Don't let Christmas shopping turn into a financial hangover
Plan ahead and leave the credit card at home to avoid blowing the budget, writes Aideen Sheehan
Don't panic -- there may be only six shopping days left until Christmas, but that doesn't mean you have to blow the budget. Smart Consumer looked at some top last-minute Christmas tips to avoid being left with a serious financial hangover next month.
Leave the credit card at home
This is the National Consumer Agency's number one tip for consumers, urging them to pay with cash or a debit card instead.
That's because not only is it too easy to lose the run of yourself and spend too much with a credit card, high interest rates mean you could be paying off Christmas bills for months to come.
However, when it comes to buying services or vouchers online, it's worth using your credit card because it gives you protection against fraud.
Shop very early or very late
Much more can be achieved in a concentrated period at the (relatively) quieter times of the day as long as you have a plan.
Leave the kids at home and make a list of names and gift ideas, and do any price research online beforehand.
Online purchases or reservations
The deadline for pre-Christmas orders has passed at many stores, though Debenhams.ie will allow purchases until noon today.
Littlewoods.com says items ordered up to 8pm tomorrow will be delivered before Christmas.
Some stores such as Argos and Marks & Spencer offer handy reserve online and collect in-store options.
Smyths' online website toys.ie lets you check if something is available in a particular store and offers an on-shelf promise on certain toys that it'll still be there the next day with a €10 voucher if it's not -- but unfortunately many sought-after items aren't included in this offer.
Organise a Christkindl
If you have friends or relatives who are as disorganised as you, ask to do a Christkindl where you each draw one person to buy a gift for.
Chances are those taking part will be as relieved as you -- and it's worth putting a price limit on purchases.
Don't waste food
Everyone loves a Christmas feast but there's no point in going nuts, with mountains of food ending up in the bin.
People often panic and buy monster turkeys. Safefood recommends that a 3-4kg bird is perfect for four to six people; for six to eight people, buy a 4-5kg bird; for eight to 10 people, choose 5-6kg; and for 10 to 12 go for 6-7kg.
For ham, aim for around 1.3-1.5kg if you're feeding six, and about 2kg for eight.
When it comes to plum pudding and Christmas cake, think about how much of this usually ends up in the bin and scale down. People often prefer lighter dessert options such as trifle or ice cream.
Give a voucher for your time
Time is much more valuable to many people than stuff, so think about offering a few hours of babysitting or gardening or DIY assistance.
To show you really mean it, create a voucher declaring the offer -- you'll find templates at fun-vouchers.co.uk.
Consider a deal
Discount deals peak in popularity in the Christmas period and the advantage of many of those for services is that you print out the voucher yourself, making it possible to do last-minute shopping.
Charles Maltha of My Deals Page said that last year many consumers even downloaded vouchers on Christmas Day.