Christmas should be a merry time of year, but if you are in charge of Christmas shopping then it can be far from relaxing. Black Friday last year was very manic, especially in the big cities. I think it's a good idea to start your Christmas shopping as early as possible. Some might say that is a tad too organised, but I think it's necessary to avoid the rush and stressful shopping experience.
Lots of people give the shops a miss and do most of their Christmas shopping on the internet. As somebody with a learning disability I do sometimes find shopping online to be difficult. I am not alone. There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK, and I have spoken to many colleagues with a learning disability who also find it tricky to buy things online. It's not just how easy to use the website is- an Ofcom report this year found only 65% of people with a disability have internet access. Internet shopping is far from simple, and my experiences with it have caused problems for me too.
You might be able to pick up some great deals online, but I find that I end up buying more than I intended to, which can get very expensive. And that's before you get to the postage on top, eek!
Personally, I prefer to go out to the shops in the lead up to Christmas. Even though it can get really busy, I find it less stressful than buying online. I like to shop in local, smaller shops, as well as charity shops. I find the staff there have more time for you and don't try and rush me in to buying things.
I like to go shopping with another person, who can support me and help me when it comes to choosing Christmas gifts. I used to buy people vouchers as it was easier, but getting people presents is great. Having a friend come along to the shops makes it a lot less stressful, and there's somebody to help carry your bags too. Of course we then go for a celebratory drink once the shopping is complete!
I really enjoy my job in the digital team at Mencap. However not everybody with a learning disability has access to the same opportunities. 6% of people with a learning disability are in paid employment, even though 65% want to be. I think everybody should have the opportunity to work and earn their own money if they are able to. I'm proud to be earning, but I know it's very important to stick to a budget each month. People with a learning disability are likely to encounter extra costs because of their disability, and it can be even harder with the additional costs at Christmas. I'm always on the lookout for a bargain to help my money go a little further.
With a little forward planning, Christmas shopping doesn't have to be stressful. It's absolutely essential to make sure you keep your Christmas cheer all the way through into the New Year.