Survival Guide: Christmas shopping

I cannot believe that there’s only a few weeks left until Christmas and the end of 2013! This year has been mad but I’ll do a reflective post a little later on in the month.

It was lovely to see so many festive photos, tweets and posts at the weekend with everyone wrapping up presents, putting up their tree or moaning about said things haha! While I didn’t jump on the bandwagon because admittedly I’m more of a NYE fan than a Christmas one, I surprisingly started to feel a little excited. All those years of working in retail haven’t quite killed off my festive spirit then!

I’ve been reading loads of awesome gift guides and ideas in magazines and from other bloggers over the past week or so (hugely helpful for Secret Santa) and rather than add another to the blogosphere, I thought I’d do one of my Survival Guide posts instead (see my previous Surviving the Sales tips) because it’s a jungle out there guys.

If only Xmas shopping was this fun...Image courtesy of Delightful Cycles via Pinterest

If only Xmas shopping was this fun…Image courtesy of Delightful Cycles via Pinterest

Make a list

He’s checking it twice…blah blah blah. C’mon, you knew list-making was going to be top of my tips for surviving Christmas shopping but being prepared and organised pays off. Wandering around aimlessly will involve far more effort, probably far more money and you’ll get so fed up that you could potentially head home without so much as a roll of wrapping paper. Unless of course, impulse buying works for you, do share your wisdom with me!

I try and get ideas from friends and family early on and sometimes you don’t even have to nudge them for hints, they may drop into conversation that they need a new handbag/perfume/jacket etc. This is where you guys could pick up a thing or two, untune your ‘selective hearing’ for a second and look for the ‘magic words’ your mother/sister/girlfriend mention.

Making a list also ensures that you don’t forget any essentials like bows, cards, sellotape etc. If you are super-duper, you may find that you can do most of your Christmas shopping in one hit and this saves you from weaving around a shopping mall or a supermarket umpteen times. And if you’re slightly OCD like I am, ticking off items on your list will give you a small sense of achievement and smugness.

Shop Online

So how many of you got involved with Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

If you don’t want to face trawling around your local high street for hours on end, wasting an entire precious Saturday, then look no further than the comfort of your own armchair. Log on, with your card to hand and order everything you need online and then all you need to do is wait for everything to be delivered to your front door. Just remember:

1. Check delivery dates and times- there’s always a cut-off date for items to be delivered on time for Xmas and if it needs to be signed for, is someone going to be at home?

2. Check the delivery charges- some stores will tempt you into buying more for free delivery, don’t do it for the sake of it unless you’re really saving a lot of money!

3. Check refund/returns policies- so many people are caught out by this and end up with unwanted gifts. It’s also worth checking if you can return it to the store at a later date.

Deals & Vouchers

Being bombarded with emails about sales, deals and bargains on a daily basis does annoy the absolute life out of me but they’re mega handy at this time of the year, so take time on your morning commute or your coffee break to have a browse. It could give you some inspiration and save you money on a potential gift you had lined up.

My Top Five Money-Saving sites

1. Groupon– Best for experience days

2. Vouchercodes– Everything from fashion to food vouchers

3. Wowcher– Vouchers for restaurants, hotels, spas and city breaks

4. All Beauty– Discounted beauty and cosmetics

5. Sales Gossip– the site in the know for the best fashion deals and discounts

Signing up for stores’ newsletters is also incredibly useful when it comes to finding outfits/accessories for the party season (treat yourself too!). There’s nothing worse than paying full-price for a dress to discover that 25% has been slashed off it the very next day. If you live or work in a commercial area, window-shopping on your commute to work can also give you the chance to spot bargains. Boots are doing some awesome deals on fragrances, beauty and giftsets at the moment, with new offers every week.

Budget Accordingly

We all love our family and friends and I think most people would agree when you say you want to give them the world but your bank account doesn’t contain infinite money. Avoid getting yourself into trouble with your finances by setting a budget for your expenditure and try to stick as close to it as possible. It also helps if you’ve managed to save some money aside specifically for Christmas, which I try to do around October-time. December is an incredibly busy month for most people and with presents, food and parties on top of your normal monthly bills and outgoings, it’s normal to feel the crunch. At the end of the day, it’s the thought that counts!

DIY- Thrifty gifts

If you’re a little bit creative and you want to save an extra bit of money, you could always make your own gifts, cards and decorations etc. All of the little bits and bobs that make Christmas soon add up and let’s be honest, gift wrap and bows etc are discarded without a few minutes of opening!

Home-made gifts are also perfect for Secret Santa. If you’re a bit of a domestic goddess in the kitchen, you could always bake someone a box of cookies or brownies or buy a little hamper basket (99p store- hello!) fill it with little goodies and wrap it in festive cellophane. Voila! Thrifty gifts also allow you to personalise for individuals if you’re a bit strapped for cash or if you’re stuck for ideas. I have to, of course, mention a fellow blogger A Thrifty Mrs who has some fantastic posts on home-made gifts and advice on how to save your pennies over Christmas!

Shop Early or Late

As well as planning what you’re going to buy, another key to almost fuss-free Christmas shopping is deciding when you’re going to do it. While I’m slightly bemused by people who put away gifts throughout the year, October and November-time is a good way to avoid the rush and you can also take advantage of mid-season sales. However, since I’m now writing this in December for probably the majority and the last minute chancers, it’s always good to either shop early in the morning or later in the evening. Saturday is a complete no-go, unless of course you can’t face the thought of trawling around a shopping centre into the evening after work. Shift-workers may be able to take advantage of some quiet time during the week when the 9-5’s are working, while some offices allow staff to take days off in lieu to do their Christmas shopping. Many retail parks and shopping malls extend their opening hours (ha- don’t I remember it!) over the festive period, for example, in dear ol’ Essex Lakeside Shopping Centre is open from 9am-11pm weekdays while Westfield in Stratford City his now open until 10pm during weekday evenings.

For those of you (*cough* men *cough*) who are planning on doing yours on Christmas Eve, good luck and God speed!

Gift Receipts

One of my biggest tips for surviving Christmas shopping is to make sure you get a gift receipt with every purchase and pop it in the gift bag to avoid any awkwardness later on. Many stores extend their refund/exchange policies over the holidays and that way (if need be) your loved one can exchange it for something else or you can get your money back. Waste not, want not afterall. And if you, yourself receive any unwanted gifts and  you can’t be bothered to set foot anywhere near a shopping centre during the sales period, why not give it to a local charity shop instead?

Finally, Relaaaaax

At the end of it all, when the presents are wrapped beautifully under your sparkling tree, pour yourself a glass of Baileys, get out the biscuits and watch the cheesiest Christmas movie you can find on the TV. Bliss!

Put your feet up...Image courtesy of Breville via Pinterest

Put your feet up…Image courtesy of Breville via Pinterest

Coming soon- Blogging tips and a long overdue beauty post!

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