How to save money buying Christmas presents online
Be honest, we might all pretend that Black Friday is about early Christmas shopping, but only the super-organised have got round to thinking about the winter gifting season by late November.
But if Black Friday is really about bagging a bargain big screen TV or similar for ourselves, December is when most of us start to think about possibly preparing for the big day.
So what do we do? We go back online, of course, but there are several ways to save that everyone should know about. Here’s our guide on how to save money buying Christmas presents online.
1. Let TechRadar help you bag some serious bargains
The first step to saving money this Christmas is to let us here at TechRadar do all the hard work.
Our Christmas elves (well... writers) have been diligently scanning the internet looking for the best Christmas bargains this holiday season. Your first port of call should be our best deals for Christmas page, which collects all of our Christmas buying guides and deals pages.
So, if you're looking to buy a loved one (or yourself) a PS4, we have you covered with the , as well as the , best iPad deals, and much more.
We also have our Holiday Gift Guide 2016: TechRadar’s top tech toys to give this season which lists the hottest gifts and the cheapest places to buy them.
If you know a serious gamer, then check out our Christmas gifts for gamers 2016 guide for inspiration.
2. Use our Pricehawk Chrome extention
The clever boffins behind the scenes here at TechRadar have created the Pricehawk extension for Chrome, which automatically shows you the cheapest prices for the products you’re looking for.
Having Pricehawk installed in Chrome means even during the commotion of Christmas shopping, you’ll be advised if the deal you’re looking at can be found elsewhere for cheaper, making shopping for Christmas presents a far more pleasurable experience.
3. Price comparison
Knowing the market is absolutely critical if you’re to spot a bargain, but where should you start? In every review and article on our website we compare prices from a range of popular retailers, so you don't even need to leave the page to see a list of the best deals, along with our expert advice on whether or not a product is worth buying.
Clicking on the deal will take you straight to the shop where you can make your purchase. Christmas shopping has never been so easy!
4. Click & collect
Delivery costs are the worst. Unless you’re spending big, delivery is rarely free, but the exact cost is rarely revealed until you’ve gone through most of the checkout procedures.
A good way of dodging these is to go for the ‘click and collect’ option; you pay for the item online, and pick it up yourself at a store near you. This is also a great way of spending much less time in shops, which is surely the whole point of the internet in the first place. In the US, FreeShipping is a great resource for this.
Another way of cutting down on delivery costs is to find ‘collect in person’ items on eBay. The UK’s MoneySavingExpert has a Local eBay Deals app, while in the US, Local Bargain Finder and Bay Crazy are also worth a look.
5. Discount codes
Before you buy anything from a retailer’s website, make sure you visit TechRadar's review section, where we rigorously test the latest gadgets and give you our honest opinions on whether a product is worth buying. Our expert knowledge helps us determine what gifts are worth giving this Christmas, and if a product isn't up to scratch we'll recommend a similar, but better, product instead.
Once you've got our opinion, visit Google and type in the retailer’s name and ‘discount codes’. You’ll get mixed results, and very often embark on a wild goose chase, but it's worth a few minutes of your time. Hunting down a code in the UK means visiting sites like VoucherCodes, MyVoucherCodes and HotUKDeals, or Voucher Cloud, RetailMeNot and Offers in the US.
Just copy and paste the code into the box on the payment screen, but know that it’s rare that you can use two on the same order – and entering an invalid code can replace the valid code you just entered, so check to see how your final total changes as you enter codes.
6. Cash-back deals
Want cash for your clicks? If you now do most of your shopping online, a good way to save money continuously is by registering with a cashback sites (most of which now have apps) like QuidCo and TopCashback in the UK and Coupon Cactus and TopCashback in the US.
They act as hubs where following links to retailers (typically the big websites you might use already) gets you a cash reward. In return for clicking their links (where, naturally, the websites receive a kickback from the retailer), you accrue in-store cashback. It can be as much as 6-7%. However, before you sign-up check that your favourite online stores are available.
7. Amazon & AliExpress
It’s only fair that we include e-commerce giant Amazon in any discussion of how to save money at Christmas, but don’t ever take its prices at face value.
While its vast marketplace is a good place to find specific products, it’s neither exhaustive nor definitive, price-wise. However, it is possible to make big savings on postage if you buy lots of items (though that applies to most commerce websites).
A rival to Amazon is AliExpress , which is also a clearance site for multiple retailers. This ‘Amazon of China’ is especially relevant if you’re shopping for electronics, and there are good savings and are postage available, though the ’20-40’ days delivery rules it out for Christmas.
8. Use eBay
Why not buy something second-hand from eBay? There are often some awesomely low price for second-hand goods online, especially given people’s propensity to buy, then quickly ditch latest gadgets. Bidding on a private auction is always the best way to get a low price, though expect serious competition on mainstream electrical items and phones.
However, despite its reputation as a place for cut-price hand-me-downs and second-hand goods, there are loads of businesses and high street stores on eBay, too.
9. Cashback credit cards
A good alternative to cashback websites is cashback credit cards, which work in a similar way, but at more retailers. You can get cashback from select retailers each time you spend, but as well as online stores they often also include supermarkets, so even spending on Christmas lunch gives you a kickback.
There is one major drawback; interest. Using a credit card is a dangerous way to fund Christmas shopping, and are best used only if you intend to pay-off the entire balance the next month.
However, if you’re set on putting Christmas on a credit card, there are more than cash back deals on off. Some credit cards replace cashback with points that can be converted into air miles. Perfect for that post-Christmas dash for the tropics… though you might have to wait a good few years.
10. Delaying gift-giving
Good deals come to those that wait. If you always buy goods at the same time as everyone else, you’re always going to pay higher prices. So wait.
Boxing Day sales – which often start online on Christmas Day itself – are a great time to make a purchase. If you’re not going to exchange gifts with someone until late December, it makes obvious sense. If you have a few weeks to play with, early January is when prices are often at their lowest.
Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and Space.com. He also edits two of his own websites, TravGear.com and WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),