Christmas is coming - but it seems many shoppers have pressed pause on their spending while they wait for big discount events such as Black Friday on November 23.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG recently found the "golden quarter" - the all-important final three months of the year for retailers when customers splash out for Christmas - has got off to a fairly flat start so far. The report said consumers' anticipation that there may be better deals to be had on Black Friday may be a factor, with people waiting until the late November sales to splash out.
More than seven in 10 (71%) of us have already made up our minds to do some shopping on Black Friday, a separate report from TopCashback.co.uk has found - showing the day is now firmly part of the retail calendar.
It's easy to get carried away in the frenzy as retailers slash their prices. So if you're worried about your wallet, here are some handy Black Friday survival tips from James Walker, founder of consumer help website Resolver:
Be a cynic: If you see something that looks like a bargain, go to the manufacturer's website and look at the recommended retail price (RRP). Bear in mind that items often sell for less than this all year round. Some websites also have price comparisons, if you search for particular items.
Have a masterplan: It's tempting to just browse the Black Friday sales, but that's a sure-fire way to end up buying stuff you might not actually need. Think about items you might actually want to buy - either as gifts, replacing items that are nearing the end of their useful lives, or a one-off luxury purchase that you've really wanted. Don't be tempted to deviate.
Only buy what you've planned and budgeted for: It doesn't matter if you're convinced you can beat the techniques retailers use to get you to cough up your hard-earned cash. There's a huge amount of research and planning employed by retailers to get to your impulse buy. Ticking clock timers, glossy images, discounted prices, item offers "expiring" - they've thought of it all.
Don't be careless with credit cards and interest-free deals. Don't think of these credit sources as "free money". Think of them as bills outstanding. So if you spend £1,000, you'll need to allow for paying that off each month. Imagine what that will cost over a year and see if it fits your budget.
Check your right to return goods: Contrary to what you may be told, you do have rights to return sale items if they turn out to be faulty. If you're receiving goods in the post which you may be putting to one side as Christmas presents, always open the delivery box when you receive it and check the items.
If you're buying big items check delivery charges: Some firms now offer assembly services for big items too. Be aware that you might get a local handyman to do the job much cheaper.
If you're buying for Christmas, add any expensive items to your home insurance: Burglars often use the Christmas period as an opportunity to strike as they know households are stocking up on goodies.
And while you're looking after your own wallet, be ethical when chucking out items you're replacing with your new purchases: You'd be amazed what you can recycle these days. Sofas, household appliances and other items will be collected by some charities if they're in an OK condition. If you're replacing something that isn't broken, have a quick check online to see if it's recyclable. Don't just bin it - as it could make someone else's Christmas.
Don't allow yourself to be fobbed off by firms if something doesn't turn out to be as expected - or doesn't turn up at all: Consumer rights expert Martyn James says: "When you enter in to an agreement with a retailer, your contract is with them," adding that retailers should sort out delivery-related problems.
He suggests asking for proof of delivery if you're being charged for goods that were never received.
HOW... THE TAXMAN CAN BOOST PEOPLE'S FINANCES
Many households' finances are feeling particularly stretched as Christmas approaches - but there may be some money you haven't yet claimed which you're entitled to.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is reminding taxpayers how it can help boost their finances.
Mel Stride, financial secretary to the Treasury says: "The tax HMRC collects funds our vital public services, and also provides financial support to taxpayers and those most in need through programmes delivered by HMRC."
HMRC has been reminding people about what they are entitled to to coincide with Talk Money Week (November 12 to 18) which encourages people to talk about money.
Ways in which people can boost their finances include:
1. If you are married or in a civil partnership you can claim up to £238 a year in Marriage Allowance. It is quick and easy to apply online, and can be claimed at any point in the tax year, and you will still receive the full entitlement. Apply at www.gov.uk/apply-marriage-allowance.
2. Are you on a low income and find it difficult to save money? Help to Save rewards savers with an extra 50p for every £1 saved, meaning over four years a maximum saving of £2,400 would result in an overall bonus of £1,200. To find out more visit www.gov.uk/get-help-savings-low-income.
3. Tax-free childcare is available for parents or guardians with children aged under 12 or aged under 17 if disabled. To check if you're eligible visit www.gov.uk/tax-free-childcare.
4. Nurses, hairdressers, construction workers and millions of other employees can claim tax relief on work-related expenses - money they've spent on items like work uniform and clothing, tools, business travel, professional fees and subscriptions. A simple check if you can claim tool is available at www.gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees.
Financial fact: People have until December 14 2018 to say who they'd like to see on the Bank of England's new £50 note. The Bank wants it to feature someone who's contributed to science and the chosen character will be announced in 2019.
FRUGAL FRIENDS LEAVING BILL PAYERS SHORT OF CASH, SURVEY FINDS
Four in 10 (40%) people have someone in their friendship group who doesn't pay their share.
The research, from mobile payments service Pingit, found over half (54%) of people claim they have lent money to pals, never to see it again. On average, they're down £74 over the past 12 months due to their frugal friends.
SCHEME TO HELP BUILD SAVINGS POTS BEING TRIALLED IN SOME WORKPLACES
Workers will be helped to build up a "rainy day" accessible pot of cash alongside their pension savings under a new initiative being trialled. The "sidecar savings" trial is due to go live in some workplaces over the coming months, with workers starting to make contributions in 2019.
Timpson will be the first employer to roll the trial out within the organisation of over 5,600 workers. Employees do not have to take part and they will sign up if they want to.
The initiative has been launched by Nest Insight - the research arm of workplace pension scheme Nest.
HOUSEHOLDS 'SITTING ON HIDDEN DEBT MOUNTAIN'
Households are potentially sitting on a £96 billion hidden debt mountain, with more than two-fifths of people owing sums which they have kept secret from their family, partner or friends, a government-backed body has found.
The Money Advice Service (MAS), which is urging people to talk about money, said the average hidden debt across the UK amounts to £4,164 per person.
It calculated that if the figures are projected across the UK adult population, the total hidden debt amount could be as high as £96 billion.