By Claire West

New research from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service, reveals that up to a third of Brits (32%) may actually wake up to nothing under the Christmas tree but an IOU this year. Partners are the most likely to be given an IOU, with one in five (20%) being surprised on Christmas day by their empty-handed loved ones. One in ten people (10%) have been given an IOU from their parents, and 13% have received one from their children. Women are the most likely to receive a promise rather than a present.

As families struggle to cut costs, canny Brits may increasingly hold off from buying presents until the January sales, where they can either afford better gifts, or just afford them full stop. In fact, 14% have given an IOU in the past so they could get a cheaper present in the sales, and nearly one in ten (8%) are considering doing so in the future.

Of those considering it this year, most (21%) are doing so because they can't afford presents at the moment, or they will only be able to afford a gift in the sale. Interestingly, 19% are planning an IOU because they are fed up when gifts they bought go into the sale just a few days after Christmas. Nearly one in five (19%) give an IOU because they can get a bigger and better gift in the New Year.

However, while savvy consumers may see an IOU as a great way to cut costs before Christmas, or even to be more generous with their gift giving, over a quarter of Brits (27%) say getting an IOU is upsetting. Women are most likely to be upset - over a third (35%) find the idea of an IOU hurtful, regardless of who it comes from. However, whether you're male or female, the most upsetting IOU comes from a partner, which is enough to upset over a third of us (35%). One in 20 women (5%) even said it would ruin their Christmas if their partner gave them an IOU.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, says: "Christmas is a time for giving, but for an increasing number of Brits this now means an IOU. Being short of money or not being prepared to pay full price for something that may be cheaper in the January sales means that many of us are now choosing to give a promise not a present. In the savvy consumer's eternal quest for a bargain, Christmas Day and the extortionate costs it can bring, are a big challenge and many are realising that it may be better to wait for a few days after Christmas before splashing the cash.

"However this may not always be ideal - for some people an IOU could be enough to ruin Christmas Day. In this instance, consumers should look at other ways to afford the Christmas they want. Shopping around is key to getting a good price, be it for Christmas presents or for home essentials such as your household bills."