The Savvy Shopper: Christmas

Remain calm.

We’re now using the C-word openly. With only 2 paydays left, it’s time to talk about everyone’s favourite task: Christmas Shopping.

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I always start my Christmas shopping early (I actually had my sisters’ Christmas presents bought and hidden by March one year- fluffy blankets are a whole lot cheaper when the weather’s getting warmer). If I’m honest, if I haven’t got at least the majority of it done by Hallowe’en I freak out a little. I love buying gifts for people and combining that with my favourite time of year and my love for a good bargain makes Christmas shopping something I actually really enjoy. Here are a few of my tips for keeping the cost down at the most expensive time of the year.

1.Make a list (checking twice optional) and set a budget.

It’s so easy to get completely and utterly carried away with it when it comes to Christmas shopping. Why do we think everyone’s going to be offended if we don’t buy them something? If anything, they’ll probably be relieved they don’t have to send money on a gift in return.
Make a list of who you need to buy a gift for, and be brutal if you have to – you probably don’t need to buy your neighbour’s granddaughter who visits once a month a perfume set. After you know who you’re shopping for set a budget for each person, and stick to it, otherwise it can still get out of hand.

2. Plan ahead.

Now that you know who you’re shopping for and how much you’d like to spend on them, think of what you’d like to buy them, and write it down before you even go near a shop. It’ll save you from wandering around (or internet browsing) aimlessly, before potentially overspending to buy something you think they might like out of desperation to get the job done.

3. Work the offers.

FYI: this isn’t an ad, and I’m not being paid to say this next bit (I wish!), I’m just a major fan!
One of my favourite shops, especially for Christmas gifts, is Boots. I collect advantage points throughout the year and hit Boots for their 3 for 2 offers on everything from Nando’s sets, to toys, to the Laura Ashley photo frames that they pull out of the woodwork for the season. If I have 3 £20 gifts to buy, I only have to pay for 2 of them, and if I’m paying with the points I’ve collected, they’re completely free.

Happy days!

I’m sure some other shops do the same, I just know of them..yet. (Give me a break, I live 5 miles from the nearest town, shopping is a great adventure from where we are.)

4. Outlets and discount sites.

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If you’re in N.I and remotely local, Kildare Shopping Village is only a couple of hours drive away, and filled with great outlet shops for designer items. Junction One and The Outlet are fairly handy too, although outlet stores can be hit and miss, but sometimes it’s nice to just have a Festive day out.
Your best bet for designer discounts is outlet websites – Secret Sales, Brandalley, Achica, etc. I’ve briefly mentioned them before, but they have surprisingly good discounts on massive brands and a huge variety… just be careful with their shipping times as sometimes it can take up to 6 weeks for an item to arrive.

There’s also old faithful TK Maxx (the Aladdin’s cave of shops- you just don’t know what you’ll find!), and of course bargain shops like Home Bargains and B&M Bargains, which are especially good for toys. Buying in a bargain or discount shop doesn’t mean you’re being cheap on someone’s gift, or that you didn’t put any thought into it, it just mean’s you’re being smart about it.

5. D.I.Y

Make something! Anything! Fudge, chutneys, shortbread, a scarf, a candle- even putting together a little hamper of goodies can make a beautiful gift. The possibilities are endless and if you’re stuck for ideas consult Pinterest, knower of all things arts and crafts! Handmade gifts are usually less expensive but will cost you more in time, and will mean so much more to the recipient because you made the effort to make something especially for them.

As per usual I could go on (I’m a bit of a blather, really), but I’ll stop. Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be a chore, and it doesn’t have to cost your savings either, you just have to know what you’re looking for and where. Happy shopping!

Gillian x

The Savvy Shopper: Clothes

Like most women, my wardrobe is more expansive than I’ll admit, and more varied than it probably should be. It ranges from 8-year-old Hollister hoodies (they’re over-rated, but you can’t dispute their durability) to last week’s Next delivery (I have problems with restraint when it comes to their Autumn/Winter collections), from Primark to Michael Kors.

 

I love clothes, shoes, handbags, scarves (especially scarves… Paddy has intervened on occasion), jewellery – everything that goes into an outfit – but with so many brands and designers you could easily spend the price of a decent car on one outfit. The obvious way to keep costs down is to get to the sales, but when the sales just aren’t working with me I stick with these tricks:

  1. Ask yourself.

When I’m in a pickle and find something I really like, but wasn’t particularly looking for, I ask myself 4 questions. Generally, if I can answer “yes” to 3 out of 4, it’s a purchase, if not, it goes back on the rail for someone else to love instead.

“Do I need it?”

If yes, could I find something similar for less? If definitely no, it’s on to…

“Do I want it?”

I don’t mean wanting it because it’s on trend, or wanting it enough to buy it, but never wearing it because you changed your mind, I mean actually really wanting it, because you genuinely love it and can see yourself wearing it again and again.

“Can I afford it?”

Hint: If you have to eat Pot Noodle for a month, then the answer is no.

“If I leave here without it, will I regret it?”

This is usually my decider; I put it back, try to walk away and if I just can’t do it, it’s coming home with me.

2. Know your Investments.

Socks are not an investment. A vest is not an investment. A polyester jumper is not an investment.

A winter coat, shoes or a handbag? They’re investments. They’re something that you can wear and use year after year if you take care of them. One of my favourite winter coats is a sheepskin coat my dad bought for my mum 30 years ago. Mum looked after it and wore it for years, and after saying how much I loved the faux sheepskin coats in Marks and Spencer last year, Mum revealed she had it hiding in her wardrobe for years, and it was mine if I wanted it. A solid investment there, Dad!

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3. Outlets and Supermarkets.

Back in my ‘Savvy Shopper: Food’ post, one of my tips was ‘don’t be a snob’. It’s the same thing here, really – why wouldn’t you shop where it’s cheaper? Whilst outlet shops often have last season stock or items that just didn’t sell well, they often have lots of hidden gems. Why pay full price for designer jeans when you could get them at an outlet price? No-one will ever know.

There are people who would be embarrassed to say their clothes from Tesco or Asda. If you can get over your brands, supermarkets have some fantastic clothing ranges: Florence and Fred at Tesco, George at Asda and the Esmara range at Lidl have been putting out some seriously heart-eye-worthy clothes in the past few months, at really low prices.

4. Google it.

When all else fails, or I want to see what’s out there, I google it. Their shopping search can bring up some unexpected results. My most recent search for ‘wedge ankle boots’ lead me immediately to a pair reduced from £49.99 to £8.99 on M&M Direct (which I have enjoyed rediscovering lately). I could have spent all evening opening a new tab for every shoe retailer known to man, but all it took was one search… and my boots arrived 3 days later. Of course, you’re not going to magically find exactly what you’re looking for every time, but it’s worth a shot!

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As with my last Savvy Shopper post I could go on, but I’ll not. Clearly, I’m very passionate about being a cheapskate.

Happy clothes shopping!

Gillian x

P.S. secretsales.com and brandalley.co.uk. If you haven’t heard of them, you can thank me later.
P.P.S. I still have nothing to wear.