It's hard to believe there's less than two weeks until Christmas - and never has the phrase 'so much to do, and so little time' seemed quite so true! Organising everything for December 25th - gifts, decorations, food & drink, etc. - can feel something like a military operation, and trying to fit all this in to our already hectic daily lives could be a struggle.
However, if your Christmas shopping basket is still looking rather empty, there are many ways you could get everything you need for the festive season at the last minute - and make sure that 'Santa' manages to find his way down the chimney on time!
We created our guide to spreading (and cutting) the cost of Christmas a few weeks ago, but here are our specific tips to what some may consider the most stressful of Christmas tasks – Christmas shopping.
Here are thinkmoney's tips for getting hold of your festive goodies at the 'eleventh hour'.
With one full weekend to go before December 25th, visiting your local High Street or shopping centre and dealing with the crowds is probably a less than appealing thought. And if you've yet to put the Christmas tree and decorations up, finding time to get everything done may seem impossible.
Internet shopping could be a fast, convenient and generally stress-free way of getting all your Christmas shopping done on time - and as it's available around the clock, you won't even have to leave the house! All you need is an internet connection and your seasonal shopping list at the ready…
- Look out for online deals. Especially this close to Christmas, many online shops will be offering discounts on many of this year's 'must-have' gifts - whether it's the latest games console, clothes, or new CDs and DVDs. There's still a few days left to get your items delivered for Christmas: so get Christmas cracking!
- Consider signing up for e-mails and newsletters from your favourite online shops. They can keep you up-to-date with their latest promotions and offers, current deals and other potential bargains. Some websites can give you 'recommendations' based on past items you've bought, which could even give you a few ideas - a bit like having your own virtual Santa's little helper!
- If the thought of battling crowds of fellow shoppers for the last frozen turkey and box of Celebrations leaves you feeling mildly panicked, doing your Christmas food shopping online could be the ideal approach. Many supermarkets offer an online ordering service, and may provide delivery. Websites such as mysupermarket.co.uk can let you compare prices between some of the major supermarkets, so you can find the best offers.
- Cashback websites, such as Quidco and TopCashBack, will pay you for using them to find online retailers and spending your money with them - so you could actually earn as you shop. However, you should consider cashback as a bonus only - it isn't always guaranteed - and concentrate on getting the cheapest deal.
- Some online stores offer free postage and packaging and some may even wrap gifts for you if you really want to save time. After all, how many times have we spent Christmas Eve sat on the floor with scissors, sellotape and a mountain of wrapping paper, when we should be relaxing with some mulled wine and a mince pie?
If you’re looking for more information on online shopping, and how to be sure you're surfing safely, read our guide to being safe online here.
If you do decide to brave the shops in the next few days, there are some ways you could help make the seasonal spend less stressful:
- Visit your local supermarket when it's quieter in the evening. You could get round the aisles faster and buy items in bulk much more easily than if you were competing with the weekend shoppers!
- If you just can't find that gift you're looking for, why not check out the classifieds section in the newspaper, or auction websites such as eBay? You may be able to find even the most obscure of gifts - whether it's a vintage comic or a one-off, limited-edition item of clothing.
- Look out for offers: 'BOGOF', '2-4-1' - this time of year sees many supermarkets rolling out their most competitive and attractive offers. Also don't forget to use your loyalty card points for purchases - which could knock £s off your shopping bill.
Looking ahead to next Christmas
So, you've finally got everything sorted out for this Christmas - but what about next year? Thinking ahead to Christmas 2012 may seem too much, too soon, but how often have we said that before, and still ended up looking for cufflinks for a distant uncle at 8pm on Christmas Eve?
You could save yourself some serious time and effort by planning for next Christmas as soon as possible. The January sales could be a great time to take advantage of reduced Christmas cards, decorations and other festive items. You may also think joining a Christmas savings scheme, or starting your own savings pot, is a great way of saving money throughout the year - so you'll have a decent fund in place for next year's festivities.
Annual 'discount shopping days', such as Amazon's Black Friday Deals Week in November, could also be a perfect time to bag yourself some bargains, so keep your eye out throughout the year.
And remember to store your decorations safely - so you can re-use them next year!
The build-up to Christmas can be a time filled with just as much stress as excitement: especially in these times, the financial pressure can really be on. So why not be as organised as one of Santa's elves?
A bit of forward planning should give you plenty of time to prepare, along with finding the best deals - which could make future Christmases less expensive, less stressful and more relaxing!
Merry Christmas from thinkmoney.