“ Are you the Christmas-Martha Stewart of your neighbourhood? Capable of wrapping presents with one hand and basting a turkey with the other? Share your tips and hints here to help the rest of us less-than-super-humans to stand up to the biggest domestic test of the year. „
Being stuck at home with ME and also not having lots of money (like many these days) I tend to do bits for Christmas throughout the year.
1. I always get my cards, wrap and crackers in the January sales.
2. When packing decorations away make a list of anything missing or that you would like to add to your collection - keep this list handy so when stuff comes on sale in the Autumn you will know what you need.
3. Make a list of all those who you give Xmas gifts to and try and pick up items online in the January Sales (I have most of mine already). I keep an eye on the Money Saving Expert forum for tips of bargains online - have got loads of Landsend scarves this eyar for under £1 each - so I can get quality gifts at rock bottom prices.
4. In January keep the old Christmas cards and use either for gift tags or also (as I do) cut attractive scenes out of the cards and use to decorate the plain red gift bags that were on sale in Tescos for 20p (these have the advantage of being able to be used for Birthdays too if left plain).
5. Have a list of who to send cards to and start writing n October.
6. In the end of November write any letters you wish to include with the cards.
7. Wrap all your presents in November - but keep a list of what you have wrapped and who for!
8. Decorate the house in the beginning of December and put presents under tree.
I also have a large amount of dummy wrapped boxes - that go under the tree both before and after Christmas.
These can be any old boxes wrapped up - cereal, catfood, teabags etc. - that way you always look as though you have a vaste amont of gifts and it stops the underneath foothe tree looking bare - though we do put a red skirt at the base of the main tree too - cut from a red sack from the £1 Shop!
9. Buy some stamps early - don't wait for the Christmas ones to come out - I try and buy a book a week in the Autumn so you don't notice so much.
10. I usually give my two sons money - or get them to choose what they want - usually items from Amazon online. I do however give them lots of llittle items to open - what is Christmas without novelties and books!
11. Lay the Christmas table on Christmas Eve and clean all the vegetables in advance.
12. I am able to get ALL my Christmas food and gift shopping done online - so it is possible to do it without visiting the shops at all.
13. Christmas cards - I love having these all out on display - the nicest and easiest way I have found is with floor to ceiling lengths of ribbon - staple the cards with an inch or two in between down the whole length of the ribbon and then hand these from the top of the walls around the room. I usually have 6/7 and find they fill up the empty wlal space nicely - and look good eaither side of the fireplace.
This year I got two card holders from Lakenad to save having to get up to the ceiling - but I ddin't fidn that they displayed the cards in such a nice way so we went back to our cheap ribbons - I use dark green but tartan would be good too or any colour to go with your scheme.
By spreading the cost of Christmas we never find it too expensive and there is no hassle in December to wrap presents or write cards - as it is all done.
We love Christmas and decorating and usually have four Christmas trees up and lots of decorations!
I'm a huge fan of Christmas; just love everything about it, since getting a paper round at the age of 13 I've always bought gifts for all my family and friends and decorated my bedroom like a Santa's grotto with lots of tinsel and pretty decorations (I've just turned 20 and this hasn't changed although I'd like to think the gifts I buy now are more appreciated from when i used to get £9 a week for delivering the local paper, although Christmas is by no was just about the presents). I also like to be organised at Christmas, especially the last few years since going into full time employment you think you have plenty of time left to get sorted then all of a sudden it's the big day, certainly in the last 2-3 weeks in the run up to Christmas I tend to end up working 7 days a week as the store is so busy and I like to make the most of the overtime, always helps!
Below I will try and offer some of my own tips and advice on how to not only be organized at Christmas but have the best time possible.
January is one of the best times to prepare for Christmas the following year for several reasons but one of the main one being it's the January sales where many retailers slash the prices of gifts by between 50-70% and as long as the item is not going to go out of date e.g. chocolate or sweets then why not pick up items you can give as gifts the following year not only will this give you a great head start on the following year but can also save you a nice fortune. Many sales now start on Boxing Day in store although I noticed that alot of on-line retailers started their sales Christmas Eve this year. One thing that I would advise though is getting a notepad to write down all the gifts you have bought because chances are a few months down the line you may forget and don't want to end up double buying a product!
January is also a great time to get all you Christmas cards, wrapping paper and accessories for the following year, I've done this for many years as the way I see it is your only going to have to pay full price when Christmas does come around so why not get it cheaper, wrapping paper and cards are never going to go off, I've probably got enough wrapping paper to last me the next few Christmas's although I always find myself end up buying more.
If like my family you receive lots of Christmas cards, another option other than recycling them is to use them as tags, you could just cut them into a square shape although I like to get some of the fancy edged scissors as I think it has a lovely effect, then you have all you tags for next year and they have not cost you a penny!
As soon as one Christmas is over, come January 1st I always start saving for the following Christmas, some people may think it's a bit crazy as it's only just finished by why not? It saves on a big dent in your bank come December. The last few years each time I've got paid I've but a set amount of money into a savings account then withdraw September/October time although if I buy bits during the year in the sales I deduct the money from the account.
Another way of making some extra money for Christmas is ebaying! Why not sell on any unwanted Christmas presents or have a raid round the house to see what is no longer needs, If I see something that hasn't been worn in my wardrobe for several months and I know I will no longer wear then that can go on. Most supermarkets offer saving stamps too, you simply put £1 in the machine and get a token, buy a couple every week and you would have over £100 come Christmas, this could be used to get Christmas food shopping, if redeeming through December you can normally also get a small extra bonus.
You can also start buying any extra treats for Christmas early as most shops start to get them in end of august, items with long dates such as tins of chocolate also we tend to just get little bits like condiments, gravy granules and stuffing - just don't be tempted to eat them, they may only be a few pound each but it's a few pound less to find during December, then if you buy a few bits each week in December you only have fresh items to buy like the turkey, which actually most supermarkets half price on Christmas eve but it's a chance you have to be willing to take.
Also another very valuable tip I have found is get your Christmas cards wrote during November then as soon as it hits the start of December you can get them sent out, this is one less thing to worry about, if you sending cards abroad check with the last Christmas posting dates with the post office as for some very far places the last day is early December although if you are just sending within the uk then the last posting day for first class is usually around 21st and second is a few days early although I tend to just send all my post second in December and it gets there just as fast!
If you're going to be short of cash this Christmas then why not try making some gifts yourself, there always more appreciated too, have a good at making some fudge or shortbread then get some cello wrapping to wrap it up in, then add a bow and some curling ribbon and you have a gorgeous handmade present, its shows that you have put alot of thought into it too.
I still have an advent calendar now although mine is one where you add little gifts yourself if you are getting chocolate ones then make sure you get them early as come December 1st all the nice ones are all sold out and it's just the cheap ones left with the chocolate that tastes not very nice.
One of my favourite parts of the build up to Christmas is the wrapping although I tend to do this all in one go about a week before Christmas otherwise you could forget what you've bought and items could get damaged and incase your going to have to return an item because you've changed your mind your going to have to unwrap it, also if you have small children who will be getting electrical items for Christmas don't forget to test them prior to the big day otherwise be prepared for some very upset little people!
Then come Christmas eve you can be thankful you're not one of the headless chickens running around last minute you can put your feet up, stick some nice new pyjamas on and put a good Christmas DVD on, always the Grinch for me, such a good Christmas film which you can pick up for about £3 including delivery from HMV and most importantly have a nice time, enjoying the company of family!
