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10 costly Christmas shopping pitfalls to avoid

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As the countdown to Christmas continues, shoppers will be feeling the pressure to tick things off their shopping lists. And with household budgets so squeezed right now, finding presents at the right price is more important than ever.

However, when you’re in a rush to get Christmas sorted, it’s all too easy to make spending decisions you’ll later regret.

So, how can you avoid those Christmas shopping regrets? Catherine Hiley, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com, highlights 10 festive shopping pitfalls to keep in mind…

1. Not making a list and checking it twice

“While it’s good to be spontaneous, impulse buys are likely to see you overspend,” says Hiley. “It’s far better for your wallet to make a list of what you plan to buy before hitting the shops or heading online.”

2. Busting the budget

Hiley suggests having a cash figure in mind for what you can afford for each person – and sticking to it.

3. Not keeping your eyes peeled for offers

“While some retailers stick to specific dates to release their best offers, others run discounts all the way up to Christmas,” says Hiley. “If you’re looking to buy a particular item, research how much it costs across different retailers in the run-up to Christmas to make sure you’re getting the best price.

“You can also use a service like PriceSpy, which reveals how much an item has sold for in the past, to see if the deal you’re considering is really a bargain.”

4. Forgetting to factor in delivery costs

Hiley says: “Always factor in delivery costs when buying items online. Shoppers can be won over by a cheaper price, but then discover that transport charges make it more expensive than somewhere offering free postage.”

And if you’re buying goods from overseas, customs charges may also be something you need to factor in. More information on what you may need to pay can be found at gov.uk/goods-sent-from-abroad/tax-and-duty.

5. Overlooking reviews

Following on from the above, Hiley stresses: “Don’t be tempted by something just because it’s on offer. Some retailers offer big savings on items that aren’t proving popular with shoppers, and it’s worth finding out why.

“If you think you’ve seen a good offer on a product, take a look at the reviews sections or check out expert opinions online. You want to make sure it’s good quality and that it meets your expectations when it arrives.”

6. Thinking brand new is always best

“An easy way to save money when choosing tech this Christmas is to opt for refurbished devices, rather than buying them brand new,” Hiley suggests. “There are some great deals on pre-loved gadgets, particularly mobile handsets.”

Often, ‘nearly new’ items will still come with manufacturer guarantees for certain periods. And if you’re thinking of going refurbished for some Christmas purchases this year, you’re far from alone – eBay UK recently found 52% of people will be shopping for second-hand or refurbished products this festive season.

“On flagship smartphones, you can save hundreds of pounds by going down the refurbished route and pairing it with a sim-only deal,” says Hiley. “And if you know you’re getting a new phone or tablet for Christmas, it may be the perfect time to sell your old gadgets and use the money for your own shopping.”

7. Not checking whether you could get more money off

Before making a big-ticket purchase, Hiley suggests searching for any valid discount codes or cashback websites to cut the price.

“Some retailers offer extra discounts to people who sign up to their newsletters, so it can be worth doing that in advance of shopping with them,” she notes. “If you’re a student, you might also be able to claim in-store and online discounts by using your student ID, or a code from sites such as UNiDAYS and Student Beans.”

8. Being caught out by scammers

Victims of online shopping scams lost on average £1,000 per person during the festive period last year, according to figures from Action Fraud. Mobile phones and other tech are often used by scammers to lure people in. “Be careful to check if the retailer is legitimate, especially before you share your bank and card details,” says Hiley. “Also, keep an eye out for signs that the site is secure, such as a padlock in the address bar and ‘https’ at the start of its name.”Payment methods such as credit cards and PayPal can also give shoppers added protections if goods don’t arrive or are shoddy. Be wary if you are asked to pay by bank transfer.9. Not getting a gift receipt

“Including a gift receipt with your presents, particularly when buying clothes in store, can help avoid any awkwardness by giving someone the chance to exchange something if it doesn’t fit or they already have one,” says Hiley.

10. Not making savings for yourself

While you’re browsing online to buy gifts for others, it’s worth looking at how you could save. Hiley says: “You will be surprised by just how many retailers offer deals, even on utilities, such as broadband and entertainment packages.”

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