At the time of writing (16th September) there are 100 days to go until Christmas Day. Sorry, but it has to be said. You might still be hoping for an Indian summer and have your mind more on The Great British Bake Off than turkey and stuffing, but winter is coming.
With 100 days to go, there’s so much that you can do now to make Christmas run more smoothly and with less financial friction. And you won’t be alone by planning ahead. New research from American Express shows that 8.6 million people in Britain have already started their festive shopping.
Stephen Steinhardt, director at American Express, says: “With so many people starting their shopping early the Christmas countdown is now well and truly underway.
“If you’re not an early bird shopper, it’s a good idea to get started before it’s time to dig out the tinsel and decorate your Christmas tree. This will avoid last minute panic buying and help you spread the costs.” But it’s not just shopping, there’s loads you can do now to get ready. Here are some ideas.
Okay, it’s not just shopping but it is partly about shopping. By getting going on your present buying now, you have the chance to pick up presents in the sales, avoid the Christmas crush and take your time choosing. Best of all, it means you can spread the cost over more than one pay packet, instead of trying to pay for presents, food and socialising all in one month.
Talk about Secret Santa
Agreeing to do Secret Santa with family or friends is a great way to keep the cost of Christmas under control. But if you leave it until December to bring it up, then it might not be possible; someone might have already bought gifts for the group. Even if you can’t face the actual shopping now, a little bit of organising, a few quick messages via WhatsApp and you could save a lot of money come December.
Embrace the marketing
Signing up to retailer newsletters and loyalty schemes can mean you see their best offers and get special discounts and deals over the next few months. That means you can snap up your Christmas shopping at a better price than if you just stumble upon the website. If you’d rather not fill your inbox with retailer marketing then you can always open a separate email account just to manage your shopping.
Consider a reward credit card
By applying for a reward or cashback credit card you can earn a little something back on your Christmas shopping over the next few months. Some credit cards will even have special deals and offers for cardholders, which can be really useful in the run-up to Christmas. We’ve got a quick guide to cashback credit cards if you’re considering applying for one. It’s important to be realistic though. If you know you won’t clear the balance every month then this is not the right kind of card for you. The interest rates can be very high and you usually need a good credit score to qualify for one. However, if you have a lot of discipline the this can be a great way to earn a little something back on your shopping.
Add some Christmas bits to your basket
It’s easy to spend hundreds of pounds on food at Christmas, particularly if you’re hosting family and friends. So that’s another cost it’s better to spread over several monthly pay cheques rather than deal with in one go come December. Clear a shelf in your cupboard and start filling it with crisps, selection boxes, cranberry sauce and other festive ‘essentials’. Adding one or two long-shelf-life items to your weekly shop can really take the sting out of your food bill in December.
Find out what the kids want
Children can change their minds a lot between now and Christmas Day. However, if there’s a big-ticket present that they want then it’s a good idea to find out well in advance. That gives you time to watch for it in the sales or to start saving for it now if it’s particularly pricey and you’re determined to get it for them (it also gives you time to manage their expectations if what they want is simply unaffordable). It also means that if they want this year’s must-have toy, you can buy it early before it inevitably sells out at the shops. There are few things more frustrating than paying a savvier shopper twice what a toy is worth because it’s completely sold out and it’s almost Christmas.
Sort out your credit rating
This might not seem like the most festive thing to do now but it’s a serious concern. If you are planning to spread the cost Christmas using a credit card or loan then the better your credit score, the more choice you will have. Doing so can even mean you are offered better rates. And there are loads of things you can do, from checking for errors on your credit file to making sure you’re on the electoral roll. Read our 10 top tips for more information.
Act now. Seriously.
Don’t read this and then forget about it until November 29th. Come December, when all the other poor folk are trudging round the busy shops you can smugly relax, knowing your festivities are sorted. Best of all, you won’t face a financial hangover in January.