I'm afraid I am a terribly disorganised person. Seriously, I organise what must be organised. I am never late for an appointment, nor are my children, and I actually did organise trips and activities for community groups - still do a wee bit. But if it doesn't have to be organised I don't do it. I don't need to worry about sticking to a schedule --- because I don't have one. I have one plan for Christmas and it is quite simple - HAVE FUN!!!
My tips for a disorganised Christmas.
Now in order to function with so little organisation, there are some essentials.
1: Keep things simple. At one time I would have laid out an incredible spread : several starters, turkey, ham, home made bread, home made cranberry sauce, my own stuffing which took hours on its own, fresh baked pies, cake, tray after tray of biscuits, vegetables, mashed potatoes, roasties... the list could go on and on. Problem was, we are a small family and even though the dog was happy to tuck into a plate of turkey as well, most of the food went to waste. Then I got sick and to be honest, such a large meal is beyond me now. It also meant I spent the whole day cooking when I really wanted to spend time playing with my son.
So now with 2 children and less ability to do things I have simplified quite a bit. We don't have starters on Christmas Day, we have a meal of starters only on Christmas Eve. I buy a small turkey roast and ham roast from Tesco. They are all ready to cook, you just peel off the plastic and pop then in the oven. I have ready made stuffing , and frozen roasties as well. We'll skip the fresh baked bread and a few other bits, and the only thing I really have to cook is mashed potatoes, which my husband can help with if needed. It's a much more simple meal, but it's all I can do now, and I'm glad I won't be cooking all day. In all honesty, my children don't really like a nice Christmas dinner anyway. They want pizza. And it means I can spend all that time playing with them, which is a brilliant trade off!
2: Do everything you can in advance. I'll get biscuit dough made tomorrow. I can supervise as the children roll it out and make all of our biscuits on Christmas Eve. The shopping was done long ago - most of it online. To really speed things up, you can do an online shop with Tesco a week in advance, booking a delivery slot just before Xmas with all those needed essentials like bread, milk, eggs etc... No way on earth would I be out shopping in the general mayhem this weekend.
3: Don't stick to a schedule. Yes you heard me, forget any form of schedule - something always ruins it anyway and you end up racing to catch up. I'll cook the roasts and such early and just leave things until we are hungry. It doesn't really matter what time we eat. Of course a bigger dinner must be scheduled a bit - you don't want the spuds done hours before the main course! But it is not a major issue if it ends up a bit earlier or later than planned - it will taste just as nice.
4: Be a pig! Everyone is entitled to mess once a year. I don't care if my house looks like a hurricane has gone through it - and it likely will. The mess will still be there tomorrow and I'll tackle it in my own time. But it won't be Christmas the next day, and I'll never have another Christmas when my boys are 3 and 6, I'm going to enjoy every minute of it.
5: Everything does not have to be perfect! Yes, I know we all want the perfect Christmas, and strive for it, but there are things beyond our control. Christmas isn't always perfect, but that doesn't mean we don't have cherished memories. I wrote about my best Christmas gift ever on another site. I was only 8 and we didn't really get any toys that year. One of those things - My Grandpa thought my Mom would be bringing toys and she thought he would be getting them. He bought us a toaster and egg poacher. The grown ups were terribly concerned that we would be traumatised, but it is my favourite Christmas memory from childhood. Everything went wrong that year, but we were home with family, and my Grandparents had plenty of time for us. I remember my Grandfather telling me war stories, and his stories are a gift that will stay with me all of my life.
I hope everyone gets everything they asked for, but if a child doesn't get every toy they dreamed of, it can still be a wonderful Christmas. If the dog eats the turkey and you have to pull out frozen pizzas ( yes that happened once too), or if said dog manages to pull the whole tree down and pretty well wreck all the ornaments as well as eating the box of chocolates you bought your mother - it's still Christmas! ( I won't even the mention the effects two pounds of chocolates have on a Labradors digestive tract!) My husband and I are not really doing presents for ourselves this year. I got him a small model ship and two books for myself. We don't need gifts. We have our children and will enjoy seeing them opening their presents much more, but we have each other as well, and after a dozen years together, I still appreciate what a gift we have in finding each other. We might not be perfect, but we both love each other just as we are. It isn't the presents, the tree or the dinner that make Christmas.
My heart goes out to the many who will be alone at Christmas, but if you have family and friends and you can be together, everything else is just a bonus. Looking back on my own childhood and various Christmas disasters, I have to admit, this is the stuff memories are made of. Years later you can remember all the problems and have a good laugh. You just don't remember the years when everything went right. I wouldn't trade one of our Christmas disasters for a picture perfect white Christmas and all that tat. I like our disasters, it's a part of who we are :) What matters is spending time together and being with the ones you love.
I appreciate my style may be far too disorganised for many people, but whatever your plans, don't let plans run your day. If something throws a wrench in your schedule, then just laugh and go with it. It doesn't have to be a perfect day to create cherished memories - and if everything possible should go wrong - remember you may be creating holiday memories your children will look back on with a giggle for years to come! Take the time to have fun and enjoy the company of those you love. There is no better gift than of time together.
So I don't have a huge amount of ideas or tips. Neither do i have a huge amount of advice for Christmas although here are some ideas...
There are so many things you can do in January to help you prepare for next Christmas! Stupid I know but we all know how busy can get, so doing as much as you can straight after Christmas will help you to save time.
1) when you take down your old cards, make a list of everyone who sent you one (and any notifications of address changes) this way you have your Christmas card list sorted for next time round!
2) invest in a pair of crimping shears and cut up any old cards to use as pretty gift tags for next Christmas. You can also save the white back to use as scrap paper.
Keep all of your decorations in a labelled box and make a note of anything you need to buy or which may need replacing for next year. That way you hopefully won't get the decs out only to realise you are missing something half way through decorating the tree
See what items you can buy for next year in the sales for next year, although do be careful - we can often tell when you use last years M&S Christmas cards which you bought in the sale!!!
Ok I know Christmas is the last thing on people's minds here but why not start saving stamps or vouchers from supermarkets in a safe place so you can spend them near Christmas and reduce your bills in Decemer?
If you are anything like me and like to make your own gifts/cards/etc you can begin saving scraps, ribbons, wrapping paper, etc. It is my birthday this month so I often have quite a few bits and bobs I can stash away from presents.
Definitely not the time to be thinking of Christmas but this is the month when a lot of restaurants and functions will begin to advertise and take bookings for December. If you are looking to book a big night out, now is the time to start making enquiries.
Early bits to save money
Nobody likes a huge credit card bill in December. You have enough outgoings this month as it is, so why not start to buy in Christmas presents now to save money and time? I took the months September, October and November and bought a present per family member each month (luckily there were only three main presents to buy). This allowed time to shop around without being last minute and also took the stress off my finances at the end of December.
Yes, I know its early but you literally have one month until Christmas partying begins, so start keeping an eye out for that Christmas party outfit now. Not only will it spread out your spending, but there is nothing worse than getting to a week before the event and still have nothing to wear. I'm not saying you have to buy, but looking won't harm.
Hair salons usually get booked up during December, so start trying to work out possible appointment dates in your diary now to avoid disappointment.
Cake and Pudding
Now is the time to start making your Christmas cake and Christmas pudding. The fruits and alcohol will need time to breathe and mature, so making them a couple of months in advance will assist this no end.
Again to spread the cost of your outgoings and avoid a huge bill at the end of the year, and also to avoid the crowds, why not try to buy in some dried foods and long sell by date foods such as tins of biscuits, crisps and alcohol. Don't be tempted to open them too soon though!
WRITE YOUR CARDS! Honestly, writing your Christmas cards now will take a huge weight off your shoulders in December. If you're anything like me you'll be way too booked up with social events in December to have a spare weekend to do this. Do it now.
