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Christmas Shopping Survival Guide

Christmas Shopping Survival Guide

Does the thought of Christmas shopping send your blood pressure sky high? Do you get clammy palms just thinking about the crowds? Does the chorus of stomping feet, ringing cash registers, and Christmas songs give you a headache?

If that sounds like every experience of Christmas shopping to date, then you’re not alone. Christmas shopping can be incredibly stressful. Not only have you got crowds, queues, sore feet, heavy bags and incessant Christmas tunes to deal with, but you’re on a deadline too!

But don’t worry, because we’re here to help. Here, we share some of our favourite insider shopping tips to ease the pain during the festive season.

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When to Do Your Christmas Shopping

There are two types of Christmas shopper: the early bird, and the last-minute buyer.

The former likes to pick up bits and bobs throughout the year, so come December all they need to do is purchase their wrapping paper and sit back with a mince pie and a Christmas film. The latter can be found manically dashing around the shops in the week before Christmas, red-faced, sweating, and simultaneously loving and hating every second of it.

Depending on how many people you’re buying for, and how well-organised you are, it’s likely that you’ll find yourself falling into one side or the other. Or, you’re a strange mix of the two, where you buy a few presents really early and congratulate yourself on being organised, then Christmas sneaks up on you and you realise you’ve still not bought gifts for half the family.

The early-bird shoppers might just have the edge over the Johnny-come-latelies; according to research by the Royal Statistical Society, the general shopping trend is edging earlier and earlier into the year. In fact, in 2017, 23% of people started their Christmas shopping before the end of September. That’s almost as many as left it until the last minute (24% started in December)!

So, when should you really start your Christmas shopping? Well, it turns out those early bird shoppers might just be on to something…

The Money Advice Service also recommends starting your Christmas shopping sooner rather than later, as “putting off buying presents until nearer the big day means you’ll likely spend more than you need to, making an already pricey month cost even more.” So, if you’re worried about the increasing impact of Christmas on your piggy bank, start sooner rather than later to spread the cost over several months, rather than just December.

The rise of Black Friday and Cyber Monday means that if you’re thinking about buying big ticket tech items (that new PlayStation, perhaps a new tablet, or phone) then you’re best to wait until the end of November. You’ll often find worthwhile discounts on a number of larger ticket items, but remember that it’s not guaranteed that the gift you’ve got your eye on will be reduced, so be cautious with this “wait and see” approach.

Getting a jump on your shopping early also means that you’re more likely to avoid the panic of last-minute purchasing. Last-minute Christmas gifts are often more expensive than you’d have budgeted for, and are often not well-thought out. Either way you spin it, they’re a poor investment.

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Christmas Shopping Survival Tips

When it comes to making the most of the festive season, preparation is the best cure for Christmas shopping stress. Here are our top tips for keeping calm when shopping at Christmas:

Shopping Budget

Set a Budget

With Christmas shopping, it’s so easy to get caught up in the festivities and end up spending more than you bargained for. Set yourself a spending limit, and stick to it.

Give yourself a realistic budget of what you’d like to spend on presents and then divide it up between the people that you’d like to buy for.

If you’re on a tight budget, there are also hundreds of ways to show that you care that won’t cost you a lot. Got a friend who’s always asking for your brownie recipe? Why not bake her a batch and write the recipe in a cute card rather than purchasing those expensive toiletries that are probably going to end up in the back of their bathroom cupboard?

Shopping List

Go Armed with a List

A little preparation can go a long way. Whether you’re an early bird shopper or find yourself leaving things to the last minute, do NOT leave the house without a list. A list will help you keep your budget in line, and your spending under control.

Your Christmas shopping list doesn’t have to be a big, elaborate, spreadsheet; just a few must purchase items will be enough to keep you on the straight and narrow. It could be as broad as “T-shirts for dad”, or “new perfume for mum”, but that will give you a good starting point.

If it’s not on the list, it’s not going in your shopping basket. Make a note of things you see that you think people might like, but don’t purchase there and then unless you’re sure of your purchase. You’ll find, most of the time, that those “Oh, I’ll just grab that” buys are the ones you end up regretting.

And don’t forget, Christmas shopping doesn’t just include gifts. Think cards, decorations, crackers, food, the list goes on. It’s easy to lose track, but with a shopping list, you’ll know exactly what you need. It may even help you plan your route through the shops too!

Shop Alone

Okay, we know we sound like proper Scrooges now, but it’s true that no-one enjoys spending your money more than other people. And when you’re tired and stressed and would do anything to get home and put your feet up, you’re more likely to agree to buy something that isn’t ideal!

Try to do the bulk of your Christmas shopping solo if possible, as there’s no-one there to sway you into (or out of) a purchase. If you’re armed with a list and a strong resolve, then you may find Christmas shopping with friends and family a breeze, but a solo shopping escapade is likely to be gentler on your wallet.

Take a Break

Even if you’re on a mission, be sure to take a break every now and then. A quick bite to eat, a cup of tea or coffee, or even a glass of water will keep your energy levels up, and have a positive effect on your patience, too!

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Christmas Shopping Survival Kit

Christmas Shopping Bags

Always be prepared: whilst this might be the motto that the Cub Scouts live by, it’s not a bad one to adopt for your Christmas shopping mission. Here’s what you need to survive the Christmas crush:

What to Wear When You Go Christmas Shopping

Don’t let the cold weather deceive you; once you get inside the shops themselves, the crowds and the heating will make for a cosy atmosphere. Dress for comfort, and practicality, too. A pair of sturdy boots will protect your toes from the heels of the crowds, whilst trainers are stylish, supportive, and comfortable. Finish your look off with a lightweight jacket, and a shopper bag so you can proudly say “no thank you” to those wasteful plastic bags.

When dressing for your Christmas shopping expedition, always be mindful of your safety. The crowds and noise make the high street a hotbed for pickpocketing action. To keep yourself safe, keep things like your phone and purse well-hidden and in a safe place. An inside pocket on your jacket is a good choice for smaller items. If you’re carrying a handbag, be sure to close it properly every time. Carrying it with the catch, or zips, towards your body will help to keep opportunistic thieves at bay. If you’ve got a cross-body bag, wear it across you, rather than hanging from one shoulder to make it harder to snatch.

If you’re resting your feet for a minute or two, don’t hang your handbag on the back of your chair. Even if you think you’re keeping an eye on it, it’s easy to swipe. Instead, put it on the floor in front of you, and put a chair leg through the strap. This applies to your shopping bags, too; keep them close to you, and in a more difficult location for someone to pinch them from than behind you.

Apple Snack

Stock Up on Snacks

Before you leave the house, pack yourself a couple of snacks to keep in your bag. Trust us, after three hours trudging round the shops, the last thing you’ll want to do is stand in another queue to grab an overpriced muffin. Stick a couple of cereal bars, an apple, and a bottle of water in your bag and stave off the hanger for another shop or two.

So, there you have it; our tops tips for when to do, and how to survive, your Christmas shopping. Now get out there and grab some bargains!

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