Northampton has decided to tear up the main high street pedestrian area and stick a road back in. Even the seats are facing the other way in disgust. Its two hours free parking as a gesture of goodwill by the council for this universally unpopular building project but sure to be a tickertape of yellow parking tickets in January. Sadly Amazon and the one-click-pay later online shopping experience is far more appealing than traipsing around town in the slush and rain praying your bus isn’t full going home or you don’t get that parking ticket. You can one-click your parking fine just as easy, why they introduced them.
Northampton isn’t the sexiest of shopping towns and bizarrely turned down an IKEA superstore once. Who the fluck turns down IKEA?? The better shops are at the various shopping parks (with free parking) and so most people go to shop there for the bigger items. There is an Argos in town for big electrical stuff that’s about it. You will get a ticket in the town center if your minutes late returning to your car. Some say the three million pound new road was paid for by parking ticket revenue. It looks almost the same as it was with the construction company replacing all the old brick tiles with new ones and then adding some parking spaces. With ugly crash barriers down the side of it it’s like we are waiting for the finish sofa cycle race.
We don’t have a John Lewis (even though the distribution center is on the nearby Brackmills industrial Estate) and we recently closed down the House of Frazer store in the main shopping enter, replaced by a Primark superstore. There are SEVEN pound shops and plenty of cheap stores like Wilkos in the city bowl. Debenhams and BHS are hanging on by their finger nails in Northampton with Marks & Spencers there for the older gals. On the whole, though, it’s a perfunctory shopping experience over exciting. They have extended the Christmas decorations down the approach roads to suck you in with a more Christmasty feel and much more park and ride parking at low cost so to compete with nearby Milton Keynes.
The town can get busy with over 3000 turning up to se the Christmas lights turned on, that bloke with the funny voice turning them on, Joe Pascal a big draw around these parts. We currently have a German Christmas market lining the remaining pedestrian highstreet but mostly tat and over-priced schnitzels. It adds atmosphere though so fair enough. You never feel the crush in Northampton near Christmas like you do shopping in London or Brum but a decent atmosphere all the same. The new and radically reduced bus station is operating much better now and coping with the Christmas rush. But still no heating in it so no real sanctuary from the winter which is happily mild so far. You can get in easy with a bus and car.
I am a massive fan of Christmas. Although I am an adult I act like a big kid when it comes to Xmas and I very much enjoy my shopping. I am often commented by friends as being very well organised during the festive time, here are my hints and tips -
1, start early! I began my shopping this year in March, some hard core people begin in the January sales, which you can do if you wish. Lots of places do great deals, Boots for example stick all their xmas stock on 75% off mid jan and have a great toy sale mid September as well. My friends used to laugh at me buying xmas gifts in the middle of summer but if its in the sale its worth buying. With sale items ensure you have a recipient and more importantly if its clothes that your buying it will be the right size.
2, Budget and spread the cost. This does filter from starting early because the earlier you start the more months the cost is spread over. I currently have an excel sheet with the names of people I'm buying for, amount of money set, items brought and ideas to buy, its my master sheet for xmas gifts and Id be lost without it. it. I also keep a tab for the food shopping an any other additional costs attributed to Xmas that I need to save for, this then gives me my total amount. Then I can work out how much I need to save or spend each month to ensure an even spread. With this set its important to stick to your budget.
3, Planning your shopping. I am a keen planner, I hate going shopping without an idea of what I'm buying an who for. Using your excel (or written) list write down ideas for people and a place where this can be purchased from, if you can use the internet and look up the website for these stores and check out prices, deals and availability. For me this is the stress free way of doing shopping.
4, Internet shopping. I am a massive fan of Amazon and I often shop there for gifts. If you do internet shopping then its a good way to buy gifts in the comfort of your own home. Buying online is almost always cheaper and stress free to shopping on the high street. With internet shopping you can check the total spend and using your list ensure you are buying items you will give for gifts and maybe even get some good ideas in the process.
5, Take advantage of any offers. With the economy as it is many companies fall over themselves to compete with offers and discounts, some are better than others but as a consumer we can get good deals out there. Morrison's currently do the saving stamps and the usual spend £40 over xx weeks and get a £xx money off coupon. These deals are very good, but only if you would usually spend that level each week. Boots also do points events which is for every £50 you spend you get £12 worth of points on your advantage card as well as 3 for 2 of the gift range. I myself buy quite a bit of stuff from Boots and I always plan my big Boots shop around when my local points event is, if you buy items in Boots its worth doing your shopping during this event, again its only worth doing if you would normally spend £50+
6, Take a day off work if possible. My and my sisters have always done an xmas shop last Saturday in November and would always head into Coventry or Birmingham to complete our xmas shop. One Saturday 5 years ago we went into Bham and it was so so busy that I got nothing done and I came home very stressed, after then I always booked the last Monday of November off work to complete it and so far its been a great thing to do. If you have children and/or hate busy shops booking a day in the week to go is a good thing to do because most people are at work and it gives you time to look around properly and less queuing, we actually make quite a day of it with some nice lunch and cocktails, it makes it less stressful. If you cant do this then I recommend heading into the shops first thing on a Saturday/Sunday or even late night shopping if your local town/city does this.
7, Cards, wrapping etc. Once I have my gifts I begin wrapping early December, just a 5/6 every night or every other night, it makes the task look less daunting and easier to complete in time. I often begin on a Sunday afternoon with a drink, chocolates and xmas music, you will soon get into it and the pile of presents to wrap will soon go down. With cards, if you do send them do as early as possible, I've been in the Post Office a week before xmas and its very busy, if you can send out postal cards early part of December do it.
