Don’t make these expensive last-minute Christmas mistakes

Leave certain festive purchases and plans too late and it could prove costly.

There’s always a mad rush in the weeks before Christmas to get everything you need doing done in time. And the later you leave things, the more likely is is you’ll get hit with extra costs,

So to help, here’s a quick checklist of the things I think you need to prioritise:

Check the last order dates

Whether it’s coming to you or straight to a friend or family member, it won’t be long before there’s no guarantee that anything you order will get to its destination in time.

It’s worth knowing that if the retailer still says you can get something in time for Christmas and specifies a delivery date – but it doesn’t arrive in time you have the right to cancel the order and get a refund. Contact the retailer not the courier for this as they’re who you have a contract with.

Of course you can select speedy or next-day delivery at lots of shops. But you do pay more for this. And if you’re trying to avoid using Amazon you are going to run out of choices the later you leave it.

Even then, there’s still the chance that premium delivery won’t arrive in time. If that does happen you can claim back the extra delivery costs. It’s a slight consolation, but it doesn’t help if you need something before visiting family.

Catch the last post

For cards, letters and parcels that you’re personally sending, the dates are a few days later than last year (there’s no strike disrupting delivery this time). Though you’ve still got time according to Royal Mail, but I’d get them sent ASAP. The last post dates are:

  • Monday 18 December 2022: 2nd Class
  • Wednesday 20 December 2022: 1st Class
  • Thursday 21 December 2021: Special Delivery guaranteed

Oh, and if you still need stamps, be careful where you buy them – some shops will charge you more than they’re worth, and that’s after last October’s latest price hike.

If you do miss these dates you can look at using courier firms. Shop around for the best price.

For international letters and parcels the deadline is Wednesday 6 December for most non-European destinations, and the rest are approaching fast – and that’s for the more expensive tracking and signature services.

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Avoid panic gifts

Christmas gifts bought at the last minute are either going to be a huge disappointment (like those toilet seat covers in Friends), cost you more than you planned, or if you plump for that perennial panic present the gift card it could also be a risky purchase.

All three are bad purchases. The pointless or useless gift is a waste of money. The expensive gift could cause you problems if you can’t afford it.

And the gift card… There’s enough for me to write a whole article on these (and I have), but essentially these can easily become valueless. Whether that’s because they’re forgotten about, they expire before they’re used or because the retailer they’re for goes bust. You’re better off giving cash and suggesting what you’d like it to go towards.

Though there’s still plenty of time to ask someone what they’d like.

Book travel NOW

As always you’ll pay more the later you leave it to book, so get on it now. You might also be required to have an advance ticket on some rail routes. In fact, you might find some Christmas Eve trains are already sold out.

As with every Christmas there will be no trains on 25 December, and very limited service on Boxing Day. Plus engineering works running 24 December to 2 January 2024 will cause disruption.

Fortunately there’s no repeat of the Christmas Eve industrial action of last year, but there are strikes running until Saturday 9 December.

The same applies to coach and flight tickets too, which are going to be