Christmas prep: September

Christmas in SeptemberThe alleged green shoots of economic recovery have yet to trickle down to us mere mortals, who are still contending with wage freezes, 10% hikes in fuel bills and food prices well above inflation. Can you afford Christmas this year?

Rather than buying now and worrying about it later, more people are budgeting ahead for the festive season this year. Don’t put it on a credit card if you don’t need to – you know who’s going to benefit from the interest payments.

But enough of this bah-humbugging, let’s make the best of it. I thought it would be nice to pass on any bargains as I see them. Look out for the #XmasPrep hashtag on Twitter too, and please join in and add your own.


  1. Set a budget,
  2. Leave 10% of the budget aside for emergencies,
  3. Write a shopping list, and…
  4. Stick to your plan.

What’s good to buy in September?

Now is the perfect time to buy most Christmas gifts, especially if you can find things in the tail end of the sales. It’s also a good time to start researching any potentially expensive purchases, shopping around to compare deals, and monitoring prices.

You can currently find good deals on:

  • Perfume and aftershave (Superdrug 50% off sale ends Tues, FragranceDirect offers with extra 10% off until Sun with code: SEP10, or get down to TKMaxx in person for some brilliant gift sets, many under £10, or visit their website for top deals on Prada fragrances etc)
  • Cosmetics gift sets, scented candles, scarves and wraps, hats, bags (TX Maxx again, and promotions at Debenhams and House of Fraser that both end midnight this Friday)
  • Books (today is the UK’s biggest book launch day of the year, so expect intense competition and big promotions)
  • Electrical goods (shop around, and don’t forget money-off vouchers etc)
  • Many toys and games (including the 50%-off Littlewoods sale)
  • Gift experiences (keep a close eye on the daily deals sites, cross-check individual offers with customer reviews, and always check the small print for expiry dates)

As the shops won’t be massively busy yet, now’s a really good time to turn up in person and have a nice little haggle.

Also, it’s a good time to buy anything edible with a long shelf life. For example, you could buy:

  • Cheese biscuits
  • Crisps and other savoury snacks
  • Many sweet biscuits
  • Sweets (apart from fancy chocs)
  • Longlife fruit juice or soft drinks
  • Pickles, sauces and other condiments
  • Most baking ingredients
  • Beers, wines, liqueurs and spirits

Now is a really good time to look at wine warehouse clearances – they’ll be looking to create space for the latest harvests soon, so there might be some great deals on bin-ends of whites and reds. You may also find some decent case discounts for buying 6 or 12 at a time, which usually includes sparkling wines. Laithwaite’s is currently doing daily special offers, but also check out Majestic and the like, and the supermarket booze sites.

Most pound shops currently have big boxes of nice cheese biscuits, stocking filler sized branded chocolates, Cadbury tree decorations, luxury sweet biscuits (Bahlsen and so on), and occasional mid-to-high-end brand cosmetics and toiletries. My best advice is stick with brands you already know, and check use-by dates before buying.

They also tend to have lots of small items that you can package up to make little gift baskets with. For example:

  • Nail file, nail polish, hand cream, white cotton gloves and socks, toe separators.
  • Mini makeup bag, handbag mirror, lip balm.
  • Nice shave oil/foam, hair and body wash, mini hair clippers and some aftershave balm.
  • Mixing bowl, wooden spoon, measuring spoons, baking tins and cupcake cases.
  • Wooden chopping board or metal tray, 2 or 3 small matching snack bowls, plus jars of pickles/olives and cocktail sticks or bottles of dipping sauces.
  • Large cup or mug, mini whisk, sachets of hot chocolate, plus marshmallows or chocolate truffle bar.

Be on the look out for jars, pots, ramekins, baskets, craft materials, cellophane, gift bags, ribbons, tags, and tissue and wrapping paper too.

What’s good to make in September?

Things with a long shelf life, or that improve with age, such as:

  • Sloe gin
  • Blackberry brandy
  • Fig vodka
  • Chutneys
  • Jams and other preserves
  • Mincemeat (sweet)

Don’t get started on things like Christmas cake or pudding just yet though. That’s jumping the gun…

And of course, September is great for making stuff like scarves, woolly hats, jumpers, socks, cards and any other arts and crafts. The TV gets better around now, and you can craft away on the sofa while your favourite show’s on.

How’s your #XmasPrep going?

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