Friday, 25 September 2009

Christmas planning part 1

Now I don’t want to get targeted by those ‘don’t start on Christmas too early’ people but I do think that forward planning is important. I bet you do it with your summer holiday. Most people don’t suddenly decide in June to book their week or two in the sun. And if they do book last minute it’s because they’ve planned it that way.

I forward plan because I know who’ll be getting everything organised for Christmas including where we’ll be, who’ll we‘ll see, what we’ll eat and the presents.

I tend to think that if I get myself organised early I’ll be able to enjoy the festive season rather than finding wrapping presents in the small hours after one glass of wine too many. I’ll also be far more likely to be beaming with good will to all men (particularly those who are happy to participate in the good bits but prefer to skip the preparation and mutual part of the giving activities).

I start with the most time consuming bit – the presents. My approach and suggestions are outlined below to make this task a bit easier. And don’t forget at the end of the day it’s the thought that counts.

Make a number of lists
I draw up a grid of all the people I need to buy for. I add in birthdays that occur around the festive season. Then I begin to add gift ideas.

Then I work in reverse and write a shopping list of the items you need to buy grouped by location/shop. You should then be ready to start buying. Don’t forget postage costs if you are buying mail order and online. Try and buy from as few locations as possible and order early (by end of October) to ensure you get your goodies in plenty of time.

I used to do this on paper but I now have it one spreadsheet and add in ideas as they occur to me during the year.

Set a limit
Consider setting a limit on cost of gifts. We’ve done years where gifts could cost no more than £10 and they’ve been marvellous. The need to buy expensive items or add extras on is removed. Agree it now before anyone else starts their shopping.

Listen
When people comment on their favourite author or how they have always wanted to own a garlic press/pink kangaroo/join the lunch pail appreciation society make a note of it. Then when Christmas comes you’ll already have a clutch of ideas.

Get inspiration
Use all those catalogues that are dropping through our door to give you idea. But don’t feel that you must buy the actual item that appears in the brochure. Use it as a starting point for the places listed below, knowing that you can come back to it if all else fails.

Go second hand
Charity shops and second hand shops are an excellent source of original gifts. If you don’t usually buy second hand take some time to get your eye in and don’t expect to do all your shopping in one trip.

Books rule
Last year I tried to buy a book in Waterstones, realised they didn’t stock the title I wanted, popped into Oxfam to browse and found a pristine hardback copy. Other options are looking for retro books (which can be a bit battered) or using Abes to find out of print items.

Handmade is cool
Make it yourself or buy from someone who does. I bought several items from Etsy last year and found it a very enjoyable experience. One which I will be repeating.

I'll be sitting down this weekend for an hour or so with a glass of something nice to do some inital planning and size up the task ahead.
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