Think back seven or eight months, to your last Christmas shop. Do you remember how stressful and expensive it was? We all know that feeling: our friends and family deserve the world, but once all the decorations and wrapping paper have drained our funds, all we can afford for them is a Toblerone.
The secret to having a relaxed, budget-friendly Christmas – and wowing your loved ones – is to start early. I adore Christmas (and shopping) and prefer giving presents to receiving them. I know it seems early to start thinking about Christmas, but it’s the wise thing to do.
By following what I do, maybe you can take some of the stress and cost out of your Christmas shopping. I’ve already bought loads of my Christmas presents. For the last few years, I’ve not had to buy a single thing in December. I am done and can relax (which means sitting about eating and drinking) in the weeks running up to the big day.
December shopping is depressing
I know what you’re thinking: “shopping in December is magical. I’m flooded with Christmas spirit.” See what you’ve done there. You’ve idealized Christmas shopping in your head. You’re not in New York in the snow, with a wallet full of money and choirs on every street corner. You’re probably in the rain, in a depressing mall, wading through crowds, no money and being shoved by stressed-out people. I honestly can’t think of a single reason to leave your shopping till December – never mind Christmas Eve.
Start now, it’s worth it. Christmas is a time for happiness, not torturous shopping trips. Stay inside, eat mince pies and watch TV — it’s good that time of year.
By starting early, you’ll get presents people actually want as there’s no rush. Nothing’s worse than panicking over what to buy that person who says “I don’t want anything” but obviously does (if you are that person, stop it, for the sake of your loved ones).
The pros of shopping in July are endless
* Christmas decorations are really cheap
Tinsel and baubles are not wanted in July. Scour the clearance aisles and websites of homeware stores for great offers on festive decorations. Your home will be a glittering grotto this December. Just snap them up quickly – as soon as August ends, they’ll appear back on the shelves at full price.
* July is the month of winter sales
It’s not only summer items that are cheap at this time of year. Every July, the big change of season sales begin. It’s the perfect opportunity to save cash on everything from socks and gift sets to furniture and electronics.
* You have time to make something
In many ways, homemade gifts are the perfect present: incredibly special for the recipient and budget-friendly for the gift-giver. However, they can be time-consuming, so start now. Buy supplies now so it’s ready to work on over the coming months. If you’re new to crafts, try a knitted scarf – how long can you get it between now and December?
* Christmas food and drink keep well
You don’t need to pay R50 and fight the crowds for a Christmas pudding this winter if it’s on sale now for R30. Puds keep for years and are sold year-round. Check the bigger supermarkets near you – they’ll be hidden away in the cake or dessert aisle. Drinks, crisps and sweets keep too, so look out for deals and bag them now.
* You can spread the cost
For many, December is going to be one of the most expensive months of the year, with Christmas presents forming a large chunk of it. If you start to pay for those gifts now and through October, you should be in a better place to avoid nasty overdraft or credit card fees that could come from spending it all in December.
Of course, it helps to know how much you can afford to spend first, so use our Christmas money planner to work out your festive budget.
* You can hunt for the perfect present (and the best prices)
Sometimes you know exactly what you want to buy someone, other times you don’t. By starting your shopping now you’ve more time to find a decent gift within your budget. Even better you can also shop around for the best price. If you’re worried something might be cheaper in the Black Friday or other pre-Christmas sales, simply find out what the return policy is before you buy. Most shops will offer a 30-day window for you to get a refund, though they don’t have to. Buy online and you legally have 14 days to return anything.
* You’ll avoid last-minute buying
If you leave your gift buying until December the shops will be busier, the stock could be low and prices often higher. As a result, it’s possible you’ll end up spending more than you planned. Worse, there’s the chance you’ll panic buy something expensive the recipient probably doesn’t even want just so you’ve something to give. That’s a waste of money however you look at it.
* You can avoid last-minute delivery charges
More of us are shopping online rather than at a mall, and this often comes with extra charges for delivery. Though many retailers will offer you free shipping if you spend a certain amount, the later you leave it to order, the less likely you’ll be able to take advantage of this. You might even have to pay more to guarantee delivery by a certain date.
We’ve also seen over the last few years some shops unable to manage the demand, especially after big sales like Black Friday, meaning you might not even get your gifts before Christmas.
You can’t enjoy something if you can’t afford it, and Christmas is there to be enjoyed.