8, Preparing the house. I get my tree up early December, its normally first weekend of December but similar to the gift wrapping I have a drink, eat chocolate and play xmas songs. It makes it more enjoyable, now I know to some that's quite early but I think it helps you get in the mood for xmas more. If you have people staying try to get things ready early on, if possible, like clean towels, sheets etc.
9, Food shopping. Since I moved out of the family home I've had to do my own xmas dinners and so with that comes more prep. For my food shop I buy my meat from the butchers, which I order in November, this is good because its then ready for me to collect no messing, M&S also do an order and collection range if you don't have a local butcher. With things like sweets, savouries etc items with a longer shelf life I buy throughout November and December, little bits here and there especially if items are on offer will help and mean that you wont do a massive shop come end of December. For my fresh food like vegetables, cheeses, bread etc, items with a short shelf life I go into my local Sainsbury's at 6am on 23rd December. I am one of those saddos outside queuing up waiting for it to open! laugh as people may do but its fairly quite and items are almost always in stock. I am in and out within the hour, just as it starts to get busy, again with this wrote a list before you go so you are not messing around. I try to buy enough so I don't need to go into a supermarket at all during the festive period (24th Dec - 2nd Jan) but this is down to individual preference.
10, Food prep. I prepare what food I can on Xmas eve, things like peeling the vegetables and leaving them in water is a good place to start, it reduces the prep on Xmas morning. Ensure the kitchen is clean and tidy, any washing up is done so you don't run out of plates.
11 most of all.....ENJOY IT!! Xmas, even for me is a slog sometimes but its good to take a step back and try to enjoy it as best you can. If you can follow even half my tips it should make it less stressful, it works for me.
~*~*~ Tips for a Hassle Free Christmas - If there ever is one! ~*~*~
I have four children, ages - 12, 9, 6 and 2 so as you can imagine Christmas is a hectic time in our house and I am always looking at ways to make it easier and less hassle, I have to admit now that I never have a completely hassle free Christmas but there are ways to make it easier!
~ Tips ~
1. Start your shopping early.
The earlier the better really, I start straight after Christmas, I get Christmas day out of the way and make a start online shopping and also in the shops when they open back up. Buying electricals can be a bit risky as you want the guarantee to last so I wouldn't rush out and buy TV's or big electrical equipment now, smaller stuff though yes!
2. Spread the cost.
I am a Park agent so I start saving for next Christmas in the November, a whole year before I am likely to get my stuff! I know in the past there was a massive uproar when Fairpak went under and people lost a lot of money but now you are guaranteed so it won't happen again.
I use Park for food and treat hampers, vouchers and toys which means I am able to spread the cost at a weekly rate through out the year and then in October/November I get my vouchers ready for shopping and my hampers which includes my Christmas meat without having to leave the house ... I love it!
3. Find out what people want.
My biggest worry at Christmas time is buying for other family members, like my grandparents, I never know what to get them and always end up buying flowers and a dressing gown or earrings for my nan and slippers, wine and a book for my grandfather - How dull! So listen and bring things into a conversation and find out what it is that they would like. My grandfather was saying a few weeks ago about just how many books he has and is running out of room for them, so I have bought him an E-Reader for Christmas, I am still waiting for my nan to say something!
My mum has mentioned that she would like a steam mop so it is very possible that I will be getting her one of these along with other bits too!
If you are worried about the expense of things, keep an eye out for sales.
4. Use the Internet.
Not just for online shopping, take a lot on the Money Saving Expert site and also Hot UK Deals and you will find some great bargains.
Just last week I managed to find a Thorntons price glitch on Hot UK Deals, boxes of chocolate for 1p, I got my order in and Saturday morning I took a delivery of a large amount of boxes! Thorntons were good enough to honour everyone's orders and for that I am grateful :)
Not only will it be price glitches but simple sales and deals that mean you may find the product you want at a low price. I am a regular user of these sites and they have reduced my shopping by a lot.
5. Buy your Christmas sweets early.
I don't know if you have all noticed but supermarkets are currently selling the large tubs of Roses/Quality Street/Celebrations for around £4 or even 2 for £7 etc so buy them now and hide them away, pop them in the attic if you have too, as your less likely to climb up there to scoff there ;)!
Start making a little hamper of sweets/crisps and put them away.
6. Handmade Christmas Gifts.
If you like making things then you could make some nice things to give as gifts, bath bombs, fudge, cakes etc all work well.
If you don't like making things then you could make up a hamper of gifts to give to people.
Last year I made a hamper for my hubbies grandparents, I bought a small Christmas tray, 2 mugs, teabags, coffee, posh biscuits and the like and made it all up to look nice and more than what it was, it was gratefully received and was liked more than slippers.
You could make up little themed hampers/baskets for children/parents/siblings etc.
Themes could include -
Characters ie. Mickey Mouse, Mike the Knight, Barbie, etc...
The choice is endless! You could pick bit's up through the weeks until you feel you have enough.
7. Keep a list.
A list is a must for me as I start buying so early it's easy to forget, I keep a sheet of paper in my purse with all the presents listed by the names of the people I buy for, makes it easy for me to keep track and also stops any duplicate purchases.
8. Wrap as you buy.
I tend to wrap things as I buy them or at least when I have around 6/7 items to wrap, this means my Christmas Eve can be spent having fun with the kids, bathing them, putting them to bed, relaxing, watching some Christmas TV and then laying out the pressies before going to bed myself, no sitting cross legged on the floor spending the night wrapping, rushing the kids to bed and doing some back breaking work, no siree, not me. Organisation is the key ... So she says!
