What's the secret to a stress-free Christmas? Why, planning ahead and reducing costs, of course! Here's how to do just that, courtesy of our super-organised gransnetters (some of whom are clearly wasted on Christmas and should instead be running international military operations).
Some things need doing early, some things are less time-specific. Spread jobs out over the weeks up to Christmas.
Gransnetters say: "Christmas planning doesn't work unless you actually do it. First you need to remember about each job - I put them in my diary for the relevant week so I see them when I turn the page and don't just forget. The actual 'do'ing is sometimes the easiest bit!"
Buying gifts for family and friends every year soon becomes an ordeal. Keeping a record of what you buy year on year saves some space in your brain for other things at Christmas, and let's face it, we need all the space we can get!
Gransnetters say: "I have to admit to an Excel spreadsheet which I try and maintain so that I know whether I'm repeating a present to someone. I looked at it for the first time today and have begun filling in the gaps with ideas from catalogues. Then will come the spending bit! This armchair shopping is a doddle."
Make a little time to gather your thoughts and think up ideas, so Christmas stays interesting for you as much as anyone else.
Gransnetters say: "I have a Christmas planning book - room for present choices, individual pages for everyone I buy for, card list, notebook for ideas - everything I can think of. It's my third year of using it, but it has space for five or six years I think. The good thing is that I can see what I bought for people last year and not repeat."
A lot of the ins and outs of Christmas are the same year in and year out (even if you do follow tip 3 and think up some new ideas each year). Capitalise on this by keeping a note of past Christmases so you can refer back and cut the job in half!
Simply Wonderwoman author Joanna Gosling says: "Sometimes 'doing' things is the easy part. The thinking about what needs to be done can be far harder. But the beauty of Christmas is that it's pretty much the same drill every year. So a few years ago I wrote down notes of what I did and when - including a cooking schedule for Christmas day. Now I've got my handy step-by-step guide to keep as a reminder for how to get to the big day in small, simple steps without ever feeling overwhelmed and frazzled!"
In our efforts to be organised, we might buy Christmas things earlier in the year, then store them somewhere so out-of-the-way, you completely forget where!
Gransnetter says: "I used to write a note on the December page of my kitchen calendar where I had stored the cards and paper bought in January sales. Now it goes on my phone..."
Making sure you buy whatever you can early and not all in one go can lighten the load financially come December.
Gransnetter says: "I spread buying my staples for November and December over earlier months (cleaning products, loo rolls, items like freezer food, stock cubes, rice and pasta, etc). That way, I can use my grocery budget to buy presents that will be appreciated without overspending."
Many supermarkets have voucher incentive schemes or similar on the run up to Christmas.
Gransnetter says: "I collect Tesco savings stamps all year. I use them for all the boring staples that are still needed over the festive season (plus the odd bottle of Baileys or port), freeing up cash to spend elsewhere on Christmas goodies."
See tip five above for how to remember where you've stored it!
Gransnetter says: "I buy things, like cards, wrap and gifts, in the January sales. Not all, but some."
It's surprising how much you can save by booking early.
Gransnetters say: "My main expense (apart from the presents) comes from travelling to family and friends, so I try to firm up dates ahead of time and book my train tickets (I don't drive) as far in advance as possible."
And not just the fake ones - real ones too!
Gransnetters say: "I bought a small tree last year in its pot and put it on a small table covered in a red cloth. Because it's on the table it gives the illusion of being a bigger tree than it is and there's plenty of space below for presents without being prickled by leaves. It went out in the garden in January and is waiting to be brought in again in a few weeks' time. Saving on not buying a big tree two years running now, and possibly three if it survives another year in the garden!"
Gransnetters say: "Over the year I keep my eyes open for Christmas or glitzy fabrics: remnant stalls, January sales and party dresses in charity shops are all good sources. One autumn evening, well before the Christmas rush, I make different sized bags from the fabric, then at Christmas time I just pop my gifts inside a bag, tie with fancy ribbons and add a name tag. It's so easy and no more fiddling with odd-shaped presents. They look spectacular under the tree and everyone loves the bags - especially children - and of course they are recycled for years."
Gransnetters say: "I cut out small pictures or motifs from Christmas cards to make gift tags for next Christmas."
Gransnetters say: "Buy cheap crackers, then take out the cheap present and put something nice in, like nail varnish, a miniature whiskey, little Lego sets as appropriate, get some posh ribbon and make a name tag for each guest you have for Christmas dinner. Then use as place marker settings so people know where to sit. It was a big hit and will do again this year."
Gransnetters say: "Make cookies as a gift and re-use a Pringle tube covered in gift wrap to present them in."
Inject some extra creativity into giving gifts this year. Especially fun for the little ones.
Other things you might like:
|Coping with Christmas stress||How to spend less this Christmas|