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Spending and giving at Christmas

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 19:30 UK time, Monday, 9 November 2009

X-Ray asked how can you spend wisely this Christmas and even do a bit for charity? It is the season of goodwill after all...

It's estimated that in Wales this year we'll spend a staggering £871 million on presents, £466 million on food and drink and £63 million on decorations during the festive period, so it really does pay to be a savvy shopper.

For many, shopping online will be their first port of call as there are lots of bargains to be had and you can avoid the stress of the busy high street. But it's worth remembering that your customer rights are different if you buy online compared to in store.

Legally you only get a seven day cooling off period if you buy online and change your mind. And although shops don't have to refund your purchases just because you've changed your mind, most do.

X-Ray spoke to some of the top high street retailers who said that they would be extending their returns policies till after the festive season to allow for people to return unwanted gifts. But as every store operates a different returns policy it's worth checking at the till point when you buy the gift. You could even ask for a gift receipt so that the person won't know how much you've spent.

While many of us will try to avoid relying on our plastic at Christmas if we can, don't forget that paying by credit card for big purchases can offer you extra protection, providing they cost over £100. If the goods turn out to be faulty, you can claim your money back from the credit card company if you're having no joy with the retailer. This applies even if you only make part payment for the goods on the card and that can mean as little as a pound spent on your plastic.

On average we'll send 1.8 billion cards at Christmas. But there's a great way you can save on the cost of postage and support your local community - send some of your Christmas cards using 'Scout Post', which is run by some members of the Scout Association.

Scout stamps, which are cheaper than Royal Mail stamps; can be used to send cards to friends and family in your area. You can buy stamps from local businesses and the scouts themselves. The cards are then posted into the special boxes in time for the collection deadline. This year they need to be posted by Monday December 7th. Scout troops who partake in the scheme collect and sort all of the cards and then hand deliver them to the local area.

Lucy met with the members of the 19th Cardiff scout troop to find out how the Cardiff and the Vale scout post scheme operates.

One of the scouts, Daniel, told Lucy: "In our area, every year we sort about 750,000 cards."

The scouts told Lucy that the exercise is a great way to help build team work and the money they raise goes towards paying for various scouting activities. There are currently schemes operating in Cardiff and The Vale, Newport and Neath Port Talbot.

If you're in a generous mood this Christmas then charity cards can be a great way to donate. Charities make about £50 million a year from card sales. But a recent survey found that some retailers give as little as 6% of the price of the card to the charity but there are those that donate 100%. So if you're buying charity cards this year check the back of the card. It should tell you how much is actually going to a good cause.

Christmas should be a happy time. However as 32% of children in Wales live in poverty, for some, it might not be as much fun. But there is a way you can help. For example, you could set up a "gift giving" scheme at work and give presents to less fortunate children.

Business in the Community Wales is a not for profit organisation that runs a Pocketful of Presents campaign every year. They liaise with local charities to collect information about children in need. They find out the ages and gender of the children and this information is then distributed to any companies that wish to take part. Employees are then encouraged to buy appropriate gifts by an agreed deadline.

The presents are then delivered to the charities who distribute them accordingly. The scheme delivers thousands of gifts to charities in Wales every year. Your gift could cost as little as ten pounds but could make a huge difference to someone's Christmas day.

If you're struggling for what to buy the person whose got everything, you may have considered an alternative "charitable gift" such as a goat for a Ugandan family or sponsoring a panda for example. These gifts have more than a financial gain for the charity. Lucy met Martin Price, who is the Chair of the Institute of Fundraising Cymru. Martin thinks that the gifts are a great way for the charity to bring in 'new customers' and that they do more than simply ask for your money.

He said: "If you're talking about a third world charity, as well as trying to get the money from you, they're trying to educate you that people need wells, people need goats in order to provide something that will actually provide long-term help for them instead of just providing them with food for today."

Martin says that you should always check the small print of any gift you wish to buy, as you may well find that your money may go into a 'fund' rather than simply being used to buy a goat. He says that this then gives the charity the flexibility to use the money to feed the livestock or pay for vets bills if needs be.

And if you're a UK tax payer, for every pound you donate to charity, the government will give 28p on top. But only if you tick the gift aid box. The extra money is crucial to charities and worth almost £1 billion.

So with the big event just on the horizon, the message is - spend wisely but give generously. And here's hoping that this Christmas, you get as good as you give.

Scout Post links:

Cardiff & The Vale: catvog.org
Newport: newportscouts.org

Or see scouts.org.uk to contact the Scouts in your area.

To contact Business in the Community in Wales about their Pocketful of Presents campaign please call 029 20 780 050.

For more information of 'gift aid' see direct.gov.uk.

Neath Port Talbot also run a Scout Post Scheme. For more information please contact Graham (Scout Leader) or Roger (secretary) of the 9th Skewen Scout Group on 01792 812212.

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