Christmas is usually the most wonderful time of the year – though it has its stresses.
One of the biggest issues is getting the mountain of presents sorted for family and friends.
Even finding just one special item can be a challenge – especially if its in high demand.
Surely, it then seems logical to sort out everything as early as possible, so you’ve got Christmas all wrapped up long before December 25.
But how early is too early? We speak to some experts to find out the best time to start your present shopping.
When is the best time to start Christmas shopping?
There is no exact date perfect for hitting the shops.
A lot of it will depend on your budget – which may be constricting – and what you hope to buy.
If you’re pinching pennies, you may want to start when the summer sales do, typically in early July, or buy things throughout the year when you see a good deal – spreading the cost.
Salman Haqqi, personal finance expert at money.co.uk says that while shopping for Christmas during the autumn months may feel a little strange, it ‘can help shave hundreds of pounds off your wish-list.
‘If you wait until December to start buying, you’ll lose out and end up paying over the odds for your gifts,’ he added.
If that’s too early, there are two big sales at the end of November: Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Often ideal for toy deals and big electronics purchases, such as televisions – mark down Friday, November 26 and Monday, November 29 in your diary.
Can’t wait that long? Don’t fret, says Salman.
‘Of course it’s not always possible to wait for a sale, so it’s equally important to take advantage of discount codes online,’ he advises.
‘Reader offers, newsletters and new customer bonuses can all help to bring the cost of your online orders down, so grab them wherever you can.’
Luckily, we have your back covered there. Check out the latest deals and offers over on Metro.co.uk‘s dedicated discount codes page.
Usually, there are some excellent deals to be done in December, too.
But Personal Finance & Consumer Expert Sue Hayward tells us that those sales aren’t your best bet for 2021.
‘I’d usually say hold off for December sales, which can often trump Black Friday deals,’ she explains.
‘But this year with potential stock shortages, if you see what you want at a price you’re happy to pay, it’s worth buying so you don’t lose out!’
Also avoid ‘Panic Saturday’ – the Saturday before Christmas – as shops will be rammed, and online deliveries stressful as there’s a race to get the perfect gift home.
Whenever you decide to purchase your presents, it’s always wise to use a price comparison checker, adds Sue.
‘Prices can go up and down all year, so use price comparison sites to check for the best deal or Amazon’s free price tracker tool, Camel Camel Camel, to see if today’s price really is the best deal.’
And don’t be tempted to put it all on a credit card, as that’ll cause a headache later on.
‘Sticking the cost of Christmas on a credit card is never a good idea,’ warns Sue.
‘But if you just need some breathing space, using a card with a 0% deal on ‘new purchases’ can give you two months interest free credit from the date of purchase to paying the bill – and up to two years if you need to spread payments for longer.
‘Though just make sure you always make the minimum monthly repayment or you’ll lose the 0% deal.’
It’s also worth noting that paying for presents on your credit card, if done within sensible bounds, can offer you protection against loss or damage, Salman from money.co.uk tells us.
‘If you make online purchases with a credit card (within reason), you’ll be protected under Section 75 on orders from £100 to £30,000.’
What gifts should you buy early for Christmas 2021? From PS5 to Paw Patrol merch…
As Sue explains, stock shortages are likely to be an issue for Christmas 2021.
So, while you don’t need to buy everything in advance, hot-ticket items like the PlayStation 5 should be bought as and when you can get your hands on it.
You can keep an eye on the latest PS5 stock updates for the UK here (fortunately, shortages are predicted to end in 2022).
The iPhone 13 is a new piece of tech, first released in September, and the Nintendo Switch OLED is bound to be popular.
Likewise, the ‘must have’ children’s toys are best bought months in advance where possible.
Just ask any parent who missed out on the Hatchimals craze a few years back…
The easiest way to work out which toy will be most in-demand this Christmas is to look out for must-have prediction lists, which are usually out in the first half of October.
Sue agrees these must-have toys need to be snapped up ASAP, advising: ‘[It’s] worth price matching now if you’re after things like LEGO’s Super Mario Adventures, Paw Patrol merchandise and the Barbie Dream House.’
Is there any benefit to starting your Christmas shopping earlier?
We know about the sales, but are there any other benefits to getting a head start on Christmas?
Some find it helps them to be more relaxed and organised in the lead up to the big day, while others find it useful to bargain hunt all year round, again so they can spread the cost.
Reader Lauren, 23, previously told Metro.co.uk she starts shopping in September. She says it makes her feel organised to start early every year.
‘It saves me so much stress, compared to leaving it last minute,’ Lauren told Metro.co.uk.
‘I also find that by the end of September or the beginning of October, shops are stocking cute stocking fillers for people like my mum, or my friends, and usually these are all gone by December.
While Savannah, 20, picks up deals as and when she sees them all year long.
‘I like buying things here and there if I see something I know the person I am buying it for will like,’ Savannah explained.
‘I tend to start early every year, mainly because Christmas is such an expensive time of year and it’s just a lot easier on my pocket if I break down purchases up until December.
‘I have been known to buy a present as early as March and put it down because it was an absolute bargain. In terms of priorities, I usually buy for my mum, nephews and friends first.’