From being budget-savvy to wrapping apps — these tips will save yourself a Christmas melt-down and keep you Zen
We’ve got some simple tricks to help you have your most Zen festive season ever.
Yeah, we know we should have been super-organised and done all our Christmas shopping in the January sales, but that’s not very helpful now, is it?
For tricky acquaintances, the kids’ teachers and the dreaded office Secret Santa, check out present inspo sites such as Findmeagift.co.uk, which has specific categories such as Office Secret Santa and Rude Secret Santa as well as stocking fillers. Or try a free app such as Notonthehighstreet.com’s Gift Finder.
Once you actually hit the shops, download a barcode scanning app such as Idealo (free for iPhone and
Android). Using the camera on your phone, you can scan the barcode of whatever you’re considering buying and the app will compare prices with other retailers, so you can instantly see if you can get it cheaper somewhere else. The app will also take you to the website of the cheapest seller.
Keep a few spare cards and pre-wrapped bottles of wine in a cupboard as an instant emergency present
stash for when visitors pop round, suggests Amanda McCall, director of gift hamper company Bottled & Boxed. “One of the most stressful Christmas moments is receiving an unexpected last-minute gift and being unable to reciprocate,” she says.
BE A WRAP STAR
Use a paper clip to fend off a Christmas Eve meltdown triggered by not being able to find the end of the Sellotape. Simply fasten it at the loose end of the tape before you put it away in the drawer. And stop your shiny new wrapping paper getting crumpled in the cupboard with the bit of cardboard from the
middle of a loo roll or kitchen roll – cut down one edge lengthways and slot around the cylinder of
wrapping paper to keep it from unspooling.
Use the free Let’s Wrap app to judge precisely how much paper you need so you won’t get that sinking mid-task realisation you’re half a centimetre short – or end up with loads of wasted paper. Just put in the dimensions of the present you’re trying to wrap and the app gives you the exact size sheet you need. Now, if only there was an app that would actually wrap them…
If you love a real tree but hate hoovering up the needles for weeks on end – not to mention the hassle of recycling it come January – consider renting a living tree this year. As well as being more eco-friendly, some firms will deliver to your door and collect the tree again before Twelfth Night. Plus, because a living tree comes in a pot with its roots intact, unlike a cut tree, needle drop should be minimal. Check out Pickyourownchristmastree.org.uk or the British Christmas Tree Growers Association at Bctga.co.uk to find a farm near you.
When you decorate your tree this year, create a Santa’s Little Helper box to go under it. Wrap a shoe
box in Christmas paper (wrap the lid separately) and fill it with batteries, Sellotape, scissors, extra gift labels, a couple of sheets of wrapping paper and a small screwdriver. You’ll then have everything to hand if you need to wrap something in a hurry, and won’t be scrabbling around on Christmas Day when
a small person immediately wants to play with their new light-up/singing remote-control monstrosity
that requires 64 AAs and a degree in engineering to get it out of the box.
Food SHOP TO IT
Hands up who’d give anything to avoid the supermarket at this time of year? “Internet shopping is your
friend,” says virtual assistant Louise Crockett from Theperfectassistant.co.uk. “You should be able to
book your delivery slot now. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you want to buy yet. Take a guess
and you can easily change your order closer to the time, but you’ll have your slot.”
Another pro tip is to keep the receipt from the big food shop somewhere safe for next year so you can
use it as a ready-made list. Hopefully it will remind you of what you over- or under-catered on last time. So no more sprouts for days on end next year…
CHEAT AT CARDS
Save yourself some time – and hand cramp – with your Christmas card list this year by using a service like Touchnote.com to write and send all your Christmas cards in one go. You can upload a personal festive photo, write a message, then add everyone’s addresses and the site will print and post them. Just remember to change the name on the cards and the delivery addresses so everyone doesn’t end up with a card that says Dear Granny.
If you still prefer the hand-written touch, make a note of the last postal dates now (put them in your phone and set a reminder for a few days before): December 18 for second class UK delivery and December 20 for first class.
“It may sounds obvious, but write everything down,” says Louise. “Whether you prefer a handwritten list
you can cross off or an app such as Google Keep.”
As well as who you need to buy for or who you need to feed on the big day, staying on top of your budget is important, so track what you plan to spend and what you actually spend, including
extras like delivery costs.
And if at any point your to-do list feels too depressingly long, try this productivity hack from Harvard business school experts: make a list of the things you’ve already done. Research suggests that taking the time to note the progress you’ve already made actually fuels motivation, meaning you’ll be more likely to power through your hunt for those last few elusive gifts, rather than give up and go in search of a mulled wine instead.
Here’s how to make a fast-track feast without spending all day in the kitchen.
INSTANT CHRISTMAS CAKE
“At the busiest time of year, it’s all about making life easier,” says Sarah Rainey, author of Three Ingredient Baking. “Forget traditional recipes that need to be fed weekly with brandy – I soak mixed dried fruit overnight in chocolate milk. Then all you do is add flour and bake for two hours. That’s it – a delicious Christmas classic in a tenth of the time.”
IT’S ALL GRAVY
Make like Jamie Oliver and prepare your gravy a few days before Chrimbo, keeping it in the fridge. Jamie recommends freezing some from an earlier roast. Or there’s always Bisto…
PREP, PREP, PREP!
Don’t forget a lot of the trimmings can be made in advance. Veg can be peeled, chopped and left in water overnight and stuffing can be made a month ahead and frozen. Win!
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