7 things to remember when you start your Christmas shopping

Christmas shopping
Christmas shopping

Those festive special offers might look tempting, but a little bit of preparation now could help you avoid costly shopping regrets.

It's that time of year again - when people prepare to roll up their sleeves and take part in shopping frenzies such as Black Friday.

But before you start shelling out, pause for a moment and consider whether you could be a little more savvy with your cash. Are you really going after the best bargains? Will you regret splashing out too much come January?

Here are 7 things you need to know before starting your Christmas shopping...

1. Is it really a bargain?

Just because a shop is advertising 'mega discounts', is the item you're after really cheaper than it would be at another time of year? Do some homework now, when you're less under pressure to have Christmas all wrapped up - and you'll have a better idea later on if you're really getting a great deal.

2. Can you take it back?

Swot up on your consumer rights. While there are general rules, it's worth asking stores about their individual policies when it comes to 'goodwill' returns if you simply change your mind. The Consumer Rights Act spells out consumers' rights to refunds on faulty items and makes it easier to challenge hidden fees and charges.

3. How you pay can give you added protections if anything goes wrong

Consumer group Which? explains that under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, your credit card company is jointly liable if something goes wrong with a product or a service you've paid for with that card.

If you've spent more than £100 and less than £30,000 on something, you can claim in this way if something goes wrong. You don't have to have paid the full amount on your credit card, either. Which? says to qualify for the protections, it's the value of the goods you're buying that is key, not the amount paid on the card.

4. Check the website you're buying from is genuine

Myles Dawson, UK country manager at Adyen, which processes payments, says with many limited-period deals on offer, shoppers may be tempted to let their guard down.

"It helps to stick to retailers you know are reputable. That is not to say that any online retailer you haven't heard of should be on the black list, but take the time to do a little research and look for reviews," he says.

"Checking your emails carefully is also crucial. Fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated at mimicking legitimate retailers.

"They know it's easy for you to get caught in the moment when a great offer lands in your inbox.

"Take a few moments to check the email address of the sender is legitimate and look closely at the destination of a link, before clicking it. This helps avoid ending up on a spoofed website and mistakenly providing your card details and personal information to fraudsters."

5. Factor in delivery charges

Two-thirds (67%) of shoppers say they would not be willing to buy online if the delivery costs are too high, according to a survey by delivery management company Whistl.

Some online stores offer free delivery for shoppers who spend over a certain amount when making a purchase.

And while it may be considered quite cheeky, a third of the shoppers surveyed admitted they will overspend - knowing they will later send some items back - just to qualify for free delivery.

Patience can help cut delivery costs. Half (50%) of those surveyed would be willing to wait an extra two to three days in exchange for free delivery - while more than a quarter (28%) would wait four to five days longer.

6. Will your shopping spree put you in debt?

Make sure the thrill of a bargain doesn't lead to a debt hangover. Set a budget, and if you're paying by credit card, pay it off in full before any charges apply.

Keep track of your account balance - busting an overdraft limit could also make a purchase very expensive, once you factor in those bank charges.

7. Cut the costs

Voucher and cashback websites can help trim back costs. And if you don't mind risking someone else snapping it up, try leaving your item in your online shopping basket and see if the store tries to nudge you by emailing a discount code. It does happen!