9. Make Christmas Eve fun for the kids.
Our Christmas Eve is a busy day of going out for a walk, doing some fun things, generally tiring them out so that they can sleep through the excitement on Christmas Eve.
I wrap their pyjamas, slippers and pop them into a gift bag along with snowman soup and reindeer food, I then 'pop to the shops' in reality I am putting the gift bags on the door step, knocking the door and running up the street to hide, this is Santa's Elf dropping off the pyjamas for the boys, my children run out and look around in wonder (well my 6yr old still does) at where the Elf has disappeared too, I then return home a few moments later with the exclamation of the shop being shut already! The boys then rush to show me their pyjamas and I declare bath time!
After the bath, it's time to get into their PJ's whist I make their snowman soup, this is drank whilst watching something Christmasy and then we lay out treats for Santa and put out the reindeer food.
10. Embrace the madness.
Even though I like to think the preparation makes Christmas easier, I still have the mad panic that I have forgotten something or something is missing every year. I love it come 6pm when all the shops are shut and then I really can't do anything else about it, all worry vanishes and I feel fine, then I get all excited about how excited the kids will be in the morning! I love it!
~ Snowman soup??? Reindeer food??? ~
If you don't know what these are then you may well be a bit puzzled to my reference to them, you may well be asking yourself what have I missed??
Well wonder no more, here's my recipes for you -
*** Snowman Soup ***
This is simply a hot chocolate mix which is delivered to my children on Christmas eve by the Elf!
Take a sweet bag/plastic cone bag and put in a few spoons of hot chocolate powder/sachet of mix, a few marshmallows and tie the bag, add a candy cane through the loop of the ribbon used to tie and add a poem tag, there are many poems online that you can print out to use, they are very cute.
Was told you've been real good this year.
Always glad to hear it!
With freezing weather drawing near,
You'll need to warm the spirit.
So here's a little Snowman Soup
Complete with stirring stick.
Add hot water, sip it slow.
It's sure to do the trick!
When the weather outside is frightful,
Snowman Soup can be delightful.
May it warm your spirit and your soul.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
When you feel a chill or Burr,
Use the peppermint stick to stir.
Add hot water and sip it slow.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Search until you find one you like!
*** Reindeer food ***
This is very simple.
I fill a small bag with oats and glitter and make a little tag saying ' Reindeer Food ', the little ones love to put this out on a saucer or in a small bowl and then place it in the garden, in the night I go out and sprinkle a little bit out of the saucer onto the floor along with an extra bit of glitter to look like it's been eaten.
Hope you find this helpful.
Thanks for reading and I hope you have an amazing Christmas :o) xxx
Having 3 young children aged 8,3 and 1 I like to be very prepared and as organised as possible when it comes to Christmas and all that it entails, so here a few tips that I live by.
1. Start shopping as early as possible. I tend to start in the January sales and pick up bits throughout the year. Not only do I get some pretty good bargains it also means I'm able to spread the cost.
2. Order that Turkey! Or whatever you are eating for Xmas dinner. There is nothing worse than running around Xmas eve looking for a decent turkey. Mine is always ordered from the butchers in November, ready for me to collect Xmas eve along with my pigs in blankets.
3. Wrap in installments. I sat up one Xmas eve and wrapped all of my daughters presents (I only had her at the time) it took me hours, I was up til 3am and my back was in bits. Never again! I now start around the middle of November and just do a few at a time to save my poor back and ensure I get a good nights sleep Xmas eve.
4. Hand make gifts to save money. I don't have all that many people to buy for but there have been a few years we have struggled financially. Bath bombs, candles, fudge and truffles are simple to make and much appreciated.
5. Build any big toys. Things like dolls houses, train tables, kitchens etc all get built Xmas eve (by a frustrated Other Half) and wrapped in a big bow. We learnt our lesson one year, when my poor OH was trying to build a garage with a 2 year old trying to play with it at the same time and getting frustrated. Cue; tears and tantrums - and not from the toddler!
6. Prep as much as possible Xmas eve. I peel and chop all my veg and potatoes and keep them in a pan of water to prevent browning.
That's all I can think of for now. But will add more when I think of any!
Enjoy your Xmas everyone!
I think this will be our first Christmas with no believers left, but as our last child started secondary, I was a little relieved to discover she no longer did, as I feared for her friends realising and her getting teased, so would have had to have that conversation. Anyway although we no longer have Santa coming, I still like to have as stress free Christmas as poss. Here are my Top Ten Tips
1. Down sizing the gift recipients.
I had a major downscale of who I buy for a few years ago, at that time I was buying for;
Grandparents 2, Uncles 1, Parents 4, Siblings and partners 3 (we had reduced this when children arrived)
Nephews / nieces 12, Friends 5, friends children 6, Husband 1, our children 3. Total 37
I reduced this to grandparents, parents, my newly single brother, 2 friends, 3 friends children, husband and ours to a total of 14. I honestly believe only 1 friend was actually that bothered, everyone else was ok and agreed that present buying was getting out of hand. I found the time it took to find the right gifts was at actually worse than the money spent. So now Christmas is massively less stressful for me and I can spend more time and energy on the gifts do buy.
2. Budget. Having a clear list of who I'm buying for and how much to spend on each. I start literally straight after Christmas. I have a note book where I keep a record of all purchases next to each persons name, this prevents me over buying for one and under for the other.
