Planning Ahead for Christmas - Presents

Christmas can be a wonderful occasion, but the planning for it can often cause stress and financial worry for the people involved. Therefore, in order to try and allow you the most relaxing time with your family, I’ve come up with a series of articles about how to plan ahead for the many and varied aspects of creating a lovely Christmas for you, your family and your friends.

Christmas gift

This post will focus on how to get organised with your present buying. Whatever your feelings about how commercial Christmas has become, it’s difficult to imagine getting through the entire festive season without giving a single gift - especially if you have children. Therefore, if we’re accepting that some shopping will be necessary, we might as well try and make it as painless as possible!

1. Buy throughout the year for basics

Maybe it’s just me, but I have always loved the silly little ‘bits’ that I used to get in my stocking (and now get from my lovely mother-in-law instead!). Sellotape, unusual post-it notes, a bouncy ball, a funny book - you get the idea. These little gifts can really add a special something to people’s presents, but are also especially good for padding out stockings. Buying them all in one go can add up to quite a large bill, however, so I like to stock up on them throughout the year, which spreads the cost very well.

2. Look out for supermarket offers for sweets

Pretty much everyone I’ve ever come across likes to eat sweets and chocolate around Christmas time. The supermarkets (and probably other stockists as well) will all have a range of different promotions on their seasonal confectionary in the couple of months coming up to Christmas, so keep your eyes peeled and snap up good offers as and when you see them.

3. Buy wrapping paper and cards in January sales

This is a tip that’ll help you plan even further ahead than the others, as it relates to the Christmas after this one! Use the significant discounts offered as part of the January sales to purchase all your cards and wrapping paper for the following Christmas. Not only will you save yourself some money, but if you’re amazingly efficient, you could even use the paper to wrap up the little gifts you buy throughout the year (labelling them carefully so that you don’t forget what things are) and thus save yourself time as well as money when it comes to the big Christmas rush.

4. Keep yourself in the loop

Sign up for email newsletters from stores that you know are liked by your family and friends, or you could even use social media to stay in touch with them as well. You will be kept up to date with all their latest products, which could provide you with some inspiration for those particularly tricky-to-buy-for relatives. A lot of websites also use your browsing / purchasing history to suggest other items that they think you’ll like, so it’s worth investigating those in addition to performing your own searches. Staying in touch with these stores will also mean that you’re offered discounts and promotions that aren’t publicised anywhere else, plus you’ll be among the first to hear about sales.

5. Try making some gifts

Not only could this save you some money, but it’s also a really pleasant activity to do with children. It can often be done well in advance, which will help you all to feel organised and on top of things. Sweets, biscuits and jams and preserves are fairly universally appreciated and for the more adventurous there’s always flavoured alcohol (thought perhaps that’s not something to make with children!). You could put together a personalised hamper of all the recipient’s favourite treats, with a handwritten card to explain the contents. Arty, crafty gifts are popular as well and, again, can be tailored to the interests of the recipient - a bookmark for a keen reader, or a handpainted eggcup for someone who loves to savour their breakfasts. There are lots of ideas on the internet if you get stuck.

6. Give photo gifts from young children

Every year since we’ve had children, we’ve given our immediate family a calendar made up from family photos that we’ve taken throughout the year. Photobox (www.photobox.co.uk ) do regular promotions where it’s possible to ‘buy one get one free’ and we’ve always taken advantage of these when creating our calendars, which makes them really good value for money. Grandparents and great-grandparents will comment on them throughout the year so we know that they’re admired, as well as being practical.

7. Look at charity shops and eBay

If someone you know has something specific on their wish list that’s out of your price range, it can be worth scouring charity shops and eBay to see if you’re able to get it cheaper. If it’s something that can only really be bought new, then use price comparison websites to locate the best price and search online for voucher codes to see if you can save yourself even more money.

8. Give vouchers

By this I don’t mean book tokens or vouchers for a certain store, though these are gifts that many people give each year. In our family we like to make our own vouchers for non-monetary gifts, so for example, for my husband’s birthday this year I gave him a ‘weekend away with his friends’. I wasn’t planning to fund this for him, but the voucher meant that he could have some guilt-free time to go and watch sport and drink a few beers with his university buddies while I looked after the children. My sister has given us quite a few vouchers with an offer from her to babysit. If you don’t have a lot of money to buy presents for people, giving them your time can be just as valuable, if not more so.