Having worked in the e-commerce industry for over a decade now, I am constantly surprised by the ingenious ways you can save money, from voucher codes offering percentage savings to using price comparison websites to make sure you're going to the best-value stores on the high street.
Families are finding their disposable budgets squeezed more and more, and we're about to head into another cold winter and energy costs are soaring. To combat this, shoppers are adapting their spending habits. However, giving gifts at Christmas is something special that needn't suffer. Savvy shoppers can use a combination of digital shopping and forward planning to make sure they don't miss out of the perfect gift this Christmas.
Here are my top ten tips for getting some great deals this festive season!
1. Save on your festive cooking: The most important part of Christmas - Christmas dinner! Making the season's first mince pie or preparing the Christmas cake in advance is so much sweeter when you save money on quality ingredients by using online supermarket comparison shopping websites such as www.mysupermarket.co.uk to find the best prices at your local supermarkets.
Now on to the presents....
2. Mobile vouchers: Cut down on all that paper clutter with your mobile. Paper vouchers are inconvenient, easy to lose and I always leave them at home on the hallway table! Many brands now have mobile vouchers, which you can opt in to and start receiving emails or texts from a retailer directly to you mobile phone. 'mVouchers' are redeemed in-store by staff at the check-out.
3. Go online or use your mobile for in-store savings: Discount sites like Quidco and Vouchercloud give shoppers the opportunity to get vouchers for use on or offline, and even get cashback from thousands of retailers for physically 'checking in' using a mobile phone, or using the site as a portal to shop through.
4. Location based deals: There are loads of location-based mobile apps available in the App Store and Android Market, such as O2 Priority Moments. These provide mobile vouchers and alerts when you're out and about near participating retailers, so you can get deals you may have otherwise missed.
5. High street comparison websites: Don't worry; you don't always need a mobile to save money. Just by doing a bit of research before you leave the house will put you in a great position. Many retail comparison sites, such as Shopstyle, StyleCompare and Fashion Hunt allow consumers to find the best deals on the high street in their area.
6. Group buying: Group buying is a hot concept that's taken over inboxes across the UK in the past year. Companies such Groupon or Living Social offer city-specific deals delivered to your inbox daily, consisting of exclusive vouchers for everything from dining out to rock climbing lessons and spa treatments to theatre tickets. Sign up and start seeing what's available near you!
7. Online photo printing: Print your family photos (grandparents love family pics) or custom-make Christmas cards via online photo printing websites, many of which (such as Moonpig) offer discounts around the festive season. Simply upload a digital photo from your computer, select your products, and order. It's easy, personal and less expensive than going to the printer.
8. Cash for gadgets: Earn a bit of extra cash while clearing your cupboard of unwanted gadgets. Gadget trade-in websites such as www.weeebuy.co.uk and www.gadgetpanda.co.uk allow you to send in old or broken phones, cameras, laptops and even hair strengtheners, then trade them in for cash or gift cards towards new gadgets. What's to lose?
9. Quick and cost-effective holiday getaways: Looking to escape the cold at Christmas? Why not treat yourself and your loved ones to a last-minute holiday? Online sites such as www.lastminute.com, www.expedia.co.uk, and Hotwire help find the best last-minute travel deals.
10. Digital gift cards: Left it to the last minute? Don't worry, you can purchase online gift cards and have them sent directly to the recipient this Christmas. Of course online retail giants such as Amazon and LOVEFiLM do this, but so do Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, The White Company, Ted Baker and a whole host of other brands. E-cards are great value and they always arrive on time!