Home made gifts
I love to make sweets/biscuits/cakes/gingerbread/gift boxes at Christmas and give them as gifts. Why not have a trial run now to make sure they are a success nearer the time. You could also taste the alcohol you purchased in October to make sure it's ok!
A Christmas film at this stage is a must to get you in the Christmas spirit
BUY THESE NOW!
Well, what is left to do now? You've done everything! Although there are a few things I would suggest.
Check your diary and organise all of your dates. Plan in time to do Christmas things such as bake/food shop/wrap presents so the time doesn't creep up too fast.
Try to leave wrapping Christmas presents as long as you can, without being discovered by peeping eyes! Wrapping them too early risks damage and also forgetting what you have bought! Also you never know, you might need to return something still at this stage.
Test any electrical products you are giving as presents where possible to guarantee they are working when you give them at Christmas
With all of your advanced preparation why not plan a night in and put your feet up with a nice glass of mulled wine.
I love Christmas, I love how magical it is for my children but I admit it does take some organisation and so I have some tips on how I organise the big day.
1) Lists for me I operate a small notebook and I list ideas for my children, I list all the people I want to buy a gift for with ideas of what they might like.
2) Calendar planner Christmas is a busy time in my household with school plays, Brass band concerts, church, visits to friends and family that a calendar is essential tool so we all know where we should be and so we can organise visits with friends and family.
3) Christmas Dinner is a big part of our family traditions luckily for me I am not the chef however in recent years we share the food preparation which is something a friend's family also do Christmas Dinner is far easier if you are only responsible for the vegetables and a bottle of wine!
4) Diversions I organise the whole day with timings and have games ready if things start getting fraught as is inevitable with two many people in a small space who have had too much sugar /alcohol
5) Shopping Christmas comes every year on the same day so why is it such a surprise and why do we all have to go mad, I set a budget and stick to it I buy my children some gifts but also some useful presents in our house it is known that mummy buys sensible knickers and character ones only come from Santa amazing how that makes them exciting! I also buy some treats food wise but I add these over a few weeks and I use my CO-OP points to buy extras,
6) Saving I save a couple of pounds using Tesco stamps through the year as well as a £10.00 from my salary when I can afford it this year the extra £1/£2 a week I have saved equals the extras and a couple of presents and I didn't miss it.
7) Relax why does the dinner need to be on the table at 1? Remember the reason we celebrate Christmas and enjoy spending time with your family, I really enjoy washing up on Christmas day it is my peaceful time then we play games and take the dogs for a walk.
8) Make notes I am a great believer in if it works do not change it so I make a note of what we did that was good and what didn't and what I would like to do next year see its all in the plan!
9) Use every resource you have the best one is the internet and honesty, internet is a great place to get a lot of shopping done whilst not having to leave your home and also good for comparing prices. Be honest if you cannot afford to get as many gifts discuss it we do exchanges in our family so my sister-in-law gives me a voucher to babysit and I offer the same saves a fortune on a night out and I appreciate it.
Do what is right for you do not worry about every one else and if your perfect day is champagne and brie then who says that is wrong!
I am one of those rare people who absolutely relishes everything about Christmas. Sure, it's an expensive time of the year, where we are pressurised by greedy advertiser's and the sad eyes of the wee poor kids who have double the amount of gift's that we were given at their age. However, the day itself is a time of happiness in our household. I don't know that I have any great tips for saving you hassle on Christmas. This is how I generally make it easier on myself though.
Myself and two of my aunt's take alternative years of hosting Christmas for approximately 12 relative's and half a dozen friend's. This means that we only have to do it every 3 years. We do not ask anybody else to bring anything, as they are guests in our house, although everybody does bring a bottle or two. Each of the three of us contribute either the bubbles or the starter and dessert. This takes the pressure off whoever's year it is.
When it comes to the cooking, the other two of us will do one main dish, as one oven can only do one thing at a time. You can't cook a goose, steak and a turkey in 4 hours. Then, the rest of the cooking is done by the person whose house it is. It is a lot of work, but each of us are happy to do our turn. Left to the rest of the family, we might be served noodles and fried potato. Leave it to the experts.
As for present shopping, I have seen me run off my feet for weeks up until christmas eve, and stressed about trying to pick the right present for somebody. With the exception of the kid's, I now just ask each of my brother's and sister's to give me a small list of things that they might want, and I pick something from that. It's not really the spirit of things, but it saves some disappointed faces, and each of us always get lovely gifts that we wanted, whilst respecting each other's budget restraints. Put it this way, I've never opened a gift that I bought 3 years earlier for somebody.
This year, I've opted to do the mass of my shopping on amazon. They now cater for just about everything, and at a reasonable price. I just made a list of everybody who I am buying for, and went on to the website and added each of them an item that they have listed or would want, and wam-bam, the shopping is done. I still have a few items to buy, but will do that when I have a relaxing day of shopping in the city centre. However, when I done this, I found that everybody was happy, including myself because I didn't have to trapse around shops for weeks on end, rubbing my forehead in stress.
Here are some of the presents I've been asked for this year
1. More Brain Training - for the Nintendo DS
2. The Dannii Minogue book
3. A pair of tights - American tan (for a good male friend who is either a comedian or a robber)
4. Usher, Kylie Minogue or Westlife CD
5. The Wire DVD
6. A pint of lager please, buddy.
I'm sure I'll manage most of them, although I dont know how I'll be able to wrap a pint of lager without freezing it first. Does lager freeze? Anyway, I dont feel under any pressure this year, I've even managed to reduce the cost on last year, which is fitting for the current economical climate. I've also told my sister's, when asked, that there is nothing I need nor want. I'm happy with whatever they buy for me. I just hope that doesn't translate to "I don't want anything". I'll be mighty disappointed if all I have on Christmas morning is a pair of American Tan Tights and a receipt for the Westlife CD.
I always find that the starting point in any plan is knowing what you want to achieve, therefore when trying to organize Christmas it's useful to know when you're planning to have your Christmas.
That may sound like a daft thing to say but just because tradition states that Christmas Day is the 25th December that doesn't mean that your Christmas has to be then. Would you jump onto Cliff Richards just because everyone else was?
I know that friends and family expect certain things to occur on Dec 25th but just think how much more of a surprise it will be if your family were to awake on Christmas morn and find that instead of a beautifully decorated house, the smell of roasting turkey and presents galore they got bugger all.
Then imagine how wonderful it would be if, in the middle of February (for example), after weeks of arguing, sadness and confusion they were to awake to a real big festive shindig. Just picture in your minds eye the happy shock and awe on the childrens faces to discover that instead of being sent out to school / nursery / the salt mines they were going to spend a day at home opening presents, feasting on quality foodstuffs and enjoying themselves!
Before you write me off as just another mentalist posting on a website here's 11 reasons why Christmas in Feb (or May or October) is a good idea:
1) X-mas shopping - the shops are quieter, in recession hit Britain there's always sales on, you can buy sprouts at Tesco without having to fight over the scraps with rabid pensioners, the toys you want for the kids are well stocked.
2) The kids get to go back to school after your Christmas knowing that they have lots of new toys long after all the other kids have broken their new ones or got bored of them
3) Now that we all have new fangled video-taping machines you can still watch all of the televison specials that were broadcast on x-mas day without having to watch the adverts. Plus if you video a few christmas quizes you can show off to your family by getting all of the answers right (hint : play for cash).
4) Instead of taking your kids to queue up for hours and hours to see a Father Christmas in town you can hire your own. All those old men who dress up in the red coat in Nov / Dec so that they can fund their alcohol consumption are desperate for extra cash the rest of the year. For a fiver and a turkey leg you can probably get one for the whole day, just be careful they don't wee on the sofa.
