Christmas Gift Buying Hacks

How to boss Christmas Shopping like a pro.
It's a busy time of year. If not, the busiest time of year. Not only do social engagements dominate the calendar but the hangovers eat into a big part of the weekend's shopping opportunity and not to mention cash-flow demands at this time! My favourite part of Christmas Day (after all the food, of course) is seeing people open the gifts I have bought them. I can't help look on hopefully that the present they open delights.

Of course, when it comes to approaching gift buying, it is obvious to say that organisation is key. After one too many Christmas Eve's spent dashing around Oxford Street and one year in which a particularly nasty case of tonsillitis found me hospital-bound for the full week leading up to Christmas, I pledged to myself Never again will I leave it so late! So, here are my tips to tackle the Christmas shopping whilst retaining a bit of ye olde festive spirit!

1. Write a list... (and check it twice!)
As an all-time lover of stationary, this first point comes particularly easy to me as I've got into the habit of having a notebook by my side when I open presents. Why? To quite simply remember who gave me what whilst my brain has left the building to focus on digestion. I used this list as a checklist for thank you notes and also transfer it to my phone where I keep a note of who I exchange gifts with and what those gifts have been over the years. Partly, I'm having to combat my own terrible memory more than anything! I keep this list in my iPhone Notes section so it's on hand whenever I see something spontaneously in a shop and make a note ahead of prime gift-buying season (told you, bad memory). It also makes sure you aren't relying on a slightly frazzled brain when it comes to, 'Do we do gifts?' when you're thinking through your gifts list.

2. One-stop-shop.
Thematic gifting is not only hugely efficient but also helps take a lot of the stress out for it. One year, it might be that you focus on books, another stationary, another... you get the picture. If that doesn't work for a particularly eclectic bunch, pick a shop and do your damage! A bit like having a wedding gift list at John Lewis, you can get a strike off ten-presents in one fell swoop!

3. Feet up 1st December
If you're the kind of person that works well to deadlines, set yourself the task of having everything bought by 1st December. Then, it's simply a case of setting up the dining table, playing Christmas movies on repeat and wrapping them all whilst sipping on some mulled wine - de-ee-lightful! Last year, a little off the beaten track of the British High Street (and Amazon), I found myself in Kew Garden's gift shop in August. Yes, August. Having flown back from New York for the first time since I'd moved out there six months prior, this was my one and only chance before touchdown on 22nd December. Never knowing how the flights, snow blizzards and my mother's intentions not to let me out of her sight once I'd landed, meant gift-shopping had to be done and dusted way in advance! So, back to the summer heat of August, post-stroll around the Botanic Gardens and I left with three large bags and 80% of my Christmas shopping done. Boom. (The fact I actually wrapped the presents in August was probably a step too far, but, being organised gives me a buzz. Loser, I know!)
4. Black Friday
There's nothing worse than the pinch of Yuletide dinners/drinks/parties (and new outfits for said dinners/drinks/parties) that hits your bank balance hard. It can feel like eleven months of socialising in the space of three weeks! The practicality of getting your Christmas shopping done earlier, either drip-fed across the year or a least two or three paychecks before the 6 week financial drought known as January, may not be for everyone. You'll have all seen those adverts that get played around this time of year to help the people manage their funds so they can afford Christmas and plan for the expenditure in advance. There's a great idea in there somewhere, but, like most us, come February/March, there couldn't be a thought further from my head than, 'Oh, just pop £50 into savings towards next Christmas'. Sounds easy enough when I write it down but somehow never seems possible. The saving grace is, of course, the American phenomenon that has hit our digital shores known as 'Black Friday'. Born out of the public holiday that proceeds Thanksgiving, it is the biggest shopping day of the US calendar, hence retailers offering up incentives to part with as much (and typically, more) dollar than you had anticipated! Still, some great bargains to be had and this is where that list from #1 comes in handy so you can snap up those items that have already piqued your interest before the 'Out of Stock' message pops up!

Here's hoping that post-hangover one weekend in December you're like me, sat on the sofa with your feet up eating a mince pie knowing that all yours gifts are wrapped to perfection under the tree. All that's left is for your mother/sister/cousin/gran to say those treasured words, 'Shall we open some presents?'

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