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Get smart with your shopping this Christmas

Festive special offers might look tempting, but a little bit of preparation now could help you avoid costly regrets

By Victoria Shaw

It's that time of year again -when people prepare to 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.

Here are six 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 and you'll have a better idea later 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.

3. How you pay can give you added protections

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. 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

"It helps to stick to retailers you know are reputable. Take the time to do a little research and look for reviews," says Myles Dawson, UK country manager at Adyen, which processes payments. "Check the email address of the sender is legitimate and look closely at the destination of a link, before clicking it."

5. Factor in delivery charges

Some online stores offer free delivery for shoppers who spend over a certain amount. One-third of the shoppers surveyed admitted they will overspend - knowing they will send some items back - just to qualify for free delivery.

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 charges apply.

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