The sun is shining and Christmas is coming!

As we sweat under the blazing sun, Christmas won’t be weighing heavily on your mind! And if you’re looking ahead to winter at all, you’re probably worrying about your gas bill, as Centrica and EDF hike prices. (If you’re worried, check out my list of ways to cut your gas bill and consider signing up to one of the energy price caps a few companies are still operating.)

But with budgets tightening, planning for Christmas is shrewd. For years I left my shopping to the last minute. Panic buying ensued and I endured miserable hours in the seven leagues of shopping hell, spending more than I should.

My former boss Simon showed me the light. He and his wife start planning Christmas as early as January. I’m not as organised, so I start during the summer. The idea is to spread the cost of Christmas over the year, instead of taking a big hit, as well as taking advantage of the sales. Plus you’re not shopping whilst bombarded with Christmas marketing techniques.

I adopted this strategy two years ago and it worked brilliantly. The year before I’d bought my Mum some jewellery, so a good present idea was a jewellery box. In Marks & Spencer’s sale I found a lovely one reduced by 75 per cent to £5 (hope you’re not reading this, Mum!). Then for DJ’s mum who likes to travel, I found a gorgeous set of toiletry bags on ebay for £5 – so nice I nearly kept them!

You can’t buy ahead for everybody. My Dad is very particular about what he likes, although he doesn’t always know what that is! But you can still put away money. And you could ask family members to decide now, so you can buy in advance and save cash.

I make a list of each person, jot down ideas and keep to a budget for each. That might be £10 each for close family members and £5 for others. Avoid the trap of needlessly swapping presents with friends. We’ve all done it. You feel compelled to buy them something, but their presents are often off the mark. Explain that your budget is tight or say you think it’s wasteful for the environment and their good company is present enough. Whether you’re religious or not, Christmas isn’t about presents, it’s about the spirit of it all.

It’s difficult to buy Christmas food ahead. But you could start saving towards it. Some food shops operate Christmas clubs enabling you to save for festive grub. But the collapse of Farepak was a real turn-off and as you won’t get interest on your cash or be able to touch it before Christmas (plus you’ll be forced to buy your goods in that shop), putting cash in a savings account may be wiser.

If you like a drink, look for booze bargains now or consider making your own beer. It’s probably a bit late to make most wines, though, which usually need to be left for a year. Last year I made a Christmas pud. It was really easy and delicious. I made mine a week before, but it’ll be tastier made months ahead.

What are your plans for Christmas this year? Will you be spending less this time around because of the credit crunch? Got any good tips for saving money over the festive season?

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3 Responses to The sun is shining and Christmas is coming!

  1. Christine says:

    You can put the money aside in a savings account at your bank (think Cash Isa where you get interest without paying tax on it and have the money when you want it). Or if you aren\’t up to speed with the bank, you could save at your local credit union and draw the money for shopping at Christmas. Some of us pick up cards, crackers and wrapping paper in the January sales and put them aside for the next year. You can save your Tesco club card points and use them for a shopping spree round the supermarket at Christmas – you can plan ahead for what you want to get including presents then it\’s just one quick run round the shop! If you have gardeners in the family a National Garden Centre voucher that you can buy at your local centre and then your gardener can spend on whatever is wanted for the garden is a good idea (check out the local centres that accept them near your gardener here first). Stick these in a pretty homemade card and you have a thoughtful cheap to post present.

  2. Janeylou says:

    Yep, fully agree with Christmas clubs.  We hear of ones going under but the one I have been with each year (and you get the chance to save as little or as much as you wish) would be the one I heartily recommend.  You good old, early morning, never late …. MILKMAN!  I chose to change to doorstep delivery due to primarily the convenience but also the fact that the local milkman has been at the forefront of recycling for decades as the bottles are reused again and again.  It was only by accident that I stumbled upon the savings stamps.  There are an amazing variety of hampers (delivered to your door) that you can order.  The cost is spread over the year depending on the amount of stamps you buy.  I part with £3 a week.  Hardly breaking the bank but it fills my food cupboard fit to busting each Christmas.  Another saving stamp worth noting is the Post Offics Saving Stamp.  They are £5 each and can be put towards ANY bill you pay over the post office counter as well as anything you purchase (Christmas cards, wrapping paper, etc) there, too.  Also, home made presents often work well.  My apple tree is chucking off fruit fit to bust.  It makes excellent jams with varying additions like strawberries, blueberries or blackberries.  The Dowe Egberts jars with their plastic seals paint up well with glass paint so that the jars you fill also make pretty pots for the recipient.  Yay for recycling!

  3. Nina says:

    Yes I have quite a few christmas presents already, I buy them all year round. The Factory shop  get some really good bits in that I pick up and put away for christmas and birthdays. Also if you are quite crafty then there are lots of things that you can pick up cheap and alter. You can make little albums for people quite easily out of 1 sheet of 12×12 card stock and a bit of ribbon too. Its called a Maze book. Ho Ho Ho merry christmas!

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