FEMAIL reveals the dates to add to your diary to achieve a stress-free Christmas
- Friends or family overseas? Christmas air mail needs to be sent in the next few days (go to postoffice.co.uk to find exact dates for different countries). Or send e-cards using paperlesspost.com.
- Tesco’s delivery slots for December 21-24 are released today at tesco.com — book now to bag one that suits you. You can always update the details of your order later.
- For one day only, Waitrose is offering holiday chocolates for half-price.
2 PLAN GIFTS WITH MILITARY PRECISION
To avoid pricey panic purchases later in the month, put a few minutes aside today, Saturday, December 2, to write a list of all the presents you’ve bought and people you still need to buy. Photograph the list and keep it on your smartphone.
Start wrapping presents as you buy them, to avoid a backlog later. Sainsbury’s say that sticky tape and gift tags are two of the most commonly forgotten Christmas shopping items, so make sure you have plenty of both.
- Keep your eyes peeled in Sainsbury’s, selected stores are offering 25 per cent off its TU clothing line until December 4. Also available online.
- Tesco has 25 per cent off champagne and wine when you buy six or more bottles until December 4 — making this a good day to do a big drinks shop.
3 COOK THE SPUDS NOW – YES, REALLY
Today is Advent Sunday, December 3, the traditional day to put up decorations. Do exterior lights and artificial trees, but hold off on buying a real tree until next weekend if you want it to last. It’s also the last quiet weekend before Christmas — venue company Hire Space says parties kick off on Thursday the 7th — so get ahead on cooking.
‘Most Christmas side dishes can be prepared now and frozen until the 25th,’ says Sarah Hammond, director of high-end party caterer Rhubarb. ‘Roast potatoes, gravy, bread sauce, red cabbage, stuffing, pigs in blankets and even mince pies all freeze well.’
- Aldi’s Jo Malone-lookalike Christmas candle range, from £3.99, launches online today and in stores from the 7th. The last batch sold out in minutes.
4 TIME FOR A CHRISTMAS CLEAR-OUT
Before guests arrive and your interior decorations go up, clean out your fridge and freezer. Earmark a space for guests’ coats and shoes, spruce up the spare room and get clean bedlinen and towels ready.
Put any clutter in the garage, loft, or even a storage unit — it can cost as little as £3 a week.
5 BAG A WEST END SHOW FOR NEXT TO NOTHING
At 10AM, officiallondontheatre.com releases thousands of heavily discounted tickets — starting at just £10 — for London’s popular West End shows from January 1 to February 9. See the website for more details.
If you like a fresh wreath, make or buy one today. With proper care, experts at the Royal Horticultural Society say, it should look good until Christmas.
Just soak the back in cold water twice a week, and pop it in the porch on frosty nights to revent frost-burn.
6 WRITE TO FATHER CHRISTMAS
Send your children’s letters to Father Christmas today and get a personalised reply from Royal Mail before Christmas Eve.
Letters must arrive by the December 8 and need to be stamped and addressed to Santa’s Grotto, Reindeerland, XM4 5HQ, with the child’s name and return address.
7 FEEL YOUR BEST AT THE OFFICE PARTY
Tonight, tomorrow and December 13 and 14 are the most popular days for office parties, say Hire Space. ‘Don’t be afraid to indulge,’ says nutritionist Kim Pearson, ‘but go back to healthy eating tomorrow.
‘Online grocery shopping can help — order all your Christmas treats to arrive just before the day so you aren’t constantly tempted by huge tins of Quality Street chocs.’
- Many supermarkets dramatically reduce prices of liqueurs and spirits from today. Search for your tipple on mysupermarket.co.uk to find the best deal.
8 GET IN YOUR TURKEY ORDER
If you haven’t pre-ordered a turkey yet, do it today. Most supermarkets and butchers take orders until December 15, so you’ll beat the rush and get what you really want.
You already have most of your side dishes frozen and ready to go — take a leaf out of Jamie Oliver’s book now by making lists of everything else that you’ll need.
Make two lists and keep them on the fridge: one for non-perishables to get in this week, and one for perishables — fresh meat, fish, fruit and dairy products — to be purchased just before Christmas.
Pre-book flower deliveries too — December 22 is best if you want the flowers to be at their peak on Christmas Day, advises Interflora.
9 PICK A TREE THAT WON’T WILT
If you’re going for a real tree, buy it today so it will last until Christmas, says the British Christmas Tree Growers Association. The Royal Horticultural Society advises sawing 2.5cm from the trunk before fixing your tree in a cool spot, in a reservoir of water that needs topping up daily. If your tree has been transported in a net, allow branches to unfurl overnight before you start to decorating.
- It’s the last day to send post to Australia, Greece, New Zealand and Turkey.
10 DECK THE HALLS – AND CHECK YOUR TYRES
With the tree up, it’s time to dust off your decorations.
Driving long-distance to visit friends or relatives at Christmas? Give your car a mini service beforehand, advises AA spokesman Jon Snowling.
John Lewis, House of Fraser and M&S discount their Christmas decorations by a whopping 50 per cent the week before Christmas (file image)
Check the oil, windscreen wash, anti-freeze and lights, and adjust tyre pressure to accommodate a full load (find details in your car handbook).
11 WHY IT’S THE BEST DAY TO BUY GIFTS
Large department stores and supermarkets extend their opening hours from today.
- If you’re buying a bike or ride-on child’s toy as a gift, Halfords will build, safety check and store it until December 24 for free.
Just reserve your item online before December 21 — you can pick it up any time up until 5pm on Christmas Eve.