5) You know the saying a dog is for life, not just for christmas? Well, fortunately a lot of people don't. If you time your Christmas correctly you should be able to pick up a nice new puppy incredibly cheaply by simply hanging around canels in late Jan / early Feb, just don't forget your wellies and a towel.
6) When you go out carol singing you'll be the only ones at it, no competition equals big profits.
7) If you wait until after the winter to have your christmas you can make savings on elderly relatives too. If it's been a particularly cold spell you'll probably have less of them to buy for and even if they have all survived you'll only have to put your heating on three quarter power when they come round for dinner instead of running your boiler on warp factor ten because great uncle Phillip feels the cold in his bones.
8) Unlike in November & December the Forestry Commision take their eye off the ball in Feb - May so you can easily sneak out to local woodland and bag a really good tree for free, plus as the nights are getting lighter you can take your kids as look outs without having to worry too much about losing one.
9) It's far cheaper to book a Christmas Holiday for Feb than it is for December. Admittedly you're less likely to find any Christmas shows going on at Disneyland / world / eurodisney and it seems a bit quiet at Lapland but you could save as much as lots of money by taking your family away then instead of December. And the airports are less crowded.
10) You won't have to look at the Queens face as she drivels on about her horrible anus on the telly as you eat your lunch and this years plastic pop star wannabe winner of X-factor will be a forgotten memory.
11) And don't forget that Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of the Christ Child and anyone who tries to get you to believe that he was born on Dec 25th is simply crackers.
So go on, pick an alternative Christmas date, surprise your children, (possibly have a very unhappy few weeks), have more fun for less cash and get back to the true roots of Christmas. 'The man' has been making you celebrate on teh wrong date for years, at least this was you can take control of your own destiny. Spread Christmas happiness throughout the year.
Happy Christmas whenever you decide to have it!!!
(Disclaimer: Dooyoo.co.uk would like to point out that the advice of Mr Abacus should in no way be taken as the view of this website. Anyone who follows Mr Abacus's advice should point their divorce attorney in the direction of Mr Abacus and not the Dooyoo Corporation. Tear stained letters to Father Christmas with 'Why? Santa, Why?' scrawled across them should be similarly addresses to Mr Abacus)
Everyone who knows me will know how passionate I am about Christmas. I absolutely LOVE everything about it from the spirit of Christmas, to the magic, to the presents, to the lights and the tree, oh my god do I love the tree! I have said it before and I will say it again I am a Christmas lunatic/fanatic/complete and utter nut!
For a lot of people this can be a completely disatrous time of year, where all they want to do is hide under the duvets until it goes away. It can be a stressful time of year where so many people get into debt to make it a "Good" Christmas. This I can empathise with, but i know that it need not be that way.
I use various methods and resources to make my Christmas go swimmingly.
:::::::::::::::::::::::::: General Hints and Tips :::::::::::::::::::::::::
:: Pick up any wrapping paper or cards in the January sales - stock up for next year as you will then be ahead.
:: Get a notebook and write all the people you have to buy for, what they got last year for Christmas and ideas of what to buy this year. So when they mention that they would like something you can make a note of it and keep an eye out
:: Print off an Organized Christmas Booklet from www.organizedchristmas.com website.
:: Set yourself mini challenges throughout the year ie; Check christmas lights in November. You could also make them Santa's Challenges and get your kids to join in.
:: Make a note of how much you spend in your gift notebook
:: Make a list of useful websites and price comparison websites so you can find the best deal
:: Sign up to cashback, daily click websites, and anywhere that you shop regularly that has a loyalty points scheme
:: Make a Sealed Pot. Find something suitable and seal it with duct take, gaffa tape and cellotape, so no-one can get in it without being undetected. Put in and spare change you have aquired and save it for the big things ie: main christmas presents, food (if you're not part of your local supermarket points scheme) etc.
:: Get Creative.. Can you draw? Why not make your own Christmas Cards? Can you sew? Why not make your own sock monkeys or cross stitch? Can you bake? Why not try making some Chocolate fudge or Cookies? - There's something for everyone.
:: Make a Christmas Gift Cupboard (or in my case spare room!!). Hide away all the gifts you have put by for the coming christmas and note down what you have got so you can assign gifts to people throughout the year.
:::::::::::::::::::::::::: Christmas Shopping ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
:: Let me start by saying DO NOT leave Christmas Shopping until the last minute (by last minute I mean two weeks before Christmas) with one exception of last minute buys (one or two items). This will enable you to focus on other things such as; the Christmas Dinner, household chores and wrapping.
:: The best time to shop is SALE time. As soon as Christmas is over, the January sales come around, pick up any presents that someone will find useful but you never brought them before Christmas because they were too pricey.
:: Make a note of how much you spend, whether you used loyalty points, vouchers, or got cashback.
:: Re-gift: If you got given something last christmas you thought was naff but know someone who might like it assign it to that person in your notebook. Alternatively sell it on ebay/amazon etc
:: Got anything you can sell??? Well what are you waiting for? GO AND SELL IT :D
:: Take advantage of offers and bargains such as BOGOFS, 241's, 342's etc.
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Christmas Food :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Do you get stressed out by Christmas Dinner? Yes? Well don't, it is a glorified Sunday Roast and anyway some food items you can make a month or so in advance!!
:: Christmas sweets. Like presents they are sold off on Boxing day, most selection boxes keep for a year and are dirt cheap to buy after the big day is over.
:: Do you really have to buy selection boxes??? Can't you stock up on the sweets you already buy monthly? Sainsbury's and Asda are good for the family size maltesers, M&M's, Skittles etc, they nearly always have them on 2 for £1 or 3 for £1. Also if you see a box of malteasers on offer through the year, snap them up and stash away.
:: Nigella Lawson Christmas Book is a good buy, inside she explains how long in advance to cook the christmas dinner and when you can freeze pre-made foods if necessary.
:: Buy only what is necessary. Don't go overboard it's only a fancy roast dinner!
:: Assign people jobs and task for the dinner ie; mum/nan buys the turkey, sister buys the vegetables etc. Then you won't have to worry about the cost and everyone is chipping in for the dinner they will be eating!
:::::::::::::::::::::::::: Household and Decorations :::::::::::::::::::::::::
:: Set yourself a household challenge every week, in the 8 week run up to Christmas, such as; tidy the spare room, clean the kitchen thoroughly. This way you won't be as stressed as you can do it at your own pace, and even get the kids to join in by saying 'Santa says so'.
:: Around Novemeber 1st - 20th test your Christmas lights. God knows how many times i've tried to put the decorations up and the lights haven't worked.
:: Stock up on batteries throughout the year. The last thing you want on Christmas morning is to find you have no batteries for that all important toy.
:: As you put the decorations up make a list of what you have.
:: When the decorations are taken down, make sure you have suitable storage for them and ensure they are packaged correctly. Saves an unexpected spend on new decorations because the baubles are smashed!
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Websites :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
www.organizedchristmas.com - this website was introduced to me late last year and since then I have never looked back. On this website you can print out a whole booklet of what to do all year round and in the run up to Christmas. This website also has a whole range of creative ideas for you to try.
www.moneysavingexpert.com - visit the forums and check out the christmas threads, the people on them are so nice and helpful and will try to give you some inspiration with their handi-work and bargain finds :D
Please note that these websites are suggestions from personal use, I do not work for them in any way, however I am suggesting them from experience.
When it comes to Christmas I want to buy quality items at a cheap cost. But everyone does right? I'd say on the whole I am a conscientious buyer because I know exactly what I want and I know exactly when to buy it.
