17:37 20 December 2012
The party season has arrived, and the next couple of weeks will see many of us sipping on Christmas cocktails as we don our glad rags and let our hair down. And whether it's office shindigs, festive nights out or family get-togethers, it's time to look our best and dress to impress.
While dressing up for the festive season can come at a cost, recent research from First Direct has revealed that we are not prepared to break the bank to look good this Christmas.
The research showed that more than half (58%) of people will hunt for a bargain when buying their going out clothes, while two fifths of people like to "mix it up" - combining cheaper items with more expensive ones - to save money.
But just how can you make sure you don't spend a small fortune when shopping for party wear? We take a look...
Seek out your local vintage store
Many of us will know the sinking feeling you get when you spot three other people at the Christmas party wearing that 'unique' dress you were so delighted to find.
But by heading to your local vintage store or market, you can avoid this - as well as potentially snapping up some great bargains. It might take a bit of rummaging, but finding a complete one-off for a great price will be well worth it.
Cities up and down the country have their own vintage gems. Portobello Market is just one of London's treasures for one-of-a-kind finds, Liverpool and Manchester are home to Pop Boutique and one of Edinburgh's offerings is the Frayed Hem. If you're not sure where your nearest store is, just do a quick search online and take your pick.
Wear designers clothes for less
While a designer dress might be your ideal party outfit, the price tag certainly won't be. And in these cash-strapped times, designer clobber isn't likely to be top of your priority list.
However, if you want to treat yourself and wear something fit for the stars, consider using an online hire site such as Wish Want Wear or Girl Meets Dress then you can dazzle in designer for a snip of the price. You simply browse through the site, choose your dress, and, hey presto, you shall go to the ball!
Don't dismiss charity shops
Don't forget about your local charity store. These shops may have gained more street-cred in recent years with famous names dropping off their celebrity clobber, but many of us still associate them with moth-balls and musty cast-offs. However, take just a few minutes to have a rummage and you may well bag a bargain.
And, even if you don't find your dream dress, you could discover shoes, a bag or accessories to transform your whole outfit.
Shop around and take advantage of discount codes and vouchers
The First Direct research showed that some of the most common ways of saving money on Christmas clothes were shopping around - with almost half of the respondents using this tactic (46%) - using discounts or vouchers (31%).
And it's not hard to see why. With so many great deals out there, you can seriously bring down the cost of your party outfit by keeping your eyes peeled for special offers. But you'll need to be quick as a lot of them won't be around for long, so blink and you'll miss them.
For example, MoneySupermarket is currently offering 10% off orders at feelunique.com on its vouchers and deals channel while you can get 20% off orders at Daniel Footwear.
Secretsales has 20% off orders or if you fancy shopping at Boden, you can enjoy 15% off.
And there are deals on plenty of items as well as clothes. If you're looking to pamper yourself before your big night out, for example, head to the Co-operarative Pharmacy and you can get £2 off a £10 spend.
To see these offers and more, go to MoneySupermarket's voucher and deals channel.
Get a new outfit without spending a penny
If you're really trying to keep costs down, then sites such as Freegle.org.uk and Freecycle offer clothes for free.
Or, how about getting your friends together, a couple of bottles of wine and having a clothes- swapping party? You could all end up with something new to wear while knowing that your own clothes have gone to a good home.
And if you want to look further afield, there are a number of websites now that allow you to swap clothes online such as swishing.co.uk.
You'll get access to a huge range of clothes and be able to 'swish' to your heart's content!
Get something back
If you are savvy with your spending, you could actually get money back when you buy your Christmas outfit. By either using a cashback site or a cashback credit card, you'll be able to earn money back when you spend.
For example, the Barclaycard Cashback card allows you to earn a whopping 6% cashback for the first three months of having the card on your top five purchases. Thereafter you will earn up to 2% cashback on your top five monthly purchases. However, with a steep representative APR of 24.6%, this option should only be reserved by those strict enough to pay off their balance each month.
Need a cash injection?
If you have tried all these money-saving tips but just need cold hard cash for that must-have dress, why not consider selling something you already have to make some extra money?
How many times have you bought something, worn it once and then resigned it to the back of your wardrobe where it will never see daylight again? Rather than allowing your unwanted clobber to gather dust, consider selling it on a site such as eBay and you may be surprised by how much you make. Or you might even want to consider selling your unwanted items at a car boot sale.
But if that sounds too much like hard work, why not fill up a bag with your old clothes and take them to one of the many cash-for-clothes shops springing up everywhere? Your bag will be weighed and in return you'll get cash - it couldn't be easier!
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.
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