Buying the bulk of my Christmas presents and food early has saved me a bundle ahead of the big day.
Why I decided to do my Christmas shopping early
Hate how your local garden centre displays Christmas cards in August?
Fed up with the fact your supermarket was flogging mince pies in September?
This year I decided that if I couldn’t beat them I’d join them, so I did my Christmas shopping in October.
I’ve been looking out for Xmas bargains on and off all year.
Money is tight as we have a toddler and only one of us works full-time. Last year I left things too late and panic-bought online. In the rush, it’s easy to overspend.
So here’s how I went about starting early – and saving.
January sales: finding a tree
We started out in January by getting 50% off a new artificial Christmas tree in our local garden centre.
The Van Hage sale is legendary in Hertfordshire.
My friend and I go there with our kids and had been staking out the trees for weeks, awaiting the post-Christmas sale.
I like a real tree but, given they can cost up to £60, we’ve gone without for four years.
But Christmas isn’t the same without one – our ficus doesn’t cut it – and our soon-to-be-three-year-old wouldn’t let us get away.
The £124.50 tree has its own lights and after two or three years should have paid for itself.
Creating a present list
Fortunately, I have just a small list to buy for, which makes life easier. Here is my list:
Mum, Dad, Hubby, son Stellan (3), mother-in-Law Kay, nephew Aidan (3), cousin Anthony (3), cousin Christian (1), god-daughter Phoebe & her sister Clara (13 & 10), friend’s daughter Zara (1) & son Zach (4).
I also have a number of birthdays in October and November to buy for, including my friend Allison’s daughters Chloë and Juliette.
Hit the discount stores and supermarkets
I found the discount stores and supermarkets are great places to pick up low cost, quality presents.
In the summer I picked up a DVD from Sainsbury’s for my mother-in-law of two films she loves for a fiver.
In Matalan, I found a great three-for-two deal on toddler tops and leggings. This provided me with presents for Zara, Juliette and Chloë, as well as a superhero top for Stellan.
After the discounts, each of the six items cost me less than £3 each.
My mother likes stocking filler-style presents and loves doing her nails, so I found her a fun nail varnish set there for £4 and a cool leopard print notebook for £4.
For the kids, there are cheap toy sets and deals on sticker books – ideal for toddlers.
I picked up The Gingerbread Man and Jack and the Beanstalk phonetic reading books with stickers for just £1 each for Stellan, down from £2, plus festive sticker activity packs for £3 each for Zach and my nephew Aidan.
Aidan loves riding his dirt bike and I found a brilliant £4 jumper for him with the slogan ‘Little Racer, Speed King’.
Using my Matalan card, I got an extra £5 discount for spending over £25.
Unfortunately, a trip out with Zara’s Mum made me realise I’d bought the wrong size – the fast-growing girl now takes 18-23 months size clothes, not 12-18 months – but I knew I’d be returning anyway to pick up some more bargains I’d scouted out.
Meanwhile, our garden centre autumn sale yielded more bargains: a lovely set of two Peter Rabbit books for baby Christian for £4.99 and two-for-£5 superhero books for Anthony.
Beating the cost of postage
With the cost of stamps, sometimes it can be cheaper to buy online, especially if you get free postage.
This is an issue with my folks, who live in Ireland, and my American nephew.
Often I fork out more on airmail to the US than I did for the present so, for his birthday, I bought him a toy from Amazon.com with postage included.
This time around, I discovered the deadline for International Economy Postage to the US is Saturday, 13 October, so this meant I could send my package for £6.10 – slightly cheaper than I usually get stung for.
According to their Mum Vix, god-daughter Phoebe and her sister Clara love the £2 selection boxes I’ve got into a habit of buying them each year, so I’m sticking with this option for them and will save on postage by giving them to them ahead of Christmas.
My bearded hubby is seriously into ‘mampering’ these days, so I headed online to voucher site Wowcher to grab a beard oil and conditioning set for £14.99 plus £2.79 postage, 63% down from £39.99.
I like to ask my folks what they want for Christmas – my Dad is very particular, so it just saves time.
But they had no idea what they wanted yet – this is the risk you take with buying early.
Fortunately, once again, Wowcher provided some ideas such as a £19 afternoon tea for two deal at Patisserie Valerie in Belfast (down from £25).
Food & drink: bought what I can early
Food can be a bit trickier because not all things keep and you don’t necessarily want to decide what you’re having for Christmas dinner in July. But there are a few things I’ve stocked up on.
Booze can be a big expense so I used a £30-off voucher I’d got from Majestic Wine to get a £100 case of 12 bottles of red for £70 – so £5.83 each.
Luckily, there was no delivery charge and no insistence we sign up to a monthly wine club.
On the beer front, my other half belongs to a brewing club and has started a brew in time for Christmas.
This means 40 pints of beer at around 60p a pint. Not bad!
I considered making a Christmas pudding again but decided that, given how long it takes to steam, it would be more economical to buy one.
Last year the Co-Op’s £3 Irresistible Christmas pud came third in a Which? trial of 10 puddings, trumping Waitrose and M&S’s offerings and beaten only by Aldi and Asda but cheaper than both at £6.61 per kilo (versus £11 for Aldi’s and £8.81 for Asda’s), so I got one. If you fancy making your own, why not try Mary Berry's Christmas pud recipe?
One thing I haven’t bought early is mince pies. While I probably will be eating some in November, I don’t want to buy things that might go off too early or risk getting squashed/chewed up by the dog.
I have mincemeat made by Auntie Toria at our Hertford Food Swap ready to make my own pies and, with most of my shopping done I might have the time to do it this year.
Plus, as my husband grows his own we have carrots, potatoes and parsnips in the ground ready for Christmas too.
How much am I saving?
So far, I think we have saved nearly £250 by buying early.
The one present we haven’t decided on yet is Stellan’s main Christmas pressie.
We think we want to get him a bike – I have my eyes on a £99 Batman bike in Argos – but we’re not sure yet, so this one needs a bit more thinking through.
However, the savings we’ve made on the other presents and food will cover it.
Verdict: is buying early worth it?
You also beat the crowds at the check-out, get organised and minimise panic buying. Of course, the risk you take is that things could be cheaper closer to the big day.
Often the high street retailers panic that footfall is low and slash their prices in the run-up to Christmas – and of course Black Friday is still to come – so I could be missing out on these discounts.
But, overall, I think buying early has given me the peace of mind that the bulk is done and that the cost of Christmas shopping is spread out and hopefully won’t come back to haunt me and my credit card come January.
What do you think? Are you also an early shopper, or has the thought of Christmas hardly crossed your mind? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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