Christmas presents you should never buy on the high street
So it's bricks versus clicks for yet another year. Yes, the annual tussle between the likes of Amazon and play.com against high street giants such as HMV and Waterstones is now in full swing. And it's only going to accelerate as December plods on.
But which is really cheaper for Christmas shopping: online stores or high street shops?
Well, I took to the streets and noted down the prices of several popular DVDs, CDs, books, video games, electrical and beauty products that were adorning the shelves for this festive season and then compared them to the best possible deals I could find online.
The full results of my survey are logged in a table on this article, but here's a round-up of some of the best bargains...
Everyone needs a good post-Turkey DVD to drift off to on Christmas afternoon.
I found you can get value for money on the high-street with bundle deals like two DVDs for £20. However, online shops are still undercutting stores like HMV, offering most new releases for less than a tenner.
Here are some of the best deals:
The biggest bargains can be found on new releases. Prometheus can be bought on the high street for £15 but you can save a lot online at Sainsbury's Entertainment which has the same DVD for just £9.99. That's a saving of £5.01.
Box sets can also be found cheaper online. Using my list I found that you can get up to 28% off the price on the high street across new releases like the Dark Knight Trilogy box set and even on old favourites like The Wire.
In fact the only time I was unable to find a saving was for older titles like The Thing – it was available for £3 on the high street and at Asda Direct. But that shouldn't stop you double checking.
Top tip: Sites like Amazon and play.com also offer top deals on pre-order discs. For example the Total Recall DVD – which is not released until Boxing Day – is only £9.99 on Amazon. What's more it comes with a price guarantee so if the price decreases or increases before the release date you will be charged the lowest price.
Digital downloads may be dominating music sales nowadays, but for me, CDs are still a fundamental part of Christmas.
Here are some of the best deals on the latest releases:
You can snap up most new releases on the high street for around a tenner. Pretty reasonable; however online stores are still cheaper, winning on price for every album I looked at in the survey.
Alicia Key's latest album is just £5.99 on play.com while Pink's return is just £7 on Amazon. Amazon delivers the biggest saving of 46.2% on Pink's album but the survey showed there are a variety of other places like Sainsbury's Entertainment that can offer good value too.
Top tip: If you are buying for a download addict, it might be worth getting hold of an iTunes voucher instead of a CD. That way they can choose exactly what they want! A further alternative is purchasing a subscription to the online music streaming service Spotify. These start at £9.99 for one month and stretch up to £119.88 for a full year.
There are some good book deals to be had on the high street, with Waterstones chopping the price of most chart titles this festive season. However, once again online shops still win hands down when it comes to delivering significant savings:
Five out of the ten books I looked at in my survey were over 50% cheaper online. The rest were at least 28% cheaper. Amazon was the best place to head but surprising savings could be found at Asda Direct and Sainsbury's Entertainment.
Top tip: Sales of Kindle e-books now outstrip regular printed sales. So if you're fed up of lugging around weighty novels it may be time to go digital: Kindle prices start at £69.
Frugal deals on the high street for video games were few and far between, with new games on the Wii U costing as much as £44.99.
Thankfully, online prices were around 25% lower:
Shop To really came up trumps for new release video games, offering the latest titles for under £40.
Top tip: If you're after an even bigger bargain keep your eyes peeled for pre-owned games. They're available online through sites like Game and Blockbuster and can be half the price of new discs.
The savings on electrical goods are slimmer than the games, CDs, DVDs and books we have already looked at and in some cases I wasn't able to find a better online price. But there are a few deals to be had if you are prepared to shop around.
Just remember to thoroughly check all of the return conditions and guarantees before you cough up the cash. Oh, and make sure you have a good stock of batteries ready for Christmas Day!
You can make a 13% saving on an Apple MacBook online at a UK company called Churchill Conrad, which will leave you £249 better off. Savings on Apple goods are usually quite hard to find so if you can get a cheaper price online take advantage.
Top tip: Look out for overseas sites selling cut-price electrical gear. Ordering cheap items from abroad is a good way of saving a few pounds. But when it comes to pricey electrical goods, I'd rather have the peace of mind of dealing with a domestic company.
Beauty products may not be an obvious choice for online shopping, but there are still bargains to be had...
Buying beauty products online makes much more sense than sticking to the high street according to my results. The portable Babyliss Hair Straighteners were over 50% cheaper online. Pricey beauty buys like the hair reduction system was already reduced in-store by £100 but can still be found £74 cheaper at Amazon.
Top tip: Online beauty shops are great if you know which particular aftershave, perfume or make up you're after. But even if you don't, there's nothing stopping you sussing out your favourites scent on the high street and then buying online for less.
And one final point: remember to check the last posting dates before you place any orders. Most sites have a final date around 15th-20th December. However if you order at the last minute, you may have to shell out a touch more to guarantee you get your gift in time for the big day.