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Smart Consumer: Want to spend wisely? Follow the 12 shopping rules of Christmas

Eh, sorry you're not entitled to a refund. I hate having to say that but it happens! It's the time of year where if we have it, we spend it. But you don't want to end up wasting your hard-earned cash. Follow these 12 shopping rules of Christmas and you won't.

1 What is your returns policy?

Five simple words that can make all the difference between you losing your money or not; always ask what the returns policy is for unwanted items. If there is no exchange for unwanted goods, think twice about buying.

2 How long to return Find out how long you have to return unwanted items. This is up to the shop, and if it is two weeks for example and you're buying a gift now, that means it will be too late to return after Christmas.

3 Try before you buy There may be a giant queue for the changing rooms, but when it comes to clothing do try before you buy. And please see rule number 1. If the shop doesn't accept returns for unwanted clothes, if you don't try and later find it doesn't fit, you've no one to blame but yourself.

4 Gift vouchers that give If you're buying someone a gift voucher, make sure you find out what the expiry date is and tell the person you're giving it to. The retailer does not have to accept the voucher once it has expired.

5 Beware gift cards with fees

Such as gift cards that are also debit cards. For example the Dundrum Town Centre gift card is a pre-loaded debit card. After a year, if you still haven't used it, a fee of €3 is debited monthly, so you could watch your gift disappear.

6 Use plastic to pay for vouchers

Using your credit card or Visa debit card to pay for vouchers is the safest way. If the shop closes down, you'll be able to get a refund (a charge-back) from your bank.

7 In fact, plastic is generally best

That's because if you buy anything or put a deposit on something and the shop closes down, you'll be able to ask your bank for that charge-back. Plus you'll have proof of purchase (a bank statement) if you need to return a faulty item, even if you've lost the receipt.

8 Check delivery dates online

A no-brainer if you actually want to receive the item you ordered online before Christmas.

9 Check extra delivery charges

Online delivery charges should be clearly outlined, but if you're buying outside the EU remember to add VAT (on goods over €22) and customs duty (on goods over €150). Remember this, plus an admin fee, may be collected by the delivery company, so be prepared.

10 Using your cooling-off period

If you hate the item you bought online, don't despair. You have a seven-day 'cooling-off' period to tell the trader you're sending it back for a refund, and you don't need a reason.

11 Beware exceptions to the cooling off period

The cooling-off period doesn't apply to time-specific purchases like hotel and flights or to perishables like food or to custom-made products. So read the terms and conditions carefully.

12 Don't worry about faulty goods

If the toy you buy falls apart or the camera splutters and dies, don't worry. Your rights cover faulty goods and the shop is obliged to repair, replace or refund, as long as you have proof of purchase.

Irish Independent