Firstly, the January sales, the absolute best time to get your Christmas cards, wrapping paper, lights for the tree, decorations etc. As it's after Christmas, shops just want to get rid and you can pick up things more than half the price they were just one month previous. Also, these things don't generally change from year to year, there's not really 'fashionable' christmas cards or 'in' wrapping paper. In a way this is slightly more crazy shopper due to the fact you could go crazy and just stock up on everything in the decoration and stationary department.
When it comes to the actually gifts, I say you must, must, must first make a list of things you think people will like.... then wait! Shops always do some sort of sale before Christmas or put discounts on items. Even more so this year because of the Credit Crunch. By making a list you know exactly what you'd like to buy and that way you can just wait for it to go down in price. Debenhams have done a three day sale where everything in store is up to 25% off for the past few years. Now House Of Fraser and Marks And Spencer, have both jumped on the bandwagon and are copying Debenhams with huge savings throughout the store on selected days.
Finally, food. This is not something that you can buy well in advance as it does go off but again, look out for offers and make a list. I think I'm slightly obsessed with lists but they do help. For instance, if you wanted a particular bottle of wine for your Christmas Party, places like Marks And Spencer and some supermarkets do great offers at Christmas, wait until they're doing 3 for 2 or 3 bottles for £10. Just the other day my mum picked up 6 bottles of really nice cava from M&S for just £20, result!
An extra pointer is to get involved with clubcards for your favourite shops. Shops inluding Boots and WHSmith (which are free), GAME also do one but they are £3, not much considering your future savings though. Most cards are free, you generally get points which then equal money and so, if ou collected points all year, when it gets to your Christmas shopping, you'll be able to spend your points therefore getting cheaper presents or perhaps indulge yourself a little :) Go on, you deserve it!
One last tip, order online where possible. It is always cheaper online, for example, a CD from HMV may cost £10 in the shops but on the HMV website it's only £7. May I highly recommend Amazon.co.uk, it always has the cheapest prices, possibly because it's all internet based as they don't have shops.
In my opinion, be a conscientious buyer and really think about what you want and need. There really is no need to over spend (I know it's easy to say), just try and plan ahead. Hope I didn't ramble :)
And Merry Christmas!
This review can also be found on Ciao.co.uk, under the same name :)
It seems strange that so many people start panicking when Christmas starts to draw near. After all, it's on the same day each year so we always have plenty of notice!
Since running my own household I have become more organised every year. These days, I do all I can to avoid big shopping centres at Christmas time - I hate how busy they get and I really dislike how all the manufacturers bung a few regular products - in ridiculously tiny sizes - into some fancy gift box or basket and line the shelves in their stores with them. This always happens with toiletries; if I want to give something similar as a gift, I will find a basket and fill it myself, with full-size products and probably for less money. Wrapped in cellophane, such a hamper looks just as good as those bought in the shops.
I always buy my wrapping paper, cards and tags in the January sales. One year, my local Superdrug was selling off all their old Christmas gift-wrapping stuff and I picked up several reels of very expensive ribbon for 5p per reel. I still have loads left.
I buy presents throughout the year. If I see something that will suit a particular person, especially if it is in the sales, I will buy it and put it away for Christmas. The only drawback to this is that you need plenty of storage space and you also need to stock-take every so often so you know what you've got in your stash. Having over-stocked at times, I now keep a notebook in my handbag which is really handy.
The charity shops are a great place to find gifts, too. Many of the donations they receive are brand-new and I have picked up many toys, books and pieces of jewellery this way. Most of them have a lovely selection of cards, especially Barnado's - their range of Christmas and birthday cards is lovely and not too expensive.
I knit and crochet so I always make as many gifts as I can. Having grandchildren and lots of nieces and nephews, knitted toys, handbags, scarves, hats and gloves are always well-received. Scarves knitted in a football fan's favourite team's colours go down very well in my family. The main cost when knitting such things is the time but, now that the evenings are longer, I find it easy to knit while watching television or listening to music. I find it very soothing at the end of a long day.
I decided to go through my stash of presents the other day and was surprised by how much I already had. I only have a couple of things to knit and a couple more things to buy and, apart from wrapping them all up, I'm more or less ready.
All my wrapping paper, ribbons and bows are kept in a large box but, no matter how organised I am, this always ends up in a mess. Now that both my children have left home, I have two spare bedrooms and one of these gets turned into the wrapping-up room. This means that I can spread the mess around but shut the door on it when I have to get on with other things. Until I had grandchildren, I could leave all the wrapping-up stuff downstairs in the dining room but, the last time I did that, my grandson and granddaughter took a shine to all the bits and pieces and each went home with a bagful - their Mum and Dad said they didn't need to buy any ribbons or bows that year!
With Christmas cards, every so often I will buy a book of stamps and put them away, too. There's nothing worse than having to queue at the Post Office along with everyone else a few days before the final posting date. The first cards I write out each year are those that need to be sent abroad. The Post Office should by now have a list of the latest posting dates for overseas and internal mail. I also make sure I have plenty of Airmail stickers - the Post Office will give you a sheet of these and they don't cost anything.
Food items I usually start to buy in November and this is when I make things like mince pies. The Christmas cake usually gets made earlier but, as my husband and I are the only people in my immediate family who like it, for the last few years I have cheated and bought it from the supermarket. Lots of things can be made earlier and frozen. I also try and buy the alcohol early too, when the shops are less busy.
I live in a smallish village which has a good range of shops and I find I never need to go into a big shopping centre to buy presents. Buying locally means I support the shops in my neighbourhood and I find I can buy more unusual gifts. I really don't like buying things that are mass-produced and would much rather find something that is not available everywhere else. All the shopping centres and malls these days seem to be the same - once inside one of them, you could be in any town in the country. They all seem to have the same shops and the same items for sale that it becomes difficult to find the perfect gift. Together with all the crowds and the long queues at the tills, shopping this way is the last thing I want to do.
By the time Christmas Eve arrives, I am more than happy to amble around the shops drinking in the lovely Chrismassy atmosphere but happy in the knowledge that I don't have to shop in any of them. Making myself become organised for Christmas is one of the best things I have done. It certainly helped last year because, for the first time ever, I was unwell and right over the festive period and, if I hadn't sorted everything out beforehand, Christmas may well have been cancelled.
With Xmas only a month and a bit away now, we've started turning our attention towards the festive time of year. My wife, 4 year old son and I alternate each year between the two sets of grandparents, and as such Xmas can be a bit of a testing time with seeing everyone at the same time as enjoying it ourselves.
As such, we like to get all the organising out of the way nice and early, as well as saving some money along the way. This year, we're with my folks for Xmas, so my wife's parents and her brothers will have some of their presents well in advance so they can open them on the actual day. Similarly, wifey's mum has already dropped the bulk of our presents off with us - ooh, the temptation to open them now!!!!
We plan whatever we can in advance. It's also my wife's birthday, and as I have a son, I kind of have to accept that Xmas is never going to be about me ever again in terms of presents! We make sure we do a list at the beginning of November, to give enough time for ordering things and getting them to the relevant people. We buy our Xmas cards in January or February ready for the next year, and get the Xmas tree the week before.
Lunch is usuallhy round someone else's house, but we always offer to cook off the veg and bring it round or go and pick up those who need it. Either way, Xmas Day is a fun day, and as such we find it important to start planning nice and early, and do it in a relaxed manner. That way, the buildup to Xmas and the actual day itself go perfectly smoothly and everyone has a nice, relaxing day.
So, with this in mind, it all works out just perfectly, right? Yeah, right! Merry Xmas (in advance) to one and all. Ho ho ho!
