I love Christmas. Like, a lot. My whole family do! We tend to go kind of over the top and spoil each other actually. My closest family spend the day at my Mum's house, and my youngest step-children join us in the evening. It's wonderful. A big Christmas means I like to get organised early, so I thought I'd share my tips on how I do it.
1. Make a spreadsheet.
This is probably the most important part of my whole system. I use an app on my iPhone for mine as it is portable and with me at all times, it is called Spreadsheet and is free.
I find it super nifty to use, but I also like having a more detailed and organised spreadsheet on my laptop.
If you've never used Excel before it can be a little scary, but it is easy to get to grips with I promise! I use a pretty simple layout, and a basic formula to help keep track of my spending. As you can see, I make columns for 'Name', 'Gift', 'Wrapped?' and 'Cost', and a row for each persons name I intend to buy for, with a total section at the bottom.
The red arrows on the screenshot show you how I made the formula for the total cost. I clicked the cell below all of the cost input, then pressed the 'AutoSum' button above the red arrow to the right. Excel is very intuitive, so it automatically realised I wanted a total of the above cells, and asked me if I wanted to use the formula =SUM(D2:D4). What this formula means is that I want to sum of the rows D2 to D4, so I hit enter and done! All formulas begin with = and you won't need anything more complicated than this for my Christmas spreadsheet haha!
I track the costs of each gift to help manage my finances. Paypal can take a few days to clear out of your bank account, and banks don't always show your spending right away. This just helps try to eliminate those nasty surprises!
I include whether or not a gift is wrapped, because I like to get wrapping early, often as soon as I buy a present. It means I don't end up spending hours doing it. Plus, I have 3 cats and a dog who all want to be helpful when I'm sat on the floor... hours of wrapping can be an interesting experience! Everyone gets the added gift of fur with me.
2. Start early.
It's already the middle of November, so by now I am well into my buying. Spreading the cost over a few months makes it much easier, and it helps eliminate the stress of last minute purchases, as well as the risk of a late delivery! Be sure to keep an eye on shipping times to avoid disappointment. An independent company who are making handmade goods to order will have a much earlier cut off point for Christmas orders than a large corporation who have a warehouse full of stock. Plus, the earlier you are done with your Christmas shopping, the sooner you can relax and properly enjoy your Christmas.
3. Shop independent.
When you buy from indy companies, you aren't putting more money into a company who force their employees onto zero hour contracts for their own gain, or who abuse the UK tax system to avoid paying any taxed on their millions. You are helping a family have their own Christmas, helping a single Mum pay their rent, helping someone take on their first employee, and helping someone creative survive. It's making a dream come true. And that's incredible.
Shopping small business and handmade also means you can give someone a gift that is truly unique, something you know no one else might give them.
4. Remember, money isn't everything.
Christmas can be a stressful time. There is a lot of pressure to buy the best and newest things, especially if you have children. Money problems and Christmas are the worst. But try to remember that it isn't about how much you spend. It's the love behind what you give. I've been given some amazing expensive presents, but I've also been given some incredibly thoughtful and touching presents that have been homemade that mean the world, and have stayed with me for years. For example, my Uncle made me a Star Trek insignia memory box to store my treasured tickets and memories in. He is skilled at wood work so is was totally handmade, and so amazing! I love Star Trek, it's a bond we share, and it is something no one else can ever have but me.
Maybe you are a talented artist and could make someone a unique piece, or you can put something together that is full of hints and reminders of them and the time you've spent together. I'd take that over something expensive but meaningless any day.
5. Use Quidco.
Quidco is a cashback website that you can use whilst online shopping. You can get anything from 1% upwards of a total spend, or even a set amount. You can also get access to special offers available to Quidco members only. If you use the link below, once you've earnt £5 cashback, you earn us both an extra £1.25 each!
What do you do to get organised for Christmas? I'm always looking for more hints and tips!