3. Buy all year round. I keep my eyes out for bargains literally all year round, if I see a great deal or something that I think will be great for someone I always purchase and put in my "Christmas Cupboard"
4. Jan Sales purchases. As well as gifts, I always stock up on wrapping paper and cards as are especially cheap, again stored in my Christmas Cupboard.
5. Amazon Wish list. If I read a review that I think the item would make a good present, I put it in my wish list and watch it, when I feel I know its lowest price, I purchase. (using my review money obviously!)
6. Panto. I have to do Panto to get us all in the Christmas spirit. I generally book and pay for this in April so another thing I don't need to worry about.
7. Time off. Since the kids were little, I have always booked the last week of school off as annual leave (I am not allowed leave over the festive period) this allows for those school nativities, plays, parties, performances, concerts.... as I always find this particular week impossible if I don't as I work full time and have 3 children. It also allows for last minute shopping / wrapping.
8. Time as a family. We have family for Christmas day, go to parents Boxing Day, day out with friends Christmas Eve but I always like to ensure we make time as a family so the kids can "play" with their gifts and we have time to relax.
9. Wrapping. I tend to try and have wrapping days in October / November. Get everything out and put in people piles and wrap families in groups. Get an over view of what is left to buy and know which groups are completed.
10. Christmas Grocery Shop. I always book an asda delivery for the last shopping day before Christmas as find Supermarkets horrendous pre Christmas.
So these are my top ten tips. Hope they are useful.
This is my daughter's 3rd Christmas and prior to having her I only had a handful of relatives to buy for so left it until just before Christmas. This worked until last year by the time I go my daughter everything on her list and paid out for presents for the family as well as food and decorations for my new house I was really poor throughout December and January. It got to the pint when I had no money for the sales and I promises myself I would never do that again!
So this year I started early! I always make a wish list on Amazon for my shopping even if I can find it cheaper elsewhere just so I have an idea of what I am buying.
Once I have made a list I look on Google shopper so I can find the cheapest place to buy it. I started buying one or two bits and pieces every week starting in July. I find that this works well for me as it means I hardly miss the cash.
I have also found that by shopping early I have picked up some real bargains, I got Fisher Price little people 3 for 2 in Argos, I also got a kitchen reduced from £99 to £30 in Toys R Us which I have safely hidden in my garage.
I know it's only September but I feel a sense of relief that 2/3 of my Christmas shopping is done. In fact I think I will be able to afford extra presents for my Mum and Step Dad who have helped me out no end this year following a messy breakup with my ex. Last year I struggled to buy even one present. I know that it is not all about presents and simply being together is important but I like to treat the people I love the most.
So my top tips for a stress free Christmas shop is to forward plan, you can do this by deciding what you will be buying each person and I find it useful to write the approximate cost next to the item so I can add up what I am spending. I then recommend picking up a gift or two a week to spread the cost,I think buying early is the key to getting a bargain, many of the items I have brought in the past few months have been reduced.
Christmas should be enjoyable and not stressful and this year I am looking forward to Christmas. In fact this year when the light are switched on in Cardiff I am looking forward to a leisurely walk around winter wonderland and enjoying the market without the stress of queuing in the shops and walking around with masses of bags.
Christmas will never quite be 100% hassle-free for me. Something always goes wrong or turns up at last minute and I always want to find the best gifts, which sometimes means shopping for months! However, over the years I have honed myself into a present buying machine when it comes to birthdays and Christmas and I have my own little ways of doing things. Here they are:
1) Lists. With the everyday use of computers lists are very easy to keep around without losing them. Have a folder on your computer with a list for everyone you buy gifts for. List what they're into and paste in links to website pages that sell things they would like or even exact page links of an item you have seen that they would love. If you have these lists all year round it also makes birthdays easier.
2) Buy all year round. This makes present buying nearer Christmas easier if you already have half of what you need but also takes the financial strain off. Get a cardboard box and write Christmas all over it. If you find a one-off gift while you're away somewhere or at a market and you know someone will love it then it is never too early to buy it. The box will mean you know where everything is and check through the box before you do the rest of the shopping. If you have the time to check emails and spend an hour or so on line a day the sign up to website newsletters. I found some great presents when Amazon had one-day deals happening and some places have great sales all year round with different things added all the time.
3) Budget. Write a budget of how much you have to spend and then a list of who you're buying for. Then assign a set amount to each person. If you don't like you're miserable great-aunt much but would cause a rift if you didn't buy her anything then don't assign £50 to her, you can easily find thoughtful things that look more expensive than they are. If you're under you're budget then don't buy more things, see it as a bonus. If you buy too many things then don't feel the need to give them all, pop some to the side and they will serve just as well as birthday gifts.
4) Know what people like. A lot of stress can be caused by not knowing if people will like what you bought them so find out. If you don't know what your mum wants then talk to your dad or even talk to your mum. Most people have a hobby so that's always a good starting point. If you talk to someone nearer their birthday and mention ideas they may give you a lot of things they're looking for, write onto your lists afterwards and bear them in mind for Christmas. The other person will probably forget the conversation but be pleasantly surprised that you remembered and that they have been bought something they wanted.
5) Shopping location. If you want to buy thoughtful gifts then find out about local markets and small business' in your area. You will find something unique for a decent price. If you have a lot of things to buy then you can find great bargains online on sites such as Play.com and Amazon and it is brought straight to your door.
6) Time. If you don't have much time then it may be worth paying a little extra and getting your items sent gift wrapped or your local charity may do a gift wrapping service. For a small amount you can take all your items and they'll wrap it for you taking away one stressful job (especially if, like me, you're terrible at wrapping).