12 STAY SAFE AS THEFTS SPIKE
Sadly, statistics show burglaries increase in the run-up to Christmas and spike this week, although Christmas Day and Boxing Day are two of the safest all year.
Never leave presents where they can be seen, advises Will Butler of ERA Home Security. Don’t reveal on social media that you are going out. Don’t leave notes to tell couriers you’re not in, and don’t run cables for decorations through windows — it makes them easier to open.
13 COUNT UP THE KNIVES AND FORKS
Don’t have enough crockery, glasses, cutlery, table linen and chairs? Arrange to borrow. Waitrose and Majestic Wines offer glassware loans, but stocks are limited, so book now.
- All airmail post to mainland Europe and Canada needs to be sent over the next few days, so time to finish addressing those Christmas cards.
14 BUY YOURSELF SOMETHING SPARKLY
Last year, top brands such as Dune, LK Bennett and Karen Millen started their Boxing Day sales at this point.
Stock up on tin foil, dishwasher tablets, bin bags, tea, coffee, loo roll — Wilko has great deals. Buy extra batteries if you’ll be hosting children who might receive battery-powered toys.
- It’s the last day to pre-order Tesco’s Festive Food menu if you fancy a helping hand with Christmas dinner.
15 DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY
This is the most popular evening for Christmas parties. To give your hair quick va-va-voom, simply change your parting, suggests hairdresser Akin Konizi.
‘Your natural parting is where your hair tends to sit flat. So swap sides to create instant root volume.’
Off out after work? Keep a day-to-night make-up kit on hand with shimmery eye shadow, liquid eyeliner and a strong lip colour.
- It’s also the last day to order a Christmas turkey from most supermarkets, so book if you haven’t already.
16 TAKE A BREATHER
It’s Saturday, treat yourself to a rest day before the final stretch. Download a calming app like headspace.com or breathguru.com and follow a guided meditation. To freshen up your look, face yoga expert Danielle Collins says: ‘Pinch gently, yet deeply with two fingertips and your thumb all over your cheeks for 30 seconds.
Then, using your index finger, tap around each eye, twice clockwise and anticlockwise.’
17 SNAP UP LAST – MINUTE BARGAINS
Sunday, and old friends have popped by, but you’ve only got warm prosecco. The fastest way to chill it is to sit the bottle in a bucket of water with ice and a couple of tablespoons of salt, says Tesco wine expert Alexandra Runciman.
- Love a bargain? John Lewis, House of Fraser and M&S discount their Christmas decorations by a whopping 50 per cent the week before Christmas.
18 THE WORST DAY TO GO SHOPPING
Avoid shopping in your lunch hour today — John Lewis predicts this Monday between 1pm-2pm will be the single busiest hour of the festive season.
Surf the internet for the last few gifts instead, and book click-and-collect to save on postage. Pick up late, early or at school pick-up times to avoid the worst queues.
19 WRAP UP WRAPPING
Last posting day tomorrow, so wrap up those final gifts, and check against the list you made at the start of the month — is there anything missing?
Keep your stocking fillers in sealed Tupperware boxes with the recipient’s name on them so they’re ready to go. Waitrose says this is the most popular day for updating online Christmas orders, as plans are finalised. Check your shopping list and make sure you’re on track.
20 CLOCK IS TICKING ON THE LAST POST
Today is the last day you can send second-class Christmas post to UK addresses. It’s also the last day of guaranteed Christmas delivery for most online retailers, including Amazon, Next, Debenhams and notonthehigh street.com.
For last-minute gift panics, M&S has a range of foodie and floral ‘letterbox-sized’ gifts that can be ordered online for Christmas up until December 22.
21 GET OUT THOSE GRAVY BOATS
Clean your serving bowls and platters. Label each with a post-it note to say what you plan to put in it. This will save confusion on the day and make it easier for others to help you serve.
- Last day for first-class Christmas post and special delivery. It’s also the last date to order Click and Collect online deliveries for many retailers.
22 DO A DRY RUN OF DINNER
Write up your timetable for cooking Christmas lunch. Set alarms on your phone for items that need to be taken out of the freezer or require special attention on the day.
- Need last-minute flowers as a gift? Order from waitroseflorist.com or M&S until 12pm tomorrow for delivery on Christmas Eve. Today is also the last day you can send special delivery UK post, guaranteed to arrive tomorrow.
- This is also the busiest day on the roads this year as Christmas travellers combine with commuter traffic, so avoid driving if you possibly can, warns the AA.
23 A LAST SNEAKY SHOP – BUT GO BEFORE 8AM
Two days to go and there are always things you’ve forgotten. According to Tesco, from 6.30am to 7.30am today is the best time for a last-minute shop. It’s also the last day for Amazon’s own brand items to be delivered on Christmas Eve, if you’re happy to pay for express delivery.
- Charge cameras, iPads and laptops for Christmas Day use. Make sure you have batteries and chargers for gifts and toys.
24 PUT YOUR FEET UP!
You’ve made it, it’s Christmas Eve! Two in five people will still be shopping for last-minute gifts today, say Sainsburys — but as today is a Sunday, trading laws mean that many shops will be opening at 11am and closing at 4pm. If you’re still missing a gift, try a voucher, subscription or experience gift you can print in seconds.
Lay the table for Christmas Day, organise breakfast for tomorrow, then put your feet up — and relax! Or, if you can face it, large retailers such as John Lewis, ASOS, Next and M&S usually launch their ‘January Sales’ online and in store today.
For the final touch, hang up the Christmas stockings and put out the mince pie, drink and carrots for Santa and his reindeer.
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