How did I get here yet again? A year later and again, it's 10pm after a long day of work, looking at a pile of Christmas cards still to address and a list of gifts to buy that's really, really long.
I promise myself every year that I'll be ahead of the game. I'll get organised - spreadsheet kind of organised, smug-with-a-pile-of-nicely-wrapped-gifts-and-a-new-party-dress-by-the-1st-of-December kind of organised - and yet instead, I'm eating mince pies for dinner and pondering how to get my loved ones wonderful, unique, thoughtful gifts without...umm (is it okay to say?) spending too much.
If you can see past the doom and gloom news (High Streets are toast; our relationship with Europe is on the rocks) you can still find some amazing deals, especially online.
So here's what I'm going to do, and I am happy to share the wisdom:
Ready, set, secret sale. There are lots of 'secret' sales in the run up to Christmas. What does this mean? It means you get first dibs on sales items because you've become a preferred customer of a retailer/e-tailer. The best way to do that right now is to visit your favourite retailers' Facebook pages and 'like' them. Yes, it's that easy. You like them and they tell you about deals and some give you first access to password-protected sales.
The golden ticket - your email address. Everyone wants to stay in touch with you, send you great deals, and give you gift ideas. My company, ShopStyle, is the same. Give any of us the chance to communicate with you, and we will make it worth your while. I personally tend to have one specific email address that I share with my favourite brands and with hotels, restaurants, etc. I love getting emails. If I consider them spam then it's a simple 'delete.' But I think we are conditioned these days not to read marketing emails, and yet they contain some of the best deals this Christmas.
Set up a 'gift' wardrobe. So let's say you see a great deal but you're not sure who you'd buy the gift for? Well, consider a 'gift wardrobe'. I started doing this years ago, and it's been a life saver. I collect cool, fun, pretty, interesting trinkets and gifts, especially stuff that's deeply discounted, and I put it away for a gift giving occasion. It tends to take a lot of pressure off of gift giving and is another way to take full advantage of those periods when sales are too numerous to count.
Gift certificates rebranded as "Fun Shopping the Sales!" Day. Sometimes it feels like giving a gift certificate is a cop out, but it is also a bit frustrating to me that I just bought my sister-in-law a jumper that will surely be half the price come Boxing Day. Instead, it's best to give a certificate and let your loved one get two jumpers for the price of the one you bought on the 15 of December. If you want to personalise the gift, why not offer to babysit or take the recipient out for a coffee or bite to eat and make a day of it?
The most important thing - even as we are closing in on Christmas - is to get organised. Write down the retailers that you are most likely to shop or who you know those on your list love, and then scour their sites for opportunities. Also just jot down what you need this year and next to stock up. And then give yourself a break!