If you stick to your guns and plan ahead it can take away a lot of the stress of buying gifts at any time of year. I am not a big fan of shopping but with some organisation I find it fun (and sometimes a challenge) to try and find great gifts for everyone. These are just some of the things I do and I hope my tips help to also make your present buying a little less stressful in the future.
Is there anything such as hassle free shopping at anytime let alone Christmas? Well I think so if you start early enough and this year I have actually started for next year as this year was chaotic with me leaving almost everything to the last minute, something I promise myself every year I won't do and do do!
However like I say its Christmas Eve and I've started and have a plan of action for next year already!
Alot of my Christmas present shopping is always done online. I find browsing for what I want in the comfort of my own armchair with a steaming cup of coffee and not getting pushed about and freezing cold, confused and with achy arms dragging stuff about the best way forward. This year I earnt alot of Dooyoo miles I got put into Amazon vouchers and spent them on all things Christmas for the past couple of months, this coming year I shall be saving them vouchers sooner and doing more online surveys for assorted vouchers and not cashing in my Ciao balance so late so I can use all that money too!
Boxing Day for me is a shopping day, hitting the sales grabbing myself a few new bargains and bits and pieces that I want for me and my home. This year I shall be getting all my Christmas cards, wrapping paper and even a few little stocking fillers for next year and even new decorations and popping them in a cupboard I've emptied for this reason already.
This year as well I made sure I cleared out alot of my freezer and food storage cupboards to make room for Christmassy food. I didn't need alot as I don't spend Christmas at home but I do go home after when I like to have my friends round and still enjoy the spirit of Christmas and for that I did an online shop so I could budget and think about what I wanted and needed again without getting stressed about this not being in and that being out of stock and again no dragging around bags and boxes full of stuff and getting wet and cold in the UK weather!
This next year I will pace myself for Christmas and do bits as I go along when I have the time and the opportunity arises instead of rushing and leaving myself worrying have I got this and have I done that on Christmas Eve as I am doing now as I write this review. Christmas to me is a marathon and shouldn't be a sprint where your left feeling frazzled and drained as me and my mum and step dad feel now, even mum said earlier she wish she hadn't left so much to the last minute and blanched vegetables last week and so on, Christmas is to be enjoyed after-all!
Merry Christmas everybody, preparation is key me thinks!
If you are reading this in November and have not done anything for Christmas then you have pretty much missed the boat.
My way of being organised begins immediately after Christmas:
Take full advantage of the Sales after Christmas - this is for buying both presents and gift wrap and cards. Also check what decorations you need to replace and get them on the sales too.
Make a list of those you buy for at Christmas so you know what presents to stock-pile. I have a master list of Birthdays and Christmas gifts needed.
Do NOT put your cards up in the attic!
Keep a separate address book for Christmas cards and have it up-to-date - or as some do - have sticky labels printed off the computer (but I ruined a printer that way once so never again!).
Start writing your cards early - that could be anytime from September (thats why you shoudn't have them in the attic with the decoratioons!).
Aim to wrap most of your gifts in November to leave December free for fun. This is the time to buy anything else as gifts you need - but if you've been clever it won't be much.
At the end of November write any notes or letters to go in the cards.
Get decorations down at the end of November - so you have plenty of time to enjoy decorating the house and appreciating the Christmas atmosphere.
To save money try and hand-deliver as many cards and gifts as possible.
As your cards arrive, staple to ribbons and hang from the walls - so you won't get them falling all over the place.
Do a large Tesco online shop as close to Christmas as possible - that way it should take you well into the New Year.
Don't worry if you do not get people the 'perfect gift' - they never are anyway and as long as you have given them a token present it shows you have thought of them. there is no point in going into debt to please others.
Lay the Christmas table the night before and prepare all the vegetables.
Make sure someone buys you a good book - or buy one for yourself!
RELAX AND ENJOY - we all spend way too much time stressing and worrying - the day will come and go whether we are 'ready' or not - so chill out.
Also as people all now tend to have less money we may start to get back to less materialistic times (apart from the kids of course!).
I try and be as organised as possible with my Christmas shopping as I work extra hours during November and December so do not want to join the last minute present rush. All I want to be doing on Christmas eve is dropping the last few gifts off and sitting in front of a good film with the Christmas lights on a scented candle burning and a extra large glass of something pink, dry and fizzy! So here are my top tips for Christmas shopping:
1. Hit the January sales, this is an excellent time to take advantage and pick up some great bargains. Things such as gift sets like toiletries if kept in a cool dry place will keep perfectly well. The same toiletries gift sets are usually repeated year after year to with only slightly different packaging. My favourite place for finding these bargains is Boots, and if you keep an eye out around 3 weeks after Christmas any remaining gifts will go down to a whopping 75% off the full price. You can also pick up your gift wrap and cards this way to.
2. Write a list and stick to it, put everyone's name on the list a price of how much you want to spend and then allocate a gift for them. Try and always stick to the budget and do not add on extra gifts when you spot something you think they would like as once you start this it is a slippery slope, you will soon be over budget and feel like you also have to spend more on others for the spend to match.
3. Look out for special offers and additional sales throughout the year you may be able to find an early bargain that will save until Christmas.
4. Get working hard on Dooyoo and survey sites such as toluna and valued opinions to earn those extra pennies and vouchers early. Some of these vouchers can take a few weeks to arrive but can really add up and save you a fortune on your Christmas shopping you can even give the vouchers as gifts to save you doing any shopping at all.
