/ Shopping

Pre-planning’s bliss with my Christmas shopping list

It’s November. You’re half way through your Christmas shopping, right? If not, I’m going to convince you that starting your Christmas shopping in September is fun, thrifty and the secret to stress free-ish festivities.

I spent many a university holiday working in shops. I can’t count how many sets of girlfriends and wives I wrapped Christmas lingerie for – no she’s probably not ‘your size’ and no, not all women like red.

I couldn’t believe the number of men who would come into the underwear store on 23 or 24 December to buy a Christmas gift for their partner. When closing up shop on one Christmas Eve, a man said his wife would go without a present that year because of me. This didn’t weigh too heavily on my conscience – if he left it until 5pm on Christmas Eve, what did he expect?

You see, I’m the youngest of five children. My brother and sisters are all married and I have a total of eight nieces and nephews. I feel it’s a pleasure and a blessing to belong to such a big family. If you add to that my boyfriend’s family, my friends, their children, and Arteta (my hamster) – we’re looking at a Christmas shopping list of over 40 people.

Naturally, my boyfriend and I go Dutch buying Christmas presents, but even with that in mind, there’s no way I could afford so many presents on my November/December pay packet.

My Christmas shopping rules: document, discount, delivery

So, a few years ago, I made up some Christmas shopping rules:

Rule one – from September, buy two presents or so per week.

Rule two – keep a running list of ideas and actual purchases. This has since taken the form of a nifty shared Google doc.

My boyfriend and I jot present ideas down when things occur to us. There’s a column in the spreadsheet for ideas and one for purchases.

We then make the purchase when I get an offer from the shop (I’m subscribed to my favourite stores’ email updates), or realise I’ve developed a list of things I want to buy from one shop and therefore save on delivery.

If one of us buys something, we just update the spreadsheet. It saves lots of tedious questions about who has bought what and you can make sure you don’t buy them something too similar the following year. Oh yes, I cross references the tabs and spreadsheets!

Rule three – avoid the high street. I’d say 90% of the things I buy, I buy online. I utilise all discount codes available on sites like vouchercodes.co.uk. And, of course, you have some additional consumer rights when shopping online.

This year we’ve come to an agreement that we’ll just buy for one sibling each so that will help cut back. But I do wonder whether my over-the-top techniques are used by other closet Christmas planners like me? Or does the above sound like a Christmas nightmare?


Oh Charlotte! You are so organised and resourceful [just as one would expect any Which? staffer to be of course]. The rest of us out here in consumer-land just muddle along without spreadsheets and voucher codes, wrap something up in some fancy paper and sticky tape, and hope we haven’t fogotten what it is and who it’s for when we come to label it. We wait until the last minute to make our on-line purchases in the hope of delaying the credit card repayment until February when there’s no Council tax to pay. Obviously its not too early to wish you a wonderful yule and hope you get your gold, frankincense and myrrh [in that order, at the best prices, and from the right stores of course]. Oh, and hang onto that boyfriend – he sounds just the ticket!. We Wish You a Merry Spreadsheet . . . and hope all your dreams come true in the New Year.

I’m afraid I’m more of John’s school of present-buying than yours, Charlotte. Most of my purchases are panic-bought and overpriced because I haven’t thought about it until around the 20th December. This year my family have thrown me a lifeline, though – my Mum and Stepdad will be travelling (so no need to buy presents for them) and my Dad has suggested that for his half of the family we just spend £5 on something from a charity shop – I suspect it’ll mean even more interesting things under the tree and, best of all, no last-minute purchases of expensive things to assuage my guilt at not having put much thought in. I’m actually quite looking forward to trawling the charity shops for gifts this year.

It’s also quite a nice reminder that Christmas isn’t really about the presents. It is, of course, all about the delicious roast dinner. =)

Charlotte, my grandma would easily have overtaken you. She used to receive lots of presents from her bingo buddies, but quite often knew she wouldn’t use them (there’s a limit to how much Tweed perfume one lady can wear…). She would attach a note to each present (who it was from, what she gave them and the year it was received) – it would then go into a box with all her other presents until next november, when it would all be taken out and ‘regifted’ to other friends. No-one ever received their own present back, nor did anyone get the same present two years running.

I’m not sure if they were all doing the same thing, but it certainly saved her a fair bit of money over the years. She would even reuse the carefully removed wrapping paper. A true money-saving expert!

Charlotte, I think I need your spreadsheet! I have the same problem of two large families with endless kids to buy for. We’ve cut back by only doing kids for most of the families, but it’s still a lot to think about and buy. In the last couple of years I’ve also switched to buying most of mine online – it;s not as romantic as wandering around the shops to Christmas music and stopping for mulled wine – but it is cheaper and quicker!

Never mind the spreadsheets and shopping early…

Charlotte, you have a hamster called Arteta! fantastic! 🙂

Well, I’ve bought all of my Christmas presents! Beat that! All were bought on holiday in September – some would have been ‘presents from my holiday’, but then why not bundle them in for Christmas?

Has to be the earliest ever for me though…