It’s Cyber Monday today – the biggest online shopping day of the year with the exception of maybe yesterday and Boxing Day. But let’s not quibble over that as our Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis, is here with his cutting edge shopping techniques.
Last week we had Black Friday where many US-owned retailers stomped out one off deals – but today many British-owned ones will be doing the same. So it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled for discounts today.
1. Do you need it?
Too many people list every lusted-for item – huge trees, massive festivities. Sadly, this tends to lead to debt or disappointment.
So rationalise what you need, and ensure it’s within budget. Then, if possible, list everything down – only then can you be ready to pounce on hot deals.
Of course remember Christmas isn't a retail festival. Don’t feel under pressure to buy for others – let’s make pacts together to ban unnecessary gifts to a wider group of people. After all, tit-for-tat giving usually results in tat.
Alternatively, rather than shelling out the cash, why not give a voucher gifting your time babysitting, or walking the dog, or donate to charity instead.
2. Benchmark the cheapest prices using shopbots
Whatever you’re buying, whether electricals, games, books or CDs, don’t go straight to your normal online retailer. It’ll just give you one price. Instead, use a shopping robot or shopbot, which price compares a raft of retailers to find the cheapest including delivery.
Different retailers are good for different things, so for books there’s Bookprice24, for games there’s Sccope, or for general items there’s Foundem or Kelkoo work.
Or use Martin’s MegaShopBot.com, which finds the best shopping comparison sites for each purpose.
This also has the advantage that the shopbots have a relationship with the retailers, so even if you haven’t heard of them, it means it’s less likely they’re dodgy.
It’s worth doing this even if you’re buying on the highstreet, as this gives you a benchmark price to see what a good deal is - and you can always ask the high street to match it.
3. Use cashback sites
Once you’ve found the retailer you want to buy from, see if you can go to it via a cashback site like Topcashback and Quidco. Quite simply, then you may be able to get added cashback of a few percent on top.
4. Use cashback credit cards
Cashback credit cards pay you each time you spend on them. So do normal spending and set up a direct debit to repay IN FULL each month to avoid interest and you're quids in. The cashback's usually paid on the anniversary of opening the account. It’s too late now to get one for today, but if you apply now you should get it in time for some Christmas shopping and the New Year sales.
The American Express Platinum Everyday card (minimum income £20,000) pays a HUGE 5% back, up to £100, on ALL spending in the first three months, then up to 1.25%. So apply now and happily, the big cashback should cover most Christmas and January sales spending (fail to fully repay and it's 19.9% representative APR).
If your credit score isn’t up to that, the Capital One Classic Extra card pays 0.5% on all spending. So it could still be helpful – and, crucially, it allows some with poor credit scores to get it too. Though be especially careful – if you fail to repay IN FULL each month, it's 34.9% representative APR.
5. Get a free letter from Santa
If your children write a letter to Santa/Father Christmas, Santa's Grotto, Reindeerland, XM4 5HQ by Friday 6 December, they should receive a personally addressed reply from Santa and his elves before Christmas Eve. Last year there were some reindeer issues that meant non-delivery, but Royal Mail says it’s shipped more elves in this year and that’s why the postcode has changed. So while it’s a nice freebie, it’s not a definite.
For a recommended £5 donation, the NSPCC offers a similar service, which has more certainty.
If your child is blind or partially sighted, they can get a free reply in Braille, audio or large print from Santa’s special elves at the RNIB. Email firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 20 December and include the child’s name, address, contact number, preferred language and preferred reply format (either uncontracted/contracted Braille, large print including font size or audio CD), and they'll get an email reply from Santa. Santa showed me some of the letters (anonymised) last year and I think I was allergic to them as my eyes started watering.
You can also make a free video from Santa by entering a few simple details at the Portable North Pole.
6. Cyber Monday offers
Heres just a taster – these were written based on what’s known on Friday – but more are due out Monday morning. Martin will be doing the very latest on the show.
· 20% off womenswear, menswear and lingerie at M&S: From 9am until 11.59pm today only you can get 20% off menswear, womenswear and lingerie online at M&S. Delivery’s £3.50 or you can collect in-store for free.
· 20% off New Look: Until 11.59pm tonight you can get 20% off full-priced items online at New Look. Just get the code from VoucherCodes and enter it on the New Look website. Delivery’s £3.95 or you can collect in-store for free on spends of £20+.
· Up to 30% off Dorothy Perkins: Until 3 December, shop online at Dorothy Perkins (delivery's £3.95) or at your nearest store and all full-price items will have up to 30% off. Items included in the current up to 60% off sale won't be reduced further. You can also get an extra 10% off all items online only by 11.59pm tonight by entering the code DPEXTRA10.
· 25% off Whittard: Enter the code EVENT online at Whittard by 11.59pm tonight and you'll get 25% off all items in the Christmas Gift Shop. It’s online only and delivery’s £3. Can't be used with other offers.
· 25% off F&F Tesco clothing: Go online at F&F Tesco clothing and you'll find 25% off all items until 11.59pm tonight. Delivery's £3.95 or collect in-store for free.
· Buy a £25 Ikea Christmas tree and get £20 in-store voucher: From 6 December until 22 December, buy a £25 Abies Nordmanniana Christmas tree from your nearest Ikea and you'll be given a £20 no-minimum spend voucher at the till to use on any item in-store from 20 January - 9 February 2014. Excludes Bristol, Cardiff and Croydon stores.
7. Martin’s Christmas predictions
Many stores’ Christmas marketing and promotions calendars are remarkably consistent from year to year. So I’ve studied back a few years to predict what’ll come this year. So far it’s proved 100% accurate (though I’ve been out on a few days here and there). This includes, £10 champagne (still on at Asda), last week’s 20% off at Selfridges, the Ikea Christmas tree deal and a host more.
So for December to see both Matalan and Oasis giving 20-25% off. Then the following week, the big thing everyone is waiting for is the Boots Soap & Glory gift set, it flys of the shelf and is normally around half its £60. I’d also expect to see another ASOS discount code coming out maybe 10-15% - more Body Shop codes too – 30-50% off so keep your eyes peeled. Plus on around 17 December I predict M&S will reduce its gifts, wraps and other Christmassy items – followed soon by other stores. So if you can hold for that do. And finally New Years sales will start large on Christmas day for many retailers this year.