Christmas. It’s an expensive time what with gifts for your nearest and dearest, food and decorations to buy, not to mention the cost of Christmas parties.

It all takes its toll on your trusted ‘plastic’.

To hammer home just how costly this time of year is, a recent survey by the Early Learning Centre found that the average child has a Christmas present wish-list totalling nearly ¬£900. Now there’s no way I would ever spend that much on my 2 children combined let alone on just one, but Christmas spending can easily creep into the hundreds.

If I’m honest, just thinking about this time of year tends to bring me out in a cold sweat. We always have a budget that we stick to for each child, but it’s still a lot of money to be shelling out. Thank goodness it only happens once a year!

Here are my Christmas shopping tips to make the whole thing as stress-free and as painless as possible.

1. Buy Christmas cards and wrapping paper in the January sales

Alright, so it’s a bit late in the year to be considering this now, but it’s definitely to bear in mind for next time. The price of Christmas cards and wrapping paper plummets in the January sales so take advantage and stock up! That way you’ll have lots of paper and cards ready for the following festive season.

2. Take advantage of sales throughout the year for those ‘stocking fillers’

It’s never too early to start planning for Christmas. Although children will inevitably have a few last minute things on their Christmas list that they absolutely-really-must-have-above-all-else-or-life-just-won’t-be-worth-living (which they won’t tell you about until Deecmber), there’s no doubt you can buy up timeless ‘stocking filler’ gifts whenever you like. That’s what all the sales throughout the year are for – even the New Year ones!

3. Get your Christmas cards out of the way early

Christmas cards are a bind. It’s lovely to receive them, but a bit of a bore to write them. The worst part of it is feeling under pressure to get them written out and sent. It means you sit down and get them all done in one evening and inevitably end up writing the same one or 2 standard messages in every single card with an aching wrist to show for it by the end.

My tip? Start writing a Christmas card list in September/October (or even better, have a ‘master list’ of names that you refer back to each year, adding and deleting names as necessary) and start your Christmas card writing in November. Spread the task out over a few weekends and by the end of November, you’ll have them all done.

4. Christmas lists are invaluable

I am a big believer in Christmas lists. They are fabulous for getting children to focus on what they really want and ensuring they get the presents they want instead of something random that they’re not interested in or something they’ve already got (there’s nothing worse than a child unable to hide their disappointment in front of the person who bought them the gift).

My husband and I try to encourage Olivia and William to think about gifts they would like from September. Their lists may not be finished until mid-November or a little later, but at least it’s a start and helps to get the Christmas shopping show on the road early on, giving you time to spread out your present buying over a few months (and pay-checks).

5. Recycle

Got unwanted gifts from Christmases past? Doing Secret Santa with family/friends/work colleagues? Need I say more?

6. Re-sell

It’s always a good idea to declutter your home of old, unwanted toys in time for Christmas. Selling them online not only brings in a little extra cash for you, it also creates space ready for the¬†influx of new gadgets, games and toys. I’d suggest going through old, outgrown toys and getting rid. If you’re feeling especially charitable, you could give any in good condition to local charitable causes like the Round Table who tend to do local Christmas collections and give presents to less-fortunate children.

7. Get your online Christmas food delivery booked early

Having to brave your local supermarket a couple of days before Christmas Day (or, heaven forbid, having to go on Christmas Eve) is a hellish experience. It’s one of the worst things about Christmas with everyone in a panic, trying to buy as much food as possible to see them through to the New Year.

Ordering your shopping online and getting it delivered to your door is a much better, stress-free way to do your food shopping. The only problem with online shopping that is that all the delivery slots are already taken by the time you’re ready to order your goods. The solution? Bag a slot as soon as they become available (usually towards the end of November) by ordering the bare minimum of goods required. It doesn’t really matter what you order – they can even be random products you don’t want – the important thing is that you do what’s necessary to get your delivery slot. Your order can be amended at any time until a day or so before delivery so there’s plenty of time to make sure the essentials you need are on there and any unnecessary items are taken off.

8. There’s nothing that says ‘I love you’ like handmade gifts from your children

If you’re feeling the pinch this Christmas, I have 2 words for you – child labour. Homemade gifts for friends and family, made by yours and your children’s fair hands, are an inexpensive, but heartwarming way to show that you care. It could be something as simple as your child writing their name (if they’re very young – that one won’t wash if they’re teenagers!) or a hand-drawn picture, to more elaborate projects involving pottery or knitting.

Have you got any more tips when it comes to Christmas shopping?