Hello lovely ladies!
99 days until what you say? Oh, yes, Christmas! I have been in two minds whether to write this post, because talking about Christmas before December 1st can really go down like a lead balloon with some, but this isn't a preachy look at me I've got all my presents and cards wrapped, addresses, stamped and ready to go, merely a tale of what happened to me a few years a go, and what I've come to learn since.
I'll start you off with a photo..
This is a photo of me on Christmas Day 2010, holding my stunning Marc Jacobs handbag. I look pretty happy right? Take another look. I could barely keep my eyes open. I'm pale any way but then again I look particularly ill in this photo. The reason? I had worked myself in to a stupor by leaving all my Christmas preparation until December 20th.
So here's the story. 2010 was the first year I had a proper job and a pay check that didn't just cover the rent, and between me and my boyfriend we have an extremely large family, not to mention the friends who we like to buy Christmas presents for.
That year me & my boyfriend had just moved in to a nice flat in Manchester, but we didn't own a single Christmas decoration, tree, nothing. Early on in December we decided that buying decorations and a big tree for our tiny flat was absolutely the most important thing in the world, so we went out and spent a small fortune on a tree (which incidentally died about a week later, and to this day, 2 years later & having moved, I am still finding pine needles in the most unlikely places) and more decorations than I could even know what to do with. So much money in fact, that it left us short for the rest of the month, meaning Christmas presents had to wait.
And wait they did, until December 20th, when my boyfriend got his pay check. With which we bought a few presents, a couple of rolls of wrapping paper and some sellotape. I, however, didn't get paid until December 24th. Christmas Eve. My boyfriend also happened to be working Christmas Eve & we were heading to my boyfriends parents at 1pm to start our Christmas celebrations. Meaning, that I had to have all the presents bought, wrapped and ready to go by 1pm. I woke up at 5am, threw clothes on and headed in to town, to start my mad dash around town. No list of what to get people, no budget, just buy and get the hell home. I also needed to pick up a pudding from M&S, and as I was reaching for it got kicked in the shin by a little old lady around the 90 mark because I had take the last Chocolate Log (which by the way, had she asked nicely, or even just not kicked me, I would of given to her as I didn't care what I bought!).
I dashed around town, pretty much running from shop to shop, hitting the plastic hard just to get me out on town as quickly as possible and by the time I was done, I was so sweaty (nice) and exhausted I even forked out for a Christmas rate taxi, even though I liked all of 10 minutes walk from the city center, and not even booked, a black cab, costing £14 for just under 3 minutes, who then had the balls to ask if he could just keep the £20 I handed over, you know, seeing at it was Christmas. I finally collapsed inside my flat at 12.30, a full 30 minutes before I had to leave. At about the same time my boyfriend arrived home, tired as he had been working at 4am, to then get it in the ear from me, jabbering like a loon. I had the fastest shower I'd ever had in my life, threw the shopping in to a bag, grabbed the wrapping paper and headed out the door.
We arrived at the boyfriends parents at about 2pm, it then took another 3 hours of wrapping, locked away and missing out on all the festive fun going on downstairs. I collapsed in to bed, finally finishing everything I had to do at around midnight. Christmas day rolled around, and even though it was an amazing year I was so tired I had to actually have a nap at around mid day, again missing out on more festive fun. I also, stupidly, decided to check my bank account, just in case I saw any fantastic boxing day deals at midnight online. I had managed to spend so much I had left myself extremely short for the rest of the month. For the rest of December and a good chunk of January we ate Christmas left overs that were way past there best, and to add insult to injury, by the time I was paid again I had missed all the sales!
I vowed to myself, never ever again. Christmas is my favourite time of the year, and I refuse to miss it by being extremely stressed and tired! So, this is what I've learnt to keep Christmas from being a stressy mess, but instead the lovely festive time one day a year that it is! So here's my hints and tips, again not in a preachy way at all, I've only tried this for one year so I am by no means an expert!
If you can, try and buy a couple of presents in advance. If your buying for youngsters I know this can be extremely difficult as what they want changes so quickly, but there is a list of the 10 most popular toys for Christmas (this hasn't been released yet but it tends to come out towards the end of October) so if your child / sister / brother / cousin etc is desperate for one of those, for example last year it was the Lego Ninjago set, these are the most likely to sell out the quickest, leaving kiddies begging and pleading in the run up to Christmas. So if their a Lego fan, odds are that's what they want. I also tend to do a fair bit of eBay shopping, so if you spot something for someone you love, rather than sending the link their way, I watch the item and buy it for them when I had a bit of spare money in my PayPal.
Out Of Season:
Fancy some new decorations for Christmas? A new fake tree? Cooking tools? Check eBay now! A quick search around eBay showed me that most auction listings for Christmas Decorations starting at 99p ended at 99p. Even though they might be second hand, most Christmas decorations are hung on a tree for a few weeks at most and then stored for the rest of the year, so they are likely to be in good condition, if not perfect!
Do you need to send cards and parcels? I personally have to send a parcel to California to every year which I need to send towards the end of November. We've all seen and heard of post men and women carrying massive loads around Christmas and sorting offices getting so backed up that if you send even 2 weeks before Christmas day, it can be a risk if it will arrive in time. If you possibly can, try and post your letters and parcels towards the end of November, or very early December.
Home or Away?
Are you staying at home this Christmas or going away? If your at home, your planning is done. However if your going away & like me, rely on public transport, its about another week and half today until you can book it (3 months in advance) and its best to do it as soon as possible, as if you don't the prices will jump up and jump, as many people know exactly where they are going for Christmas so the cheapest options will be snapped up really quickly.
Do you have pets? If you can't take them away with you is there family or friends that will look after them over Christmas or will you be needing a professional place to leave your pets? This is a new one for me, but I've quickly discovered that catteries can and on the whole charge a lot more over the festive period, I've in fact found one cattery in the Bristol area that doesn't charge more, which I'm planning to book as soon as possible.
Try and draw up a rough budget of how much you want and can reasonably afford to spend on Christmas, including all your decorations, cards, wrapping paper and presents, and try and then divide that up in to chunks of how much you want and expect to spend on each. I start buy working out how much money I expect to spend of cards, wrapping, posting etc and then I move on to writing down who I have to buy gifts for, and how much I expect to spend on each person. The reason I say rough is I find that I will spend more on some gifts than I expect, but others will cost less so it does tend to even itself out.
I personally don't care for this saying, however its particularly true in this case. Don't do what I did and wind myself up worrying so much thinking that people won't like their gifts and therefore end up buying more and more, once you've bought them something you think they will like move on to the next person. People will be happy with what you've bought and no one is going to sit there on Christmas Day and say "I can't believe you didn't spend more"!
Its also good to remember, and its easy to forget, that Christmas is a time to be enjoyed. Although sometimes it might feel like more stress than its worth, but by the time the 25th rolls around its amazing, and brilliant and we can't wait to do it again next year!
So, that is my very long post about my Christmas woe and what I've leant! Do you ladies have any more tips for me? And I know this won't of been to everyone's taste but I hope you can forgive me anyway!