When is the best time to start your Christmas shopping?

Caroline Allen
·Contributor
·6 mins read
More shoppers are expected to stick to online shopping in the lead up to Christmas. (Getty Images)
More shoppers are expected to use online shopping in the lead up to Christmas. (Getty Images)

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Christmas shopping is set to look a bit different this year.

With the uncertainty thrown up by Covid-19 more people than ever are expected to head online for their festive shopping. Which throws up the question of ‘When should I start my Christmas shopping during this unpredictable time’?

Some big brands - including Boots - decided to launch their Christmas offering in September in a bid to spread out the demand with IMRG expecting a 30% peak in online shopping around this period.

With the demand on delivery services already peaking during lockdown, should we consider getting organised early?

The answer broadly depends on who you’re shopping for, with offers and deals expected to be spread out over the course of the next three months.

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Friends and colleagues

With no indication of when offices will return back to normal, Deborah Shanahan, deals and features editor at MoneySavingExpert.com suggests considering a “no unnecessary presents” pact.

“If you normally buy for friends, extended family and colleagues, consider a ‘no unnecessary presents’ pact to end obliged gift giving, or at least agree to a Secret Santa or £5 cap on gifts.”

With delivery lead times likely to be longer than usual, it might be a good time to have a chat with friends and distant relatives and cut down your Christmas spending.

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Sale shopping

If you’re partial to a good bargain, 2020 is still expected to produce the goods when it comes to sale shopping.

If you can stand to wait until the last minute, many retailers launched their sales pre-Christmas in 2019, allowing last-minute shoppers to grab a good deal.

“You don't have to wait till after Christmas for all the big sales. Several retailers kick off what would traditionally be their 'Boxing Day' or 'January sales' pre-Christmas. Last year Asos, Topshop and Topman launched 'up to 60% off' sales on 20 Dec, while H&M and IKEA went with 'up to 50% off' a week before Christmas. If you can wait though, we often see sales boost further after Christmas,” Shanahan said.

“For electronics, Black Friday week (23-27 Nov) is likely to be the cheapest time for many – though if retailers are struggling, there’s a good chance we’ll also get big discounts in the two-to-three weeks leading up to Christmas Day.”

If you’re missing some much-needed tree decorations, the best time to get cheap decorations, crackers and wrapping paper is mid-December.

“Biggies such as M&S, John Lewis and Argos slash prices so they can flog as much as they can before the big day.”

If you're in need of a Christmas bauble re-fresh, mid-December is the best time to find the deals. (Getty Images)
If you're in need of a Christmas bauble re-fresh, mid-December is the best time to find the deals. (Getty Images)

Children’s toys

There needn’t be a huge amount of pressure on buying the “must-have” toys for your children, but if you like to pick up a good bargain, MoneySavingExpert recommends shopping in October and November for these gifts.

“October and November are usually key times, and this allows parents to get some Christmas shopping done early to help spread the cost.

For the past few years, MoneySavingExpert has seen both Sainsbury’s and Tesco offer ‘up to 50% off all toys’ sales around mid-October.

These sales usually last between one and two weeks, but savvy parents will pounce on them as soon as they launch, so you have to be prepared for them.

“Keep an eye on retailer and deals websites and look out for short-lived money off codes at big toy retailers such as The Entertainer and Smyths, who last October gave £6 off a £50 spend. ShopDisney tends to offer a flash ‘24% off toys and fancy dress’ code for 24-hours on the second Tuesday in November,” Shanahan said.

“As for other supermarket steals, if you’ve a stash of Nectar points, it could be worth saving them till early November, when in past years it’s offered ‘double-up vouchers’, giving you twice the value of your points to spend on selected items including toys, decorations, and electricals.”

Read more: Mum puts Christmas decorations up early to cheer up children

Food shopping

It’s safe to say we’re all going to need to do a bit of comfort eating after the year we’ve had. Is there any better time to be indulgent than Christmas? We think not.

Again, in order to get the best deals on food, you’ll need to be comfortable with leaving it until the last minute. But, when it comes to fresh produce, the nearer you can get it before the big day the better.

“20th December is when we usually see a supermarket price war on festive veg. Last year Aldi and Lidl offered packs of Brussels sprouts, carrots and parsnips for just 15p, while Tesco veg was reduced to 19p-29p. Plus, remember to look out for special offers and discounted ‘yellow sticker’ items that you can pop in the freezer and use over Christmas. Just make sure the food is within its ‘use by’ date before freezing,” Shanahan said.

If it’s alcohol deals you’re looking for, November is the time to head to the supermarkets.

“The third week of November is when we often see some corking champagne deals. In previous years we’ve spotted £9-£10 bottles at Lidl and Tesco. If Baileys is your preferred tipple, then the past two years have seen one-litre bottles reduced from £20 to £10 at Asda and Morrisons at the end of November/beginning of December, but only for a few days.”

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“Of course, we’re living in unpredictable times, so there’s every possibility retailers will be forced to break habits this year. People may have to avoid large crowds, so promotions in store could be discouraged - we just don’t know at this stage. Sales and promotion patterns leading up to Christmas 2020 could be very different this year,” Shanahan concluded.

At present we know little in the way of details about how Christmas 2020 is going to look, but there’s no harm is spreading out the buying. Not only will it leave less last-minute stress, it’ll get us into the Christmas spirit early and that’s something we all need.

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