What would you be doing on your dream Christmas Eve? Indulging in a spot of eggnog-fuelled dancing round the Christmas tree with your gran? Watching It’s A Wonderful Life in front of the fire after breaking into the kids’ selection boxes?
Chances are, elbowing stress-crazed shoppers out of the way as you tussle over the last scented candle gift set is not part of your fantasy. But it can happen to the best of us.
And she’s not alone. So whether you’ve left all your present-buying to the eleventh hour, or have just got to nip into town for a few essential items, Christmas Eve shopping doesn’t have to be stressful. Take our last-minute shopping tips on board and you may actually end up enjoying the experience. No, really!
The Top Five Benefits of Cutting It Fine
Forget all those smug people who bought their shopping in August and had it neatly wrapped by September. We have the evidence to prove that shopping with one day to go can actually be a good thing.
1. There are huge bargains to be had
Shopping on Christmas Eve may save you a fortune. In the past few years, flagging retail sales in the run-up to Christmas led to many major retailers slashing prices – in some cases by up to 80 per cent – on Christmas Eve.
2. You Get It Over With Quickly
Getting all your presents on Christmas Eve can be great for those of us for who like shopping about as much as we like routine dental surgery. Knowing there’s just a six hour window before it’s over and done with for another year can make the whole experience much more bearable.
3. The Pressure Makes You Shop More Efficiently
For some people, having just one day to buy everything is all part of their Christmas strategy. Such is the case for blogger Rebecca from Here Come The Girls: “I’m into very focused shopping. I usually only go to the shops at the end when I only have a few things to buy.”
4. It’s a Great Pre-Christmas Calorie Burner
Tuck into that mince pie guilt-free because intense shopping uses up a Santa’s sack-load of extra calories. According to the Daily Mail, a day’s shopping burns more than 1,500 calories and pounding the shopping centre means you’ll walk about 20 miles.
5. There’s a Good Atmosphere
Even people who have completed all their shopping like to go into town on Christmas Eve, just to soak up the atmosphere. Not only is there a real buzz, it can be super festive too, with shops giving out mulled wine and mince pies, and some putting on carol singers to get everyone in the Christmas spirit.
Your Christmas Eve Shopping Strategy
Now that’s got you in the mood, you’re probably raring to go. But with only a six hour window, you’re going to need to shop with military precision if you’re to get everything done.
With that in mind, here’s our Christmas Eve shopping strategy designed to get you through the shops in the minimum amount of time – and sticking to your budget.
Breakfast Like a Champ – An army marches on its stomach so before you even think about entering the war zone that is the shopping centre on Christmas Eve, you’ll need a good breakfast inside you. Forgo white bread and processed, sugary cereals which can make your blood sugar spike then fall dramatically, leaving you feeling shaky. Instead, go for something high in protein and fibre, like scrambled egg on toast with smoked salmon. That should keep you going while your fellow shoppers are having to stop for elevenses.
Dress For Success – Part of your strategy must include what you’re wearing. It may be cold outside, but trudging around overheated shops can leave you feeling hot and uncomfortable. Go for layers and make your clothes as lightweight as possible for ease of carrying if you get sweaty. And two words – ‘comfortable shoes’.
Have a Game Plan – Get everything prepared so you can hit the ground running. Go armed with a list and a route of all the shops you’re going to use, aiming to buy as much as you can in as few shops as possible. Have a quick scan for any vouchers available online and download these to your smartphone.
Book a Taxi – Don’t waste time queuing to get into car parks. Book a taxi to pick you up from home and at the end of your shopping day so you can get in and out without fuss.
Visit the ATM – The biggest danger with shopping on Christmas Eve is overspending on your budget by panic buying. Having a list and sticking to it rigidly will help, as will leaving your credit cards at home and paying by cash. Visit the ATM at the start of your shopping. Take out a reasonable amount and tell yourself this is all you have to spend.
Time It Right – Now is not the time to hang around. We’re not saying camp out the night before, but do set your alarm for stupid o’clock and get there as soon as the doors open.
Buddy Up – Shopping with a friend on Christmas Eve may not seem like the wisest of ideas, but if you’re particularly indecisive it could help you stop faffing. We all unconsciously mimic the people we’re with, so choose your most decisive friend and stick to them like glue.
A Wheelie Good Idea – If you’ve got absolutely tonnes of large-ish gifts to buy, how are you going to lug it all around? Lilla from beauty blog Lilla Loves has this great advice: “A friend of mine swears by a wheelie suitcase when she’s doing her shopping. It’s so easy to wheel along, stores loads and you can pop it in the boot of a taxi on your way home.”
Get Stocking Fillers As You Go Round – If something catches your eye as you’re buying one of your big presents, don’t tell yourself you’ll come back later to get it as chances are you’ll forget where you found it. Getting stocking fillers as soon as you see them is a real time saver, we promise.
Avoid the Queues – Waiting in queues can sap the life out of you – and use up valuable minutes of shopping time. To avoid this, try to pay for your purchases in less crowded areas such as the men’s underwear or bedroom furniture department. You’ll avoid all those tempting things they have lined up by the till in the gift department, too.
Top Five Gifts for After the Shops Have Shut
You’ve run out of time and still have gifts to buy. But don’t despair. There are still things you can do to avoid those sad faces on Christmas Day.
1. Find a Hotel
Even if all shops are shut, find a nearby luxury hotel. They may have spas selling gorgeous products, or gift vouchers for treatments or weekends away.
2. Petrol Stations
A complete last resort, but you’ll be amazed at the things you can find here – it may just need a bit of imagination. Don’t just go for a jumbo can of de-icer or travel sweets, though. Why not buy an ordinance survey map and circle a place your loved one has always wanted to visit and plan a lovely trip there?
3. iTunes Gifts
Don’t just get them their favourite album, put some thought into it by putting together their very own playlist of songs that mean something to both of you.
4. Magazine Subscriptions
Does your gran love cats? Does Uncle Jim breed racing pigeons? Whatever they’re into, there’s a magazine out there that’s perfect for them. Get them a subscription and print out the confirmation.
5. Printable Vouchers
From dinner at The Shard to something more adventurous like skydiving, gift vouchers for experience days can be just the ticket – and there’s something out there for everyone. Try a website like Red Letter Days, add your requirements and it will come up with a list of suggestions.
“If you have booked something, get the tickets or get a print out or do something to show that it wasn’t a panic buy. Get a brochure for the venue and wrap that. Make it look planned and thoughtful.”
“I get stuck in and deal with it. Otherwise I’d have the urge to scream and shout.”
“Take your children with you. The kids are more than just a weapon. They are everything. When they start crying and whining, people will move out of your way.”