Six Christmas shopping pitfalls and how to avoid them

When you are rushing around the shops it is easy to forget what you were looking for in the first place, so set out with a shopping list and stick to it. Photograph: PA
When you are rushing around the shops it is easy to forget what you were looking for in the first place, so set out with a shopping list and stick to it. Photograph: PA
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The Christmas countdown has started and the hunt is on for gifts for loved ones. But there are pitfalls to watch out for while browsing – so make sure you don’t end up buying now and regretting later.

Here are six Christmas shopping traps to avoid.

Falling victim to online fraud

As people search for bargains and gifts for loved ones, fraudsters see this as an opportunity to trick people with the promise of great deals and big cash savings. Victims may find themselves defrauded on social media and online auction websites.

Mobile phones are a common item fraudsters use to hook victims in – with “bargain” deals on some of the most popular models of smartphones, only for the phone to never actually arrive. Remember, if something seems too much of a bargain, it’s probably poor quality, fake or doesn’t exist.

Believing everything you read

Watch out for fake reviews, which could potentially mislead you into buying something which isn’t as good as you were led to believe. Consumer group Which? says the signs of fake reviews could include them being repetitive, the language sounding too much like an advert, or being too short or too long.

Being too influenced by ‘influencers’

A recent survey of 15-24-year-olds from Barclays found a third regularly look at celebrity or influencer social media accounts for shopping inspiration. While it’s great to get ideas, just remember you may not have the bank balance to match the lifestyle you’re trying to emulate.

Clare Francis, savings and investments director at Barclays, suggests asking yourself: “Can I afford this right now?” Or, “Are there other items that I need more?”

Buying goods which turn out to be dangerous

The charity Electrical Safety First warns that fake electrical items can be virtually impossible to spot, with online shoppers misled by imagery taken from official product websites, fake official safety marks, glowing reviews and believable pricing. They’re often retailing for just a few pounds below recommended retail value to avoid arousing suspicion. The charity says people should look for the seller’s contact details – and if they are not supplied in full, shoppers should be wary. Look out for packaging which could provide telltale signs that goods are fake – if there are spelling mistakes or it’s flimsy quality, or if the printing is poor. Also, fake products may not include supplementary materials, such as a manual or a product registration card or even all the parts.

Thinking you always need to buy new

Charity shops are full of children’s toys, many of which have hardly been played with. Sarah Coles, a personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says: “Younger children aren’t going to care whether it comes in the original packaging, so you can pick up second-hand toys for a fraction of the price. Adults, meanwhile, may well love a vintage gift.”

Forgetting what you’ve already got

When you’re rushing around the shops it’s easy to forget what you were looking for in the first place. To stay focused, try setting out with a shopping list and sticking to the items that are on it.