Death by Christmas Shopping

I am NEVER going Christmas shopping again! Or at least, not in one day. What a nightmare! Yesterday I went on a Scrooge shopping mission to glamorous Romford. I couldn’t face Lakeside or Bluewater. Plus the charity shops there are good and my favourite frugal shop – QD – is there. Yes, it’s full of tat, but there’s some excellent stuff too and it’s great for wool.

But even though it was Monday, it was still hectic. An army of mums and their screaming brood were abroad. Primark was hell on earth. There were clothes strewn everywhere and women armed with enormous buggies blocked the bargain aisles. It wasn’t so bad until you wanted to pay – there were 30 people in the queue. I regretted only having three items as everyone else had 20. A heavily pregnant woman bravely joined the end of the queue – I offered to let her go in front of me but she refused. She was obviously made of sterner stuff.

Eventually a message came over the tannoy – “could all staff head to the first floor tills”. “What are you talking about?” I heard one staff member say. “This isn’t busy.” I could have hit her.

At least I got all of the shopping done. And mostly keeping to my £5 budget.

Primark yielded some lovely furry slouching socks – £2 for two pairs. I was tempted to buy one set and split them, but decided I could afford two sets. Superdrug yielded more bargains – beautiful cosmetic bags for £1.99. Last week I mentioned the lovely bathsalt sets, 99p reduced to 49p each. Unfortunately Romford’s Superdrug was still selling them for 99p, although on a 3 for 2 offer, so I had to return to the Billericay store. But I got 3 for 99p as they were on the 3 for 2 offer there too! Mad! And I got a lovely photo frame in QD for £1.69.

Books are harder to find though. Even if you buy through Amazon’s marketplace sellers you spend more on postage than the book cost. And the quality of charity shop ones vary. Some are in good nick while others are expensive and the pages are worn – I saw one possible present for £3.50 in Oxfam, only £1 cheaper than in Romford’s bargain bookshop brand new. I don’t mind dog-eared books myself but am loath to give them as presents.

So far I’ve spent £69 on presents for 15 people – £4.60 per person. The total budget – including the two extra presents I’d forgotten initially – was £75. They’re a combination of bought and homemade items – knitted items and homemade jewellery – and spreading the budget between people helped.

Meanwhile I have been trying to persuade DJ to get in touch with his creative side. He made us a beautiful bird table using branches from a Buddleia tree he cut down. So I suggested he could make another as a present. But he claims the workmanship isn’t good enough. Frankly it’s gorgeous and ‘rustic’ like garden centres ones selling for £40. But he reckoned his grandfather and father, both keen hobby carpenters, would be ‘horrified’. So instead I’m putting together a patio pot, using spare plants we have knocking about the garden.

Next year I’m either doing my shopping online or using the technique I adopted last year and should have done this year – buying presents throughout the year and stowing them away.

Have you found any good bargains this year?

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