Well Christmas is finally here with millions of us fretting over what to buy Uncle Enis this year and how *do* we manage to keep dear, old uncle Frank (Incense) happy seeing as he's the man that has everything already. Of course, what we really need is someone to tell us how to organise Chrimbo seeing as we are mostly hopeless at planning these kind of events and with a fee slightly less than Lynne Franks would charge at a "How to Make and Keep Friends in a Jungle Environment" seminar, here's Mara's top tips to stay sane this Yuletide.
Tip 1: Don't talk to your family at all. Y'know, those people that don't speak to you all of the year round and then expect a pressie and card from you as though it's some kind of obligation. Pish and pah: don't give in to their emotional blackmail. Ach, you can't bring yourself to disassociate with Auntie Freda with the curious foot fetish and slightly obvious rash on her right cheek? Well, in that case if you feel compelled to invite them round on Christmas Day then first things first, make sure you know which programmes you want to watch and either set the recorder to catch them for you or tell the recalcitrant rabble that you defo want to watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special at 7pm or great aunt Dorothy doesn't get any Xmas pud. The most contentious part of Chrimble Day is usually the morning so do agree what time you would like folks to turn up as some parents like a wee bit of privacy when the kids are opening their presents whilst others have an open door policy.
Tip 2: Make sure you write and dispatch those Christmas cards in time as per this schedule: Friday 14th December - Standard Parcels/Monday 17th December - 2nd Class/Thursday 20th December - 1st Class/Friday 21st December - Special Delivery (Saturday delivery)/Saturday 22nd December - Special Delivery. That last thing you want is your bestest ever friend calling you up on the 27th December to tell you that they've only just got your card and didn't realise that you had thought so little of them all these years that you couldn't even make the post box in time and they'd always assumed that you were best buddies and now they want their tickets to the Kylie Re-Union gig back and...and....oh you get the picture by now. You could always do what my good lady does and buy the cheapo cards sold off in sales from Boxing Day and start writing them a good 364 days in advance (at least it feels that way although I could be exaggerating.... WILDLY).
Tip 3: For those strange souls that pound the high streets in a vain search for the only *WII left in Western Europe then there is an easier way y'know. Needless to say, it's online shopping. Amazon are offering a last minute delivery service on December 24th and with UK online shopping traffic up 5.8% based on page hits during the fortnight commencing November 11th, it looks like many people plan to shop from the comfort of their armchairs. The trade body Interactive Media in Retail Group expect internet shopping in the festive period to exceed £13.8billion, up 42% on 2006 and with trusted retailers like Ocado, HMV and the like all touting for business then it's so much easier working your way through your present list with a coffee perched on your desk top than risking the sharp elbows of seasoned campaigners in Oxford street like 80-year old Ethel Ready from Camden who has two convictions for ABH following rather nasty instances of aggravated shopping.
All the advantages of online shopping are there like price comparison sites [Kelkoo is being sold off by Yahoo but shouldn't affect anything just now], online ordering and delivery and plenty of independent advise from sites like Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com which is running articles on tactics to save money on Christmas shopping this year. The rider on all of this is the risk of online fraud with statistics suggesting that up to 50% of us run scared of ordering online. With most sites asking for credit card payment, card fraud for 2006 totaled £428million according to Apacs. Fraud involving "card not present" where the fraudster clones a victims card and uses it to make purchases over the phone ran at £154.5million last year so the threat is very real. Things you can do to counter the thread include: check the company out by making sure that it has a valid address and phone number or even call the company first before ordering (try http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk if you want to check on a company's authenticity). Look for the padlock symbol on the website as this indicates a secure ordering mechanism via encryption and websites with "http://" means that companies have an extra layer of security between them and the Internet. Nothing is ever 100% secure and most of the big banks offer a refund policy for the victims of online fraud. You are just as likely to be diddled by some shop assistant writing your credit card number down and leaving it lying around so you can only ever do so much to avoid being the victim of fraud.
Tip 4: If you are bordering on the criminally insane and do insist on hitting the high street shops then try and avoid weekends as these will always be the busiest times and hunt down the bargains on offer. Boots routinely offer a 3 for the price of 2 and their gift range is usually pretty generic with something for everyone. For those members of the family who you don't want to spend to much of your hard-earned on there are plenty of bargain stores to pick presents up from like The Pound Shop as well as the usual BOGOF deals that proliferate the stores most of the year round. Don't forget to try and avoid shopping on Christmas Eve otherwise you'll join the legions of men looking for a list-minute gift to placate their other halves having realized that a potted plant and a small box of Ferrero Rochet probably isn't going to guarantee a pass out to the pub on Christmas Day lunch time.
Tip 5: Avoid all of this by going away for Christmas and not buying anybody anything. As my father-in-law said last night (jokingly...I think), if we turn up at his house on Boxing Day then we'll be greeted by a note pinned to the front door saying "Gone to Scotland" as the dust settles in the wake of their new caravan. There are plenty of companies offering packages abroad to avoid the festive period although I can't see me ever getting away with something like that and having to settle for hiding in the airing cupboard with a handful of chocolate liqueurs and a tumbler of whisky for a few hours.
Tip 6: Having organized your Christmas, relax and be smug in the knowledge that everything will now be hassle free or uneventful. Alternatively, get real and expert things to go wrong; chill out, take deep breathes and just enjoy the melee and arguments that Christmas brings remembering that once everything is over and done then you'll have next year to do it all over again!
Well, there you have it; the sum total of my worldly wisdom for organizing Christmas. I may even take my own advice and order some stuff today from the comfort of my executive chair positioned neatly in front of my pc. Then again, I might not. I'll leave that to your imagination and hope that your Christmas goes swimmingly.
I hope someone, somewhere find this useful and thanks for the read.
*If you want a WII and can't get one, try Amazon.de. If you can negotiate the online order pages which, spookily, are in German then you will bag one. Last time I checked you can buy a WII for the sterling equivalent of £179 + sports bundle (+ 20Euro p & p)
Did you know Santa Clause is only red and white because he was painted that color for a 1920s Coca Cola commercial? You learn something new every day. But Christmas is always black and white to me. You spend money on them-they spend money on you. The season of giving, the season of taking, the day of boozing, the day of arguing. Not forgetting those fruity farts! In fact that's the only fruity thing I get these days at Christmas.
The first thing you need around our way for the festive season is a pair of sunglasses. Three of the five houses in the street have begun unpacking their Christmas lights and-rather annoyingly-started to assemble things on their roofs, chunky cables you would see at the Led Zeppelin comeback gig snaking into the house. Giant slays tearing over the aerials, Father Christmases climbing down the chimney, magnificent Reindeer galloping down the garden, enough energy to power a small African dictatorship, lighting up the East Midlands sky. You can add Northampton to that list with the Great Wall of China on it that can been seen from space. Then with a smile and chirpy hello the neighbors religiously bring out their entire color-coded recycle trays and decorate the street, cardboard and plastic bottles neatly packed in. Hoping to save energy before the worlds resources dwindle is not a priority. They clearly haven't done the math.
The seasonal shopper needs to set aside a day or two for Christmas purchases--Christmas Eve and Boxing Day in my case. You have asked what everyone wants and all you have to do now is find your way to an Argos store and buy it. Job done!
Once you have bought the wrapping paper, labels and cards at the local market for under a quid you can safely plan the serious Christmas purchases. Ale! If you can't hire a Chinook helicopter to lower the tins and crates into your back garden, eager hands reaching for the Stella like needy Africans, then stagger your supermarket collection, mother and baby spaces offering excellent access. With Asda offering a four-pack for a quid deal I have a good feeling beer is going to be very cheap this Christmas. How long until fags are a loss leader, too, to counter the pub smoking ban? Pub sales were the lowest for 32 years this summer.
