Christmas shopping debate: Organised vs last-minute

Are you an ultra-organised shopper, with Christmas all wrapped up before you have even opened the first door on your advent calendar? Or will this year be another mad dash around the shops on December 24? Lisa Williams and Peter Madeley explain why they believe their approach is best.

Christmas shopping debate: Organised vs last-minute

Festive shopping is fun, says Lisa Wiliams, while Peter Madeley disagrees

Organised: Lisa Williams

I’m not a happy shopper at the best of times. So the thought of leaving my Christmas shopping to a few weeks, or even days, before the big day sends me into a bit of tizz.

I hate the thought of traipsing to the shops and getting squished in a mass of hot bodies, bashed by people burdened with bursting carrier bags and getting whacked by poles of wrapping paper.

Not to mention fighting my way to the shelves to get a sniff at what I want to buy, only to find it’s gone because I left it too late. It makes me grumpy, huffy and irritates me beyond belief.

Starting the big seasonal shop early not only keeps my stress levels down, it means I have cash in the bank when the sales start on Boxing Day. I can budget better and not use my entire December pay on presents.

I start really early and get the majority of my festive wrap, bows, tags, bags and cards in the January sales. This way I get the nice stuff but at a fraction of the price.

I hound my loved ones for gift ideas, probably from July, and go on and on at them until they give me satisfactory suggestions.

I like a list, so I jot down who I have to buy for, what I plan to buy for them and then spend my lunch (half)hour on a mission going to shops, or spend a few evenings online, to get exactly what I need.

Once I’ve completed the task at hand, I methodically tick it off my oh-so-important list.

This also means that I can devote a few days to wrapping the gifts nicely and not at the last minute. This avoids getting myself tangled in miles of sticky tape, feeling bleary-eyed in the wee small hours or making a mess of it all and finding myself on the verge of tears. And, if in the unlikely event that I do run out of paper, I have plenty of time to pop to the shops and stock up again.

But being so organised at this time of year also has its downside.

While my side of things is done and dusted, I get caught up helping the other half buy for his side of the family. Annoying but not quite as fraught, as I just get to advise and help rather than get myself in a mad panic. People tease me about being super organised but so what? 

I like this time of year and at least I get to really enjoy and embrace the run-up to Christmas and feel festive without getting wound up.

Last-minute: Peter Madeley

Have you done your Christmas shopping yet? Well no, I haven’t. And that’s because it is the middle of November.

Anything could happen between now and then, but I’m fairly certain the shops will still be open when I make my present-buying expedition on December 24.

While leaving things until the last minute seems alien to many, the tactic does have its benefits.

Instead of facing crowded department stores and lengthy queues, the Christmas Eve shopper can wander around from store to store in relative comfort. All the so-called savvy folks got it out of the way much earlier to avoid the mad rush – but as a result there is no mad rush anymore.

There are also bargains to be had. Last year John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and Selfridges were among dozens of stores that started sales well before Christmas.

It just feels that little bit more special gifting the wife that fancy bottle of perfume when you know you’ve had 20 per cent off.

The problem is that as a nation we have forgotten what Christmas is all about. We get the gold, frankincense and myrrh part, but everything else has been swept away on a tide of rampant consumerism. Even if like me you’re not of a religious persuasion, there’s so much more to the festive season than stockpiling gifts. 

And before the Scrooge accusations start flooding in, let it be known that I have always enjoyed the day itself. Gluttonous over-indulgence in food and lager followed by a nap in front of an Only Fools and Horses re-run I can live with, but the whole shopping malarkey leaves me cold.

I’ll admit, leaving everything to the 11th hour does have a downside. It takes a clear mind if you want to avoid the scattergun approach of randomly buying stuff that nobody wants.

Now I’m the proud father of two children, lists start to appear towards the end of November featuring items The Entertainer may well have sold out of by the time I hit the shops. The trick is to encourage the little ones to produce a list of at least 20 items – virtually guaranteeing I’ll be able to source at least two gifts per child. Sadly my days of wandering around empty stores on Christmas Eve may be drawing to a close. It is predicted that this year shoppers will spend more than £12 billion in the four days before Christmas. Bah humbug. People are catching on.

Top 10 tips for a relaxed Christmas shop

1. Plan & Budget: Organisation is key. There is no reason to spend more than necessary, so be clear with the size of your budget before stepping out into the city centre. Build your plan around the budget, giving each person an ‘allowance’.

2. Stocking Fillers: Mugs, socks, chocolates, quirky gadgets. Adding stocking fillers such as these will be greatly appreciated and show you have gone the extra mile.

3. Plan Your Journey: If you decide to be brave and head out into the streets, getting in and out as soon as possible is key to staying stress free.

4. Shopping Online: Ordering early and keep track of expected delivery dates.

5. Do it Yourself: Often a homemade gift with a personal resonance will be cherished more than an expensive, flashy present.

6. Deal Days: Black Friday falls on November 28 and Cyber Monday falls on December 1, this is the weekend when all of the best offers are available as it’s the last payday before Christmas.

7. Secret Santa: Perfect for avoiding any work-related gift stress. Set a budget, pick a name out of the hat and everyone should be happy.

8. Packaging: Make sure you stock up on wrapping paper, gift bags and tags.

9. Keep the Receipt: Because there is nothing worse than hearing a loved one slate something advertised on TV that you have just brought them.

10. Cover your Tracks: Don’t spoil the surprise by leaving presents or lists lying around.


  • Are you organised like Lisa or last-minute like Peter? Let us know what kind of Christmas shopper you are in the comments box below. 
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