5. For elderly friends or relatives make your own hampers, many shops sell ready made hampers but the value of what is inside tends to be quite low compared to the price of the hamper itself. I make mine and my husbands grandparents hampers filled with Marks and Spencer's food each year. Things like tea bags, jam and biscuits can be purchased from around September onwards if you check for a long sell by date. This way I pick up a few things at a time when I pop in which means that I do not really notice the cost and can find items on offer. Then I decorate a strong box with pretty gift wrap, fill with some shred, pile in the food and wrap with celeophane and a pull bow. This way to you can fill the hamper with only the things that the person likes to so you know that non will go to waste and it will be a personalised gift.
6. If you buy your Christmas cards in the sales you can write them at any point during the year and pop them away all ready to be handed out or posted in December.
7. Once all the presents have been purchased allocate one day or evening to a full wrapping session. Lay out all the gifts in order of who they are for and wrap away.
8. I always do my food shopping about 2 days before Christmas at around midnight. The first time I tried this I was amazed how easy it was. Many large supermarkets now open 24 hours (with the exception of Sunday's), this is the case for my local large Tesco. So I walk down there, you will only find a handful of customers in the store and they are usually filling all the shelves up so there is plenty of stock and no ques at the tills!
It may feel early to be talking about Christmas - I hate those reminders that it's only x days to go (34 today!) but as I am the most organisationally challenged person in the world, I thought I could help my similarly time / motivation poor brethren with a timely reminder that actually, 34 days isn't very long....
That's the trouble, isn't it? We're so used to being bombarded with tinsel and Rudolf deelyboppers from September onwards that we get lulled into a false sense of "Christmas is ages away!" security until it's suddenly December 20th and the shops are like a glimpse into the seventh circle of hell.
I am lucky in that my family has adopted a foolproof scheme - we all buy our own presents. This may be unsentimental, but it does mean that we all get what we want. (I've taken the attitude that commercialisation is part of Christmas, so we might as well make it work for us.)
Assuming that your family takes a less mercenary view of presents, the next best thing is the wishlist. (I have about ten on Amazon, all carefully categorised. Nerdy, but necessary.)
Where to go:
For stress free shopping, Amazon is always my first port of call - it's generally the cheapest choice for music, books and DVDs (although it's worth checking out play.com, greenmetropolis.com, and Asda and Tesco's websites for a price comparison.) It also sells pretty much everything else, including jewellery, toys, gardening equipment, furniture, food and clothes. (They are taking over the world, I tell you!) The joy of doing all your Christmas shopping with a few clicks of the mouse (either lounging about in your pyjamas, or sneakily, in quiet moments at work) is enjoyably smug-making. And there is no lugging heavy bags all the way home, overheating in shops or being stuck in carpark traffic.
My second favourite website to shop at is etsy.com. This fantastic site (better known in the US although it's gaining ground rapidly on this side of the pond) features goodies made by individuals; meaning you can magnanimously contribute to someone's kitchen business - how's that for seasonal cheer? You can choose from jewellery, clothes, furnishings ,and paintings, among many others . The variety and home-madeness guarantees you'll find something a little bit different from the norm.
Magazines always urge you to make your own presents, because apparently people love them so much. Which is all very nice, but in the past when I have had lofty ambitions to make gorgeous be-ribboned boxes of homemade fudge, or sequin encrusted accessories, I have ended up stressed, and with a tighter schedule, messier house and lighter purse than I would have if I'd just bunged a CD in a bag. Plus, I don't think people are generally as appreciative of homemade presents as you might expect. I'm sure they realise the effort you've put into it, but who wants a bag of reindeer biscuits when they were expecting a Spooks box set?
(Having said that, for the last two years I have make my mum and dad a calendar each - with pictures from icanhascheezburger.com, as they are both suckers for a cute furry face. However, the making of these calendars has largely taken place late on Christmas Eve / the early hours of Christmas morning. One year, they were allowed to admire their gifts but not touch them, as the glue was still drying. Of course, this year will be different...)
Internet shopping has many advantages (not least generally lower prices)but there are drawbacks. One major problem is the time it takes to be delivered - sometimes you need something RIGHT NOW. Here are a few of my favourite shops:
* If you can face the likes of Oxford Street (sometimes I like to test myself, just to see if I really do have the necessary nerves of steel) Paperchase on Tottenham Court road will be full of inspiring ideas.
* Vinmag.com is a shop in Soho which sells fantastic movie posters, t shirts, and all manner of things you never knew you needed, such as a "Bates motel" soap dish or a Wizard of Oz tea towel. The website has a limited selection of stock, so shopping for a movie buff may require a trip to the Big Smoke.
* Heals -hideously expensive, but you can check it out then steal their ideas. One of my favourites was a transparent plastic case, filled with lots of different sweeties in compartments. It cost about £30. The same effect could be achieved a Hobbycraft storage box and penny sweets.
What to get:
You know all this already - but if you are in panic mode and your mind has gone blank:
* DVD Box sets: A series of must have TV (True Blood, 24, Dexter, etc) or movies. Would anyone in their right mind be disappointed in a lovely set of classic Hepburn / Bogart / Cagney films? Or you could also get the latest, "re-mastered, commentary and documentary with knobs on" DVD of a favourite film they've seen lots of times...
* CDs: Taste in music is a very personal thing, but here is where an Amazon wishlist is invaluable.