If you're buying for your partner then remember it could be a critical present. Highly dubious statistics show that one in five couples split on Valentines Day, one in three on the first holiday together, and one in four at Christmas. When gifts have to be bought and matter make sure you have touched him or her up on what she needs. There maybe other offers on the table for New Year and you may be surplus to requirements. Women are materialistic creatures when it comes down to it and you have to get a prezzie that fits their expectations of you. Crap underwear or electrical appliances tend not to do it.
Northampton's Christmas shopping is going the same way of most other city centers, even the local shopping centre plastic Santa's looking ominously grumpy. One is seemingly trying to climb out of the mall on a welcome piece of rope, whilst the other is looking rather glum on a bench with his hands in his chin, no doubt fearing his sledge has already fallen foul of our notorious traffic wardens. Santa will have a lot of deliveries to make on Christmas Eve and will need a bigger sack than he started with for his inevitable confetti of penalty tickets. I'm not saying the parking attendants are keen but I had to double take the other day when the yellow medical helicopter flew over as I thought it had parking control written on the bottom. If it moves!
The local cops aren't helping to boost Northampton trade either. It's great that they are out and about prowling around town undercover this festive season with most of their available cars, nicking drunk drivers and people who use their cell phones whilst driving. Fair enough. But if the prisons cells are full, interpreters too expensive, and the human rights lawyers ready to pounce, then they won't be arresting the Chav scum they really need to in Northampton any day soon as there's no where to put them. Just as speed cameras and wardens are non-ambiguous in what level of offender they target it will be the people who can and will pay the fines that will be harassed and fined here by our boys in blue. To be fair I bet the plain clothes guys are not happy with this deal either.
Next you need to check the locks on your door to stop anyone but immediate family getting in over the Christmas holidays. There's nothing more tedious than performing relatives coming around with their hoards of kids to tell you how fertile they are and you're your not. Because you're single they always buy you a Lynx body deodorant set. Clearly you need a good wash to get laid. It's always something to do with personal body care. And you have bought them plonk and chocolates!
Christmas TV is not as big as it used to be and no one looks forward to the seasonal offerings of French & Saunders any more. The once great comedy acts of yesteryear are now painfully bad. Who will ever forget the tooth pull that was the 2002 'Only Fools and Horses' Christmas Special. With the seasonal Radio Times in hand it's no longer a pleasurable ringing session of the schedule for the holidays.
Usama Bin Laden will be doing the C4 Christmas message whilst the Christmas Top of the Pops will now be only available only as a podcast on BBC Live. The big films will be ones we have all seen on pirate, cable or DVD and endless trailers will try to brainwash us into believing Little Britain is still funny.
Obviously the main reason for Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus and those less fortunate, usually by stuffing yourself repeatedly, testing your extractor fans rigidity by depleting the ozone layer with some rich farts to honor the first ever artificial insemination. The mix of Carling Black Label, Turkey and Mince Pies seems to hang in the air like the smog will over the Beijing Olympics.
The traditional Boxing Day pint will be a miserable affair this year, smokers stuck outside in the fog and drizzle, talking about those Lynx body sets. The only good thing about the smoking ban is that the local rough pub-the one with the punters who deposit their broken bottles and crisp packet in your front garden-is almost certain to close. Ours has gone already and the 'for sale' signs up. Hooorayy!
So you have got through the holiday and now its time to spend your vouchers and get the refunds on the presents you do and don't want. A ten pound voucher goes much further than it ever did in HMV, CDs and movies now a fiver each, the prices they have been in America for 30 years! Grrrrr! Remember half-price is not always half-price, guys. If it's not half-price of the RRP (recommended retail price), what ever that is, then its not half price.
Retail staff hate giving refunds and hearing your pathetic excuses. 'It's a duplicate present... I already have one...it's too big...and it's too small...bla bla bla...All of the above relate to my very naughty and very ex Brazilian girlfriend, who once took a vibrator back to Anne Summers and demanded one that would give her an orgasm. I would like to say at this point it was not my Christmas present to her although it was the first portent I would be out the door. Hold your nerve at the returns desk. Get that money back!
If you live in a council house then make sure you clear enough room in your front and back garden in early January to dump all the kids' old toys. You may have to move that old mattress and engine block. Some of the more fortunate ones can use that speed boat you won on Bullseye as a storage area. The caravan wired up to the lamp post and the old car up on bricks would already be full of empties, of course... Merry Christmas!
Christmas is coming and the coffers are looking decidedly empty. In fact you are now down to counting all that loose change that youve been saving all year for rainy days
and boy is it pouring down now!
Tip 1. If you havent done this before then nows the time to start doing it, even though it wont help you this year. I find it helps to get one of those large coffee jars, swill it out and place it somewhere central. You come home from work/shopping/ drawing your benefits and tip all those coppers and the dreadful five penny coins into the jar. I find it handy to keep some small polythene bags to hand for when I start counting out the money. Its surprising how the loose change adds up and even if you are broke there are plenty of things you can make or buy to produce lovely Christmas gifts.
Tip 2. Packaging can sometimes make a world of difference to inexpensive Christmas gifts. A while back I bought some cheap wedding favour bags from eBay and found many other uses for them. They were made from fine fabric with a delicate design of star & moons in silver with a drawstring top. They cost me about £5 for a hundred and were made in China. Looking through my local craft shop I found that the fabric alone would have cost me five times the amount. I wanted something special to hang on the Xmas tree for my daughter, the perfume I had bought looked really classy in the bag.
Another packaging tip I found when making my own cards. I had sent off to a company for a tiny bouquet of paper rosebuds to top a special birthday card. Although it was pretty, at 75p it made the card very expensive. So I found some inexpensive rosebuds (again on Ebay) and made a bouquet wrap from a piece of wrapping paper. The total cost was about 7p and looks really good on plain wrapping paper.
Tip 3. It sounds so simple, but do shop around. Back in 1999 I was trying to think of Xmas presents that would also celebrate the new millennium. Seeing a set of champagne glasses with the 2000 inscription at £20 each I decided to make my own. The champagne flutes were six for £5 at Matalan stores and had an edging of gold against the rim. My local Timpsons shoe store also does engraving and charged just £1 per glass to add the 2000 to the glasses. Similar bargains can be found in places like poundland and adding an engraving with a name or a date can make it extra special.
Tip 4. Again it sounds obvious, but check out the charity shops. My grandson is 2 and three quarters and just at that age when TV is starting to influence his choice of toys. I bought some Bob the Builder toys at a charity shop a month ago the same shop is now almost empty of toys. In the past Ive found Tomy toys, Winnie the Pooh, Fisher Price and others at prices you wouldnt imagine. Ive also bought clothes for the fabric alone and remade garments. Most towns have a haberdashery shop that sells things like buttons and lace. Sequins can also add a touch of glamour to outfits for dressing up.
Tip 5. Homemade jams, marmalade, honey and specialist sweets always go down well with older people. I have never thought that presents should be practical when they can be a touch of luxury instead. Making your own is not that hard, but if you have left it too late then shop around for these at church fairs and other such venues. Ordinary jars can be made to look more festive with a frill of Xmas paper tied up with a gold or silver bow.
Its not too late to make luxury sweets either. Or cheat and buy a bag from shops like Thorntons. Buy or make bags or boxes and add a few sweets to each as table gifts for Xmas Day. I guarantee your guests will think youve spent a fortune.
