Weíve all been there: youíve spent too much money on countless Christmas drinks parties and general winter comforts for yourself, leaving Christmas shopping to the last minute only to realise your actual budget is a fraction of what you hoped it would be.
But worry no more!
Here are our top twelve tips to help you save money this Christmas:
1. Hit the sales
This may seem fairly obvious, but itís always worth mentioning: research the sales and discounts available before you do any of your Christmas shopping.
Whether youíre shopping online or on the high street, there are deals abound during the holiday season. So donít worry if you missed out on Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, you can still sever the costs of your seasonal spending with a quick search for Christmas deals.
As well as in store and online deals, websites like mightydeals.co.uk offer daily deals that you might not be able to find anywhere else. These vouchers and coupons can be invaluable, whether youíre buying a turkey or a television.
You can also check websites like lastminute.com for great deals on theatre tickets, or head to theatretokens.com for generic tokens redeemable at most theatres, saving you the trouble of working out which show to get tickets for!
3. Shop online
Shopping online is consistently cheaper than hitting the high streets, and comes without the added stress of having to elbow other parents out of the way the get that last toy on Christmas Eve.
Retailers like Amazon are offering regular Lightening Deals if you sign up to their newsletter. These are worth keeping an eye out for, as are their other regular Christmas deals.
Make sure you do your online shopping far enough in advance though to be certain your items arrive before the big day. Here is a list of a few major retailers along with their last Christmas order dates (for standard delivery):
Amazon: 19th December
John Lewis: 19th December
M&S: 19th December
H Samuel: 19th December
Play.com: 20th December
Littlewoods: 23rd December
Sainsburyís: 23rd December
Conventional online retailers are rife with sales, but eBay is packed full with deals that you will not be able to find anywhere else.
From clothing to electronics and everything in between, eBay is the place to look online for savvy shoppers. It is important to be careful though and watch out for scams; make sure you pay attention to sellersí feedback when purchasing, particularly for pricier items.
5. Cut Delivery Costs
One of the biggest unexpected expenses when buying gifts can be the postage. Sending parcels by Royal Mail can be expensive, so it is worth looking around at prices offered by other independent couriers such as UPS.
There are also services like Interparcel that often book up slots with other couriers and sell them on to the public at discounted rates, saving you yet more money.
6. Agree a spending limit
One way to make sure you stick within your budget over Christmas is to agree a reciprocal spending limit with your family and friends. Not only does this keep spending down in general, but also ensures fairness so you donít find yourself in the awkward position of receiving a television from someone you bought a pair of socks!
7. Secret Santa
In line with the above, you might want to organise a Secret Santa scheme with a group of your friends, colleagues or family members.
Simply agree a spending limit, stick everyoneís name in a hat and draw them out one by one. You then only buy one present, and everyone gets something, making it a saving double hit.
8. DIY: Hampers and Food
One of the easiest ways to scrimp and save, and to add a nice personal touch, is to make your gifts yourself.
Food hampers are a great idea and are easy to make, all you need to do is buy a basket (or repurpose an old one youíve got lying around the house), and spend a day or two in the kitchen.
What you put in it is really up to you but you can find recipes all over the internet for cakes, breads, jams, even homemade alcohol.
Then simply wrap it up nicely, and voila! Youíve made a nice, personalised gift for little to no money.
A hamper is a great gift to give a whole family as well, ticking a few names off your Christmas gift list in one go.
9. DIY: Photos
Another great idea for a cheap, personal gift is a framed photo youíve taken.
You can get cheap photo frames from several retailers, both online and on the high street. To print the photos themselves, it is worth using an online service like Photobox, who have introductory deals offering 30 free prints to new customers. This can save you paying a premium getting your snaps developed on the high street.
10. Buy your turkey at Morrisons or Iceland
Itís an all too familiar scene…
Itís a couple of days before Christmas; youíre rushing around the supermarket with a tattered shopping list, filling your trolley with enough food to cater for all of the relatives whoíve come out of the woodwork to descend on your house. Youíve somehow found a turkey big enough. You picked up the last bag of sprouts in the shop. Youíve made it to the checkout and now youíre watching the price go up and up and up, like Willy Wonkaís great glass elevator, breaking through the roof off your budget; the final nail in the coffin for an affordable Christmas.
Save yourself the stress and save yourself some money by heading to Iceland or Morrisons rather than Sainsburyís or even Lidl or Aldi this Christmas. According to Good Housekeeping, a full Christmas dinner for eight will cost just £21.10 at Morrisons, and £27.84 at Iceland. Compare this to the £56.23 youíd be spending at Waitrose (the most expensive shop on the list), or even the £33.45 youíd spend if you went to Aldi, and itís clear just how much you can save.
11. Bulk buy booze
At Christmas time gifts are exchanged, carols are sung and wine flows. To avoid cringing at the price of every drop you pour, head over to one of the various discount online wine retailers so you can spend less and drink easy.
Virgin Wines, and Majestic are two suppliers who have constant discounts on crates of wine. And Quaffersoffers.co.uk is a great site that compares a vast array of wine dealers, showing you where to get your favourite wines at your favourite prices.
12. Earn Cashback on your Christmas shopping
Finally, the cherry on the costly cake that is Christmas shopping: earn while you spend.
Cashback and voucher sites like Quidco.com and topcashback.co.uk allow you to earn money while you shop. Simply search through their sites for open offers, and receive a small percentage of what you spend back, sent directly to your bank account. It really is that easy.
So whether youíre buying five gold rings or a partridge in a pear tree, follow these tips to avoid twelve maids a-milking your wallet!