12 ways to prepare for Christmas

30 November 2009

As 25 December rapidly approaches, make the most of the time you have and get yourself – and your finances – ready for Christmas.

1. Postal dates

Make sure your Christmas cards arrive in plenty of time. The final deadline for overseas delivery is 11 December, and you have until 21 December for first-class post to UK addresses. To keep costs down, send your cards by second-class post before 18 December.

2. Travel plans

Book train tickets as far in advance as possible for the best fare – thetrainline.com will automatically search for the cheapest journeys.

Remember that engineer-ing work and reduced services over the festive period are common. If you’re driving, find the quickest route with the AA’s route planner.

Read Moneywise's guides to cutting the cost of train tickets

3. Delivery dates

If you're doing a lot of your shopping onltine this year, then make sure you don't miss out of the final delivery dates. Last year some retailers set their final delivery date as early as the 16 December - so check before you buy.

Find out how to stay safe when you shop online this Christmas

4. Neighbourhood watch

Empty homes at Christmas are a thief’s dream, so let a neighbour know if you’re going to be away, and make sure burglar alarms and security lights are switched on.

5. Heating

Time your heating while you’re away so that it comes on for a short time each day at a low temperature: this will ensure pipes don’t freeze if the weather is especially cold, while keeping costs down.

Watch Moneywise TV's guide to making your home more energy efficient

6. The market experience

Head to a Christmas market for a festive shopping experience without the stress of the high street. Christmasmarkets.com lists all the Christmas markets in the UK.

7. Are you covered?

Check your contents insurance policy covers all those presents under the tree; pricey laptops and games consoles all add up. If your whole household is away for more than 30 days over Christmas, remember this might make your home insurance cover invalid.

8. Wrap it up

Don’t leave all your wrapping to the last minute only to discover you’ve run out of sticky tape. As well as stocking up on essentials, consider using cheap or recycled wrapping paper, or even brown parcel paper.

9. Stock up on essentials

As well as ensuring you have enough mince pies and brandy butter to see you through Christmas, don’t forget the basics. Stock up on bread and milk, and store them in the freezer.

10. Turkey

Don’t spend a fortune on a turkey that is far too big for the number of people round your table. You can get a reasonably sized turkey for £9.99 from Lidl or Morrisons. As a rough guide, a turkey weighing 6lbs will feed six people, 8lbs will feed eight, and so on.

But once you hit double figures things change slightly: a 13.5lbs turkey will feed 14 people; 15lbs, 16 people; 16.5lbs, 18 people; and 18lbs; 20 people.

11. Freeze

Pastry freezes really well so make mince pies and snacks like sausage rolls and cheese straws ahead of time. It’s also worth freezing separate portions of food, such as fried garlic, onion, bacon or pancetta to be added at the last minute to gravies and vegetables.

12. Last-minute bargains

If you can hold your nerve, many shops will reduce a lot of their stock just before Christmas. Don’t forget to ask for gift receipts and check with stores how long their extended Christmas exchange period is – remember, sale items may not be available for refunds.

And one more...

Ladies (let’s admit it, you probably did most of the work), reward yourselves with a seasonal pampering by popping along to one of the beauty counters at a department store where you can get a free makeover.

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