Poll: Is it too early to start your Christmas shopping?
- Credit: Archant
As the festive hype begins, Natalie Sadler meets the women who have got Christmas all sewn up, and explains why she prefers to wait until much nearer the big day.
It is September; the leaves are still clinging onto the trees, the school shoes purchased over the summer are still looking relatively smart and there is still a generous slug of Pimms left in the bottle.
So why would I start hunting out bargains and stashing away stocking fillers? To save money, to beat the crowds, to ensure the items chosen from everyone’s Amazon wishlists arrive in time?
You might assume that I, with my unhealthy obsession with spreadsheets, would approach my Christmas gift buying as if it were a military-style operation which must be completed by November 1.
The majority of the time I pride myself on being frugal and buying wisely. I stock up on toilet roll and washing powder when they are on offer, use my reward points to get free pizza and am a whizz at buying and selling on eBay.
But come December, you will find me in town singing along to Slade as I deliberate over which jumper my brother-in-law would like best before trotting off to the til with the more expensive option.
I like to soak up the atmosphere and seek inspiration.
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I might go out with an idea of what I want to buy but once out I often change my mind because I stumble upon a game I know my parents will love, or a cheesy Christmas cardi that my younger sister would die for.
And then I like to see the look of surprise, although just occasionally it is more like shock, on their faces when they open my carefully wrapped parcel.
I am not offended if someone doesn’t like what I have chosen, or it doesn’t fit, because it is hard to second-guess everyone and at least I had fun buying it in the first place.
What does offend me is being presented with a catalogue number or weblink by someone who simply wants me to buy something they have chosen weeks ahead of the big day.
My dad’s approach is worse still. He buys himself presents throughout the year then ‘sells’ them to us. We take the jumbo pack of socks or microfibre fleece away, wrap it up and transfer the money online.
Where is the magic in that? How can you get excited about Christmas when you do all your present buying online in September? Hit the shops, stop midway through for a warming glass of mulled wine and immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit.
Fern Stanton, 30, is a new mum to baby Brooke, and lives in Essex with husband Nicky.
“I started shopping in April, I have about 10 kids to buy for and I bought them all pyjamas in BHS.
“When I bought them I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, it was a like a little victory because I knew I was half way there.
“I always start early because I hate rushing in December but this year I was even earlier because I am on maternity leave and I wanted to do my shopping while I was still earning.
“I am superorganised with everything, including my money. I already know what what I am getting all of the adults, and for Brooke, and I will start getting those bits in the next few weeks so it is all done by October.
“I hate waiting until December because you end up rushing round the shops, buying whatever is left and usually end up spending more money than you intended to.”
Fern does confess to some winter shopping. “I actually bought all my cards and wrapping paper in January in the sales,” she said.
Anne Gower, a councillor from Haverhill, has been known to wait until Christmas Eve before doing her shopping.
“It isn’t that I leave it, it is more that I choose to do it late because that is what Christmas is all about.
“The absolute earliest that I start is December, and the latest I usually leave it is December 23.
“I have been known to stand panicking in Selfridges on December 24 during my younger days, but that really was leaving it until the last minute.”
She added: “I do understand that if people have to watch every penny then they will snap up a bargain when they see it, and I am not saying that I am rich enough not to have to worry, it is just that I like the traditional feeling of shopping near to Christmas.
“I like the smells, the sights and the sounds of Christmas - I want to smell nutmeg and cinnamon and mulled wine, hear carol singers and see staff wearing fancy dress costumes, santa hats and dangly Christmas tree earrings.
“I don’t have any children so I usually spoil my mother. When I was younger she used to do fill huge sacks with presents so now I buy her clothes, smellies and nice little treats to eat and stack them in a big pile.”
And once she has immersed herself in the magic of Christmas, she returns home to spread a little more magic.
“I like to take my time wrapping presents, I think if you wrap something nicely it shows that you care. It is not about how much you spend on a gift, it is how you present it.”
Claire Rayner, of Chelmsford, is mum to Lauren, 15, and four-year-old Thomas, has about 20 gifts to buy for her extended family, as well as those for her own children.
“I bought my first one a couple of weeks back, I walked into a shop and saw something that I knew would be perfect for my daughter so I got it. I have picked up a few other bits including a toy for Thomas and I am now actively looking.
“I don’t like the pressure of having to buy something on a specific day, if I see something I think someone would like then I buy it, whether that is in January or November.
“All of my shopping will be done by the end of November and my cards will be written, addressed and stamped ready for posting in December.
“We go shopping for our tree the first weekend of December and then we decorate it, and then I can start to enjoy the build up with the children.
“Also, I have my own cake business and December tends to be quite busy so I can focus on my work without panicking that I need to buy last-minute presents.
“I don’t even go near the town centre in December, if I really do need something I log onto Amazon and get it delivered.”
And Edmund Crosthwaite takes the stereotypical, lackadaisical male approach to Christmas shopping
He said: “I plan my Christmas shopping. Mostly. But I don’t actually get round to doing it very quickly.
“Most years when I was a child I would be bailed out by parents. Mum or dad would come home from doing their rounds of the tinsel-clad shops and say: ‘I’ve got you this to give to your brother,’ or, ‘I saw this and thought you could give it to dad.’
“Other occasions would see me dash into town with a few days to go and rush around to find something appropriate.
“Now though it isn’t like that. Well, not quite.
“Last year I combined the forethought of my parents with the generally lackadaisical approach I have to most shopping trips. Despite my complete confidence that I would have no problems getting it all done colleagues here at Archant Towers seemed astonished at my scheme.
“I worked Christmas Eve 2013 (occupational hazard for journalists) and at this point had done no Christmas shopping for my family (my partner got hers early though as we live in separate counties).
“So much to the horror of those working around me, when I left in the afternoon I boldly declared I was off to start and finish my shopping with just an hour to go until the shops shut.
“I don’t know what all the fuss was about – I had a list of what I needed and knew where to get it. I set off, made calm and relaxed visits to Waterstones, Debenhams and various music shops before setting off home for mulled wine and, well, more mulled wine.
“I have no intention of changing my habits. I expect it will be exactly the same this year.
“Someone get the mulled wine on.”