cards to size and glue onto the back of the frame. You can then use a wipeable pen to write on the calendar.
- Santa’s sleigh bell: Buy a cheap sleigh bell and plant it in the garden on Christmas morning, saying it’s a fallen bell from “Santa's sleigh”. Kids’ll love it.
- Balloon box: Fill up a box with loads of blown-up balloons and wrap it – it’s sure to provide hours of fun and shouldn’t cost more than a fiver.
Last order dates for free or cheap Xmas delivery
If you’re ordering presents online for Christmas, do it asap to ensure you get retailers’ free or cheapest delivery slots. Key dates for free or cheap slots include:
Today – Asos
Tomorrow (Wednesday 19) – Amazon and M&S (most items)
Thursday 20 - small items at Argos
If you're planning a big purchase, such as a HD TV or games console, it's likely to be vastly cheaper after Christmas. So why be held hostage to pay more just because of the month?
Instead, speak to the family, then give a nicely wrapped IOU certificate for the January sales. This is a great financial education lesson for the kids too – plus you can give them a small present at Christmas from the savings, explaining that’s what helps you.