My number 1 Christmas shopping rule: start early

Get buying early

Get buying early

I’m not the most organised person in the world. I frequently forget birthdays, double-book everything, and I never know where my bag/phone/keys are.

This ‘unorganised me’ changes magically once a year when I buy Christmas presents. I’ve better skills than Santa’s elves.

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: "But Charlotte, shopping in December is magical. I’m flooded with Christmas spirit."

I see what you’ve done there. You’ve idealised 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, on a depressing high street, with wet shoes, 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).

What I do

  • I list the people I need to buy for and figure out how much I am prepared to spend.
  • I think about the budget, and ask myself whether I can get away with spending less. With some MoneySaving savvy, I can get more for my money. Once I’ve got a figure, I don’t deviate.
  • I think about what people want and make a list. If I can’t figure it out, I have plenty of time to prod and question loved ones and get the intel. They won’t even suspect a thing because it’s only October — MI5 would be proud.
  • I keep an eye out for bargains, sales and discount codes. I sign up to all the newsletters of shops I may want to buy presents in. And I know most of the top deals anyway via MSE.
  • If I get a few things each month, I’m not incredibly poor in December.

I’ve made mistakes in the past leaving all shopping till December and not had enough money to get everything.

Instead of deciding not to buy Christmas presents, I extended my graduate overdraft. Honestly, what a mistake that was.

If you spread the cost by buying presents over a longer period and stick to your budget, you don’t need to get into debt and you’ll have no unloved presents.

I can’t enjoy something if I can’t afford it, and Christmas is there to be enjoyed.

Please share your tips and comments below or in the MSE Forum.