* If a member of the family is a big fan of any particular film or TV show - from Dora the explorer to the Godfather - there will be plenty of accessories to be found - Ebay is my favourite place to find bargains.
* Experiences: OK, so it's less exciting to unwrap, but you could get a voucher for something lovely like a day at a spa, or even a zoo experience (being a keeper for a day or hanging out with the elephants). A word of caution: make sure the recipient actually wants the experience you're offering them (ie don't use this as a means of manipulating your family members; Your mum is not going to want to go skydiving just because you've bought her a voucher for it).
* That old cliché, bath products, is a mixed bag. If your loved one is a fan of Lush - well, a gift box or personalised bag of favourites is a sure winner. Likewise, if Lush is a bit full on for their tastes, there are plenty of ethically minded, goats milk and oatmilk type soapy products (see etsy!). But those generic, bubble bath and body lotion sets you see in Boots? Nope. They are suitable only as joke gifts, as in "See how much thought I *snigger* put into your gift this year."
* You have to be pretty confident that you know someone's taste before you buy them items of clothing or jewellery. (In fact, being confident doesn't necessarily mean you are right - several times my family / friends have proclaimed "I had to get this! It's SO YOU!" while presenting me with something extremely pink and fluffy. Which I would have LOVED... when I was 12.) But you could try something like gloves, a scarf, or the classic: socks. (Hey, we always need more of them!) Last year I got some fluffy slipper boots. They may be chavtasitic, but they have kept my tootsies warm all year and have been brilliantly useful.
* Cath Kidston(online and in stores nationwide) is full of lovely, vintage style fabrics, purses, towels, etc. (Warning: if you like the sound of this, only look if you have cash to splash.... you'll only be torturing yourself otherwise.)
* If all else fails, wine and chocolates. It's so trendy to be vegan / gluten intolerant / fairtrade these days, that you should be able to find something to please everybody.
Buying for children:
No doubt advertising will have got to them and there will be a "must have" toy this year, hyped up solely to manipulate those unfortunate parents who will end up weeping at the empty shelves of Toys R us. Or perhaps you have been nagged for a wii / wii accessories for the last 6 months? Here are a few other ideas:
* Books books books! No matter what age group you are buying for, books are such a wonderful investment; I cannot recommend them enough. Even if they are disdainfully tossed aside on Christmas morning, there may be a rainy Sunday a few months later when that paperback suddenly becomes riveting. And I sometimes want to buy young children's books purely for the beautiful illustrations.
* www.insectlore.com sells eco-aquariums; you can learn about frogs, breed butterflies and hatch your own praying mantis. (Only give these if mum and dad are happy for creepy crawlies to join the family...)
* When shopping for small girls, Claire's accessories is a veritable orgy of pink, glittery, Hello Kitty goodness.
* Hawkins bazaar (www. hawkin.com) sells a fantastic range of stocking fillers for children and adults. It is really quite brilliant, with all those classic toys you had forgotten about - rubiks cubes, slinkies, and etcha sketch. (Am I taking you back to your childhood yet?)
* Again, chocolate (especially in Christmassy shapes like Santas and reindeer) will always be a winner.
The shopping itself
* They may seem hellish but malls are the best way to go. For one thing, you won't have to take an umbrella or keep taking your coat off. In fact, my No. 1 TOP TIP is to go without a coat; wear just a thin t-shirt. (I'm assuming you can actually drive and park at said mall.) Getting overheated and panicky in stuffy, packed shops is what makes the whole experience uncomfortable; being cool and calm and not having to carry a bulky jacket will make the day so much more palatable.
* Within an hour of the shops opening or closing are the best times to shop without crowds (with the notable exception of 5pm on Christmas eve).
* Wear comfortable shoes - duh.
* Use the lightest handbag you can manage.
* Shop on a full stomach. Hunger pangs and the subsequent headache make me *Very. Irritable. Indeed.* Queues and braindead shop assistants will only exacerbate the situation.
* Little and often may be more convenient, (especially if you live or work nears a good set of shops)or you might prefer to just get it over with in one long, tiring day (although you may find you quite enjoy it once you get going).
One last tip: See as many family members AFTER Christmas as you can, that way you can delay shopping for them. The shops may be heaving again in January but at least you might get some bargains. Good luck!
As much as Christmas itself annoys the hell out of me, I completely love Christmas shopping. I like to think that I'm pretty thoughtful when it comes to buying other people gifts and I normally put a lot of thought and effort into finding something that I know they will love. Generally, I don't like to buy from peoples own wish lists because anyone can pick something from there. I really like to think that I know who I am buying for and that I don't need a list in order to get them something fantastic. Once I think of something that I think someone will like, I tend to write it down or save it onto a list on my computer so that I don't forget. This way, I don't end up running around shops like a crazy lady a couple of days before Christmas without a clue what I'm buying. Anyone seen that episode of Friends where they all end up getting things like car air fresheners? I think that would be me on Christmas Eve if I wasn't organised.
Usually I like to start quite early when it comes to Christmas shopping. Working in retail myself for the past 4 years, I know just how crazy the shops can get and I don't really want to be waiting forever in those queues if I can help it. I like to start my shopping in September, sometimes a little earlier depending on the sales. I know that sounds cheap but you can find some amazing bargains in the sales just after summer ends. I find these sales a good place to start when buying gifts for girls especially because you can find some nice jewellery or bags etc for a decent price instead of paying a stupid amount for them in November or December.