Tip 6. They say its the thought that counts and thinking of people that need some time to themselves is one of the best gifts you can give. Since you are reading this then you have a computer or access to one. Local stationers sell good paper from about 3p per sheet, or you might like to use a plain piece of card. I find that most PC programmes have something to suit. Wording can be something like this:-
On production of this card/promissory note, the bearer is entitled to;-
A night of babysitting free of charge/ a day of spring cleaning/ a night out on the town/ a three course meal/ a picnic in the countryside/ a day at a health spa.
The possibilities are endless and how much more welcome when the recipient is tired and in rest of a special day to themselves? Better than a Red letter Day to any tired mum/ carer/ etc.
Tip 7. So you would still like a Red Letter Day but cant afford it? Youd love a new look for Xmas but youve spent all your money?
Try some of the local colleagues for a cheap haircut, or book with a salon who have trainee evenings. A qualified stylist is on hand to make sure no disasters happen .Check in advance with local salons that offer reasonable prices for a facials, manicures, body wraps etc. Chaps, get your sister/mum/ wifes best friend etc, to escort you around Boots or any other good shop that sells womens essentials. Choose a range of pampering gifts and do seek the advice of a saleswoman if you are really stuck. Try the local leisure centres and book a sauna/swim/ general workout for the woman in your life. Shell love you for it.
Women, you might not be able to give your man a drive around a race track/ a helicopter ride/ white water rafting/ etc. But you can afford similar pampering/ watching him play football or rugby etc. You can let him play at soldiers with a range of reasonably cheap activities like Paint balling, or sign him up for a charity event.
I havent forgotten the mothers/fathers/grans and grampas.
A season ticket to places like the national trust would be very welcome. Book them some coach trips if they dont drive. For the housebound simple things like a pack of birthday cards and plenty of stamps come in handy and dont forget a simple thing like making them a special meal/treating them to a hairdo/ taking a night off to play cards or a family game.
Tip 8. Most people have some sort of skill that can be used for making Xmas presents. One which I think is sadly underrated or not even thought about is a childs book. There are so many good books around and at such good value as well. Last year my grandson was too young for more than basic books. This year Im writing my own story for him using my printer and doing my own sketches. If I couldnt draw I would be using basic graphics, something that anyone can do. Why pay a lot of money to have a simple childrens story with your childs name as the hero/heroine in the text when you can do this yourself ?
Tip 9. If you havent cashed in your dooyoo points then do it now. Also check out those other sites that you may have forgotten to see if you have some points that are worth cashing in. Last year almost all my Xmas presents to my daughter, son-in-law and grandson were courtesy of dooyoo, and many thanks to those that by rating my reviews made that possible.
Tip 10. Really struggling for money? Then forget all the Christmas hype, after all its the build-up that becomes more important than the actual day. We all know that younger children prefer boxes and wrapping paper to toys. What woman really wants to slave all day over a hot stove when she can microwave a pre-prepared meal, or even forget the big meal and have egg and chips? A brisk walk to the park to wear the kids out, then back home to watch the TV with a glass of wine and your feet up. Come Boxing Day I bet the same family will be queuing for a bargain in the sales anyway.
Whatever way you spend it, remember that Christmas is a time for families to spend some time together. To give gifts, not spend a fortune that will drag them into debt. Have a good holiday, a rest for the tired, a cuddle for the lonely and a toast to happiness and health in the new year.
With Christmas just around the corner it is time to start planning. It is no good leaving everything to the last minute and wondering why time is running away with you.
Mid-November is a great time to have a clear out. Take the time to go through all your cupboards and closets and clear out anything that is too small, too out of date, never used or just junk. Get the kids to do the same (then sneak into their rooms when they are at school and throw out some more ). Discard old, unused or broken toys, buy a few large plastic tubs and organize the remaining toys and games, the kids rooms will look so much clearer. Take anything decent to your local charity shop and bin the remainder. Go through all your dvds and videos and get rid of any that you no longer need. Let your home breathe, it needs air circulating and that cant happen if it is all cluttered up. Start clearing the decks and get ready for Christmas and a whole lot of new clutter entering the house.
If you are intending decorating, do it in November, dont leave it till December. If not, then tie an old t-shirt around a floor-brush and wipe down your walls, you will be amazed at how much cleaner they look and you will know that all the dust has been removed. Do this in every room and make sure you vacuum it all up. Take down the curtains and wash them or have them dry-cleaned. Clear out the linen cupboard and wash up anything that has been at the bottom of the pile since last year (or better still, get rid of that stuff because if you havent used it in a year, then you probably dont need it).
Go through your kitchen, do you really need all those mis-matched plates and cups or mugs? Does anyone use them? What about all the odd cutlery? Food cupboards can be cleared out and all out of date or unused packets or tins can be binned, cupboards washed out and all ready for the Christmas stash of food that we all seem to feel we need. Pull out all the equipment in the kitchen cooker, fridge, washing machine, dryer and dishwasher and clean the appliances, behind them and under them ok, your kitchen will probably take a day alone, but it will be worth it. Defrost your freezer and it will be ready to take all the Christmas leftovers.
Throw out any old magazines and newspapers as those are huge dust collectors. Go through the whole years collection of family birthday cards and either discard or box them up into the attic. Gather all photographs together and organize them into boxes. If you havent organized them as you use them, gather together all your bills for the year and shred what you can and box the remainder. Look out all licences, permits, insurance documents etc and organize them into chronological order, then buy an expandable file and head it up with the months of the year, slot them into their correct month for renewing for next year simple, but you will never miss a deadline if you check it every month also you will know what your commitments are on a monthly basis.
If you have ornaments, treasured items or general clutter that you wish to keep but not necessarily display, wash them, dry them and box them away in the attic .remember to label every box.
Start making Christmas lists. I always have two lists, one for food and one for gifts. I start shopping for both in November, it spreads the cost, keeps the loads down and makes for a much better Christmas. I buy any tins, packets or frozen goods in November and store them once I have done all my cleaning, you will have loads of space in your cupboards after all. I start shopping for small gifts, this way I can take my time and get what I really want instead of panic buying. I also get the time to look around the shops before they get too busy and get ideas that I would never have had if I had left it to the last minute. I find that I dont spend nearly so much by shopping early because I have the time to compare prices and work much more to a budget. I set aside a cupboard and load my gift purchases into that. I always buy a few little extra gifts just in case I forget someone. A great tip that I got a couple of years ago was to wrap and label gifts as you bought them that saves so much time and is totally stress free .it also means that the kids cant find out what they have for Christmas because they wont rip a parcel.
Buy and write your Christmas cards in November, even buying stamps every week..again it spreads the costs of sending them. Remember to post overseas cards in plenty of time. This means you can write them over a few days rather than killing yourself writing them all on one night. I hate writing Christmas cards but I dont mind doing a few every night for a week.
Buy your Christmas wrapping paper, ribbons and sealing tape while you have a choice .leave it to the last minute and you will be left with the stuff that no-one else wants. Buy crackers, napkins, tablecloths etc. for the same reason. It also means that all that additional expense is out of the way before December.
I always count on November being my busiest month of the year as far as cleaning and organizing are concerned and then I just kinda sail through December. This way I am not caught out rushing around like a lunatic at the last minute and I just sort of drift into Christmas Day. I always have around 20 people for Christmas lunch (I dont like eating out on Christmas Day, I much prefer to cook at home and have all the family come to us) and it all goes quite painlessly and easily.
Surviving Christmas is all about being organized and having everything done well in advance. We run our own business and work right up until Christmas Eve so I have to be organized otherwise Christmas just wouldnt happen. If I can do this anyone can, it really is the only time of year that I can honestly say that I am on top of things. Start organizing now and you will notice a huge difference in December.