What are the most common Christmas shopping mistakes?

Overspending? Waiting too late? Getting the same thing as someone else? Which Christmas shopping blunders are the most common?

An exploding Christmas bauble
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We’ve all been there - that sinking feeling when we realise we’ve made a huge blunder in our Christmas shopping. But everyone makes mistakes, and festive fumbles are rarely the end of the world. They’re so common we thought we’d find out which ones Brits make the most during their holiday shopping, along with a few tips on how to avoid making them this year! 

The most common Christmas shopping slip-ups

They say that failing to prepare is preparing to fail, and it seems that’s very true when it comes to Christmas shopping. Over a quarter (29%) of those we surveyed said that they’re guilty of leaving their shopping until the last minute, making it the most common Christmas shopping mistake of all. Disorganisation is truly the enemy when it comes to the festive season.[1] 

Here are the top five Christmas shopping mistakes: 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Christmas shopping mistakePercentage of shoppers who’ve made it
Waiting until the last minute29%
Overpaying for an item that was cheaper somewhere else26%
Buying something that won’t be delivered on time25%
Forgotten to buy a present for someone15%
Bought someone a present they already have12%

Overpaying also seems to be a frequent misstep, with 26% saying they got an item that was available for less elsewhere. A similar amount of consumers (25%) made the fatal error of buying an item that won’t arrive in time. Meanwhile, 15% of shoppers forgot to buy a present for someone, resulting in an emergency trip to the shops after the big day.

Some consumers (12%) simply needed to have done a background check, as they admitted to getting someone an item they already own. The same percentage made the unfortunate gaffe of being a bit too clever, admitting that they’d lost a present because they’d forgotten where they hid it at home.

For others, the error wasn’t in the gift itself, but simply the presentation, as one in 10 confessed that they’d forgotten to buy wrapping paper for their presents on the big day - whoops! The least common mistake on our list was buying the same present as someone else, made by only 7% of respondents. Thankfully, coordination isn’t an issue many of us face around the holiday season.

Men Vs. Women: Who makes the most blunders?

What are the biggest differences between men and women when it comes to Christmas shopping? Overall, it seems that women are more likely to make a misstep over the holidays, as 73% of women in our survey admitted to making at least one error, compared to 66% of men.

It turns out that women are much more likely to overspend on their holiday shopping, with this being their most common mistake. In fact, 31% of women surveyed said they bought an item they could’ve gotten cheaper somewhere else. In contrast, just 20% of men gave the same answer.

Women are also more likely to forget where they hid something, as 17% said they’d misplaced a gift, in comparison to 7% of men. On the other hand, men’s biggest challenge is leaving it too late. Almost a third (32%) of men surveyed said they’ve left their shopping to the last minute, while just 27% of women said the same thing.

Experience is the greatest teacher

It’s clear that great shopping comes with experience. Only 59% of those aged 60 and over admitted to making an error when doing their Christmas shopping, making them the least likely to slip up on their gift-giving.

Perhaps the key skill younger shoppers should learn from their elders is organisation, as the biggest difference between both age groups was waiting until the last minute. Only 21% of those 60 and over said they’ve made this mistake, compared to 37% of under 25s. Similarly, 38% of 25-39s also admitted to leaving it late, making it the number one blunder for shoppers under 40.

Younger generations are also more likely to forget wrapping paper (15% of under 25s compared to 6% of those 60 and over) and buy something that won’t be delivered on time (26% of under 25s compared to 16% of those 60 and over).

Tips for avoiding a Crimbo shopping misstep

We could all do with one less thing to stress about these days, so to help minimise the pressure that comes with purchasing gifts, we’ve drafted up a list of top tips for Christmas shopping. Read on for a faff-free Christmas clear of merry mistakes: 

Set reminders: Many of us leave it too late to get started, and a simple way of avoiding this is to set an annual reminder to begin getting gifts. Put a note in your diary or add a recurring event in your phone’s calendar so that you can always see when it’s time to hit the shops.

Alternatively, try thinking of an annual event to use as a prompt to get started, such as the first Christmas advert you see on the telly! Another good one is to use Black Friday as a starting point. As soon as the sales get underway, you know it’s time to put on your Santa hat and get cracking.

Lists aren’t just for Santa: If Santa uses them then you should too! Lists are a great way of staying organised, so try to use them to your advantage during the holiday season. Struggling to remember who you need to buy a gift for? Make a list! Unsure of what to get everyone? Ask them if they have a list! You can even make a wishlist for yourself to send to others who are struggling for inspiration!

Keep an eye out for vouchers and price trackers: Paying more than needed is a real blow, especially when times are tight. To make sure you’re getting presents for the best possible price, be sure to keep an eye out for deals and voucher codes on the stuff your loved ones enjoy. That way, putting a smile on their face doesn’t have to put a dent in your wallet.

Checking free online price trackers is another great way to ensure you’re getting gifts at the best available rate. (P.S. Check out our other tips for cutting Crimbo costs to avoid overspending during this year’s festivities!)

Buy backup pressies (if you’re able):  Keeping track of everyone you need to buy gifts for can be tricky - it’s no wonder so many of us have forgotten someone at some point! A good way around this, if you can afford to, is to get a stash of backup presents ready for a worst-case scenario.

These don’t have to be too extravagant, just simple treats to ensure you have something to give to those who slip your mind. For example, a good chocolate tub, biscuit tin or just a nice bottle of gin for anyone who might like a tasty tipple. You could even get a few emergency selection boxes for any little ones you might accidentally miss.

About the data

[1] To collect the data used in this report, we ran a YouGov Survey of 2,000 UK adults on 7 October 2023. Respondents were selected at random across several demographics. All statistics were sourced from this survey unless otherwise stated. 

Sarah-Jane Outten

Hi, I’m SJ. I’m an editor and content executive here at MyVoucherCodes. I started my journey here as a deals expert which gave me the skills to become a money-saving expert. You can find my tips and recommendations in various publications including The Sun, The Mirror, and The Telegraph.

I gained a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing in 2018, and I’ve put my writing skills into many projects since then. My portfolio at sarahjaneoutten.com includes my work with Cardiff Times, Buzz Magazine and more. 

I write poetry and short stories for pleasure and enjoy getting creative with watercolours and lino printing. I hope that I can merge my love of writing and art into a children's book in the future - watch this space!