It’s that time of year again – stockpiles of mince pies are everywhere you look (yum!), the jingle of bells can be heard in the high street and the long awaited Christmas adverts are landing on our TVs.

Those of you that are savvy enough to have started buying those all-important Christmas gifts for loved ones will already know that starting early is key. We’ve put together some top tips in a two part series to get you started early, and avoid running around the shops on Christmas Eve browsing empty shelves!

  • Travelling to see friends and family? Book your train tickets in advance. Rail operators launch their tickets twelve weeks before the date of travel. Always check if cheaper advance tickets are available before travelling – you can even buy them online a couple of hours before you travel, on the day.
  • Work out what you can afford. It sounds obvious, but think about what you can afford. Maybe agree a budget with those that you are buying for, or, if you can bear it, make an ‘unnecessary present pact’ with them and go out for a coffee over the festive season instead.
  • Do you have a discounts portal with your employer? You can make huge savings on your shopping with a wide range of retailers. They even have reloadable gift cards which offer you a discount every time you spend. For example, you can make savings on clothes shopping, days out, restaurants or even at the garden centre!
  • Scan the sales. There are usually some mega sales before the big day to entice you into parting with your cash. It is worth checking prices and reviews. Stock up while you can – there are definitely bargains to be had!
  • Don’t be stung by hidden costs! Think about the VAT, postage and custom charges (if ordering from abroad). It could make that bargain gift more expensive than you think.