My Nanna actually starts her Christmas shopping a couple of days after. She seems to buy a lot of decorations every year and these always go for at least half the price of the normal RRP on Boxing Day. The same goes for wrapping paper and cards which is something that I really don't see the point in paying a lot of money for. Last year, I bought a lot in the ASDA sale and I still have a lot left over. My family don't mind at all if they don't have different wrapping paper each year and I find that this saves me a lot of money.
Last Christmas was the first year that I had Dooyoo to help me out. From October, I used quite a lot of my vouchers to buy things like DVDs and books from Amazon to help cut my costs down. I find that by buying gifts with these vouchers, I am able to buy people more because I'm not actually spending as much money and Amazon is cheaper than the high street for these items. Shopping online in general will save you a lot of money in the long run if you buy from websites with free delivery. Shopping online also takes away a lot of the stress of Christmas shopping because you don't have to deal with irate, insane shoppers. Just be sure to order in plenty of time for Christmas delivery.
If you have cards which gain points with each purchase, it is a good idea to save these up throughout the year. My Mum ended up with a lot of money on her Boots card last year and was able to buy my Nanna some Chanel No. 5 which is not cheap. If you use these points throughout the year, you will generally not see the benefit or anything to show for your shopping. Using the points at the end of the year will save you a lot of money on Christmas presents.
The town that I live in doesn't have a lot of amazing shops so I tend to go somewhere else for the bulk of my shopping if I haven't already done it online. My sister lives in Sheffield now so lots of good places to go there and next Christmas I will be living in Nottingham so I'm hoping to be able to find some amazing gifts.
I'm always skint so Christmas can be a bit daunting, worrying about whether I will be able to get everyone something they want. However over recent years I have learnt a few things that have made it easier! My best tip is to keep your eyes open all year for things that friends/relatives want, just keep it in a safe place, and don't forgot you bought it! This spread the cost out throughout the year and means you won't have to panic buy them something in December that they might not even want (which is a huge waste of money!). Online shopping is also great, seeing as you can get practically anything from the internet it is a great way of shopping without having to leave your house! Just make sure you do it way in advance of Christmas so it can arrive in time! If are really, really strapped for cash there is always home made presents! Home baked cakes or biscuits show a lot more thought than effort than some bath stuff or novelty tie picked up in Debenhams!
Most people hate the dread 'C' word, not me though, I love it!! Ever since I was little it has always been my favourite time of the year and not just the presents, the whole atmosphere of it. Before giving birth to my son I was so unorganised when it came to buying presents, I would leave everything to the last minute and then get so stressed when the shops wouldn't have the things I wanted or town would be so packed with people you couldn't move.
Then as soon as I gave birth to my gorgeous little boy it was if something clicked and suddenly my head was screwed on when it came to money. So for the last 3 years I've started preparing myself for Christmas throughout the year, after all I do have 3 sisters, 4 nephews, 2 nieces and my son to buy for. Then there's my parents and sisters partners, it's never ending.
Starting from as early as June, any toys or clothes I see in sales I pick up if I think my son or a family member will like. I always have ideas of what I want to buy in my head, I search websites to find exactly what shop sells the items cheaper (after all when it costs less you can buy more) and then I pick a day to go and buy it. My actual Christmas shopping starts from mid August to September, I know that's early but being a single mother on benefits (not by choice); I just can't leave it all until the last minute. By mid November I'm normally nearly finished, but then I see new toys, clothes and accessories on adverts and always find someone to buy them for.
In my opinion I would have to say the best time to go shopping for Christmas presents would have to be during school time but this isn't possible for people who work fulltime hours. My Mother tends to keep a few holidays to use at the start of December and we go and try getting everything she has to buy. By the end of the day I usually look like I have a week's worth of shopping hanging off my pushchair (the comedian Lee Evans has pointed out this look), but it just adds to the excitement.
The only thing I don't like is having to wrap everything I have bought, it's so time consuming. But then seeing your loved ones faces when opening their presents you have bought is priceless. It makes you realise that all the time effort and stress was worth it.
For me christmas is the best time of the year, with beautifully set out streets lined with fairy lights, decorations, fetes, events, parties, freinds and family and of course presents and food, but it also has to be the most stressful time of the year. I try and lessen the blow of the last minute stress and push with these tips:
* Book a delivery slot for your dry food items early in december and get them delivered therefore they are out of the way, so buy online!
* Book again a delivery slot a few weeks in advance but for your fresh goods to be delivered the week of christmas but be quick in december as these go very fast indeed, however take the stress out of last minute supermarket panic and rush, and you wont forget anything.
* Keep a christmas present list either in your diary or on your computer to update throughout the year making notes of what people like, want and ideas for what you could buy them.
* Do your husbands shopping for him, take away the stress of asking time and time again and then having to do it yourself in the end anyway!
* Order your turkey online, or in store early in december, alternatively order at the butchers early
* Wash and clean everything and everywhere in the 2nd week of december for a sparkling house and clean clothes.
* Take all party ware to the dry cleaners at the end of november ready for the party season
* Have your clothes laundered
* Buy the bulk of presents online to be delivered and use a cashback site
* Have one or several days where you have a very short list to buy and go out to enjoy the christmas events and markets
* Stock up with alcohol at the beginning of december
* List daily plans over the period and book people in in november or beginning of december for drinks and dinner
* Decorate your table christmas eve morning
* Write and send cards the first week of december
* List throughout the year of events, parties, santa visits and trains that you want to go on and take children to
* List a few tasks each week
* When in doubt..buy vouchers!
These are my basis to dos in the month of december and before to take off a little of the pressure at christmas and it works for me so do the same and enjoy the month of december instead of rushing and worrying.