Money Times - December 6, 2016

Posted by Jill Kerby on December 06 2016 @ 09:00


Ah, Christmas…you’re back and just as pricey as ever? Read on

The Wednesday was bright and cold when my friend Susan and I arrived in Newry at 11am to do some Christmas shopping. 

Since neither of us had been there before (and I have no sense of direction) we took the wrong motorway exit and ended up snaking through Newry’s one way traffic system behind a great many other Irish-reg cars. I eventually pulled into the bus station where two other middle-aged women were standing on the footpath, one of whom was staring into her mobile phone.

I wound down my window.

“Excuse me, sorry to bother you. But can you direct me to the Buttercrane Centre?”   “Ha. That’s what we’re looking for,” the one on the phone replied in a Dublin accent. “We’re lost too.”

It was that sort of day. We did find the centres – about half a mile away, bookending the canal that runs through the town. Both malls were full of Irish shoppers, filling up trolleys with clothes, toys and lots of booze. I’ve never seen such happy, welcoming merchants.

This was my first act of treason against the Irish consumer state. (Ordinary holidays abroad are acceptable given the quid pro quo with our visitors.)  As it turned out I only spent a few hundred pounds/euro and made up for it a little by going to the Irish Craft Fair at the RDS on 1 December (as I have done for over 30 years) where I ticked off my last present.

Fin. Finito. I’m done Christmas shopping and in record time. But between the differential on the price of alcohol between North and South (due to much higher excise tax here), the sterling/euro differential and the fact that so many of the Newry shops were also offering a €1 to £1 price peg, I figure I saved about €100 or 25% of my shopping outlay that Wednesday.

My biggest purchase?  A £150 faux leopardskin coat in Miss Selfridge for my drop dead gorgeous Brazilian godchild (who can carry such a look). It was already reduced by 50% and then knocked down – as a pre-Black Friday special - by another 25%.

I’m not sure I’ll do this again next year – I enjoyed the day out with my girlfriend more than the shopping - but savings like these are especially hugely welcome to  people with young families and far more limited budgets than mine.

If you can’t go North, and you really do enjoy the giving side of Christmas, you still need a shopping strategy that avoids leaving you with a smoking credit card and repayment migraine in the New Year.

So, once again, here is my Christmas spending survival guide.  It has faithfully served me – and I hope my readers – for many years:

-       Make lists : Gift recipients; Christmas tree/ornaments; food and drink; entertainment (movies, panto, zoo); Christmas clothes; holiday travel (petrol/train fares). Bring the list with you.

-       Set a spending budget. Use either cash, a debit card or a credit card when shopping, not all three.

-       Kris Kringle:  Ideal for large extended families. Set a price limit and/or do a themed Kris Kringle:  home made food items, chocolates, services.

-       Choose a gift theme for adult recipients. You can control your spending by opting for...books, DVDs and CDs, plants, food, alcohol. (See Christmas Gift Tips)

-       Compare prices. Use the internet, especially for toys, electronics. You can save time and money, but watch out for shipping charges and deadlines. If you can, shop in Irish owned shops.

-       Pace yourself. Leaving too much to the days before Christmas will result in impulse buying. Never overdress (you’ll get hot and bothered); don’t bring children or a reluctant spouse with you unless they are reliable load bearers. Don’t shop on an empty stomach.

-       Be security conscious. Wear a zipped handbag across your torso when shopping; don’t let anyone see you key in your credit/debit card passwords. Watch your shopping bags. Pickpockets love Christmas.

-       Beat the crowds and shop early. Get out when the crowds are thickest.  

-       Set a shopping time limit, say, a maximum four hours. Stop for a break midway. Check your lists. Once you get tired you’re at risk of overspending.

-       Recycle. This doesn’t just mean giving away gifts you received that you didn’t like. It also means recycling your precious and loved things that the person on your gift list may have admired. This is ideal for people with grandchildren, godchildren, nieces and nephews for whom they can start ‘bottom drawers’, for example.

I still have Christmas cards (and e-cards) to send out; packages to post to Canada and Australia; the tree to go up; lots of baking to do and a day’s worth of wrapping. The (frozen) goose awaits its oven…

And these are the best-spent hours of all…Happy Christmas.






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