Despite having a whole year to plan for it, 20 percent of the population leave Christmas shopping to the last week, according to a 2010 survey by the Australian National Retailers Association. That means one in five of us are on a collision course with the misery of shopping mall crowds and the overspending that accompanies rushed decision making.
There are still a few weeks to avoid this scenario, however, and here are our tips to help you get the (yuletide) ball rolling.
1. Retail stores will be looking to make up for slow sales this year by offering hot discounts for Christmas. Keep an eye on print, web and TV advertisements so that you know where the sharpest prices are.
2. Look out for bundling deals, extended warranties and cashbacks from the big-name electronics and appliance makers. Some brands package free movie discs with a TV or home theatre system, provide a canvas print with the purchase of a digital camera or computer, money back via redemption vouchers, or 50% off the price of a second item. Be sure you check the terms of conditions of the offer though – waiting periods may apply before all components of the deal are fulfilled.
3. Try mono-gifting, where everyone on your Christmas list receives the same gift. Not only does it relieve much of the pressure around ‘what to get’, it isn’t nearly as unimaginative as it sounds, with lots of scope to individualise within categories. Think personalised mouse pads, books, novelty USB toys, smartphone skins, tablet covers and earbud headphones.
4. Buying a gift voucher online is super-convenient, but make sure you print and place it in gift card or box for 25 December. Come Christmas Day, people want to be opening presents, not emails.
5. Keep a couple of spare gifts for unexpected guests who bring you something over the holiday break, or for that Christmas event you didn’t plan on going to. Music or movie vouchers from BigPond or iTunes are handy, and can be kept for birthdays – or yourself – if you don’t need to use them.
6. Just about every toy needs AAAs before it becomes fun, so stock up on batteries and you’ll be a legend with the kids on Christmas Day.
7. When shopping online, check that the website is secure by looking for “https://” at the beginning of the website URL. The “s” indicates that the information being transmitted is encrypted for privacy. Web browsers such as Internet Explorer will display a lock symbol to show that the website is secure.
8. Many websites guarantee Christmas delivery only for purchases made before a certain date. Express charges are applied after that, or your gift just might not be delivered. The message here: don’t leave online ordering too late.
9. When shopping online, look for sites offering free shipping on goods, especially large items.
10. Ditto the above for free Christmas gift-wrapping.
11. Combine postage costs and save by doing all your internet ordering from the one website or online store.
12. Some store cards and credit cards give you 60 days to pay for purchases made during December, meaning you won’t have to deal with yuletide costs until February 2012.
13. Knowing your credit card cycle can buy you extra time to pay off your shopping expenses. If your statement closes on the 10th of the month, for example, purchases made after this date won’t need to be paid until around the 20th of the next month.
14. Set a budget for gifts and stick to it. There are other holiday expenses – food, plonk and all the home improvements you didn’t get around to during the year – for which you’ll need to reserve funds.
15. Be ready to snap up bargains at the New Year clearance sales and store them away in the cupboard for Christmas 2012. It is more than 12 months away, but the Christmas that’s staring you down right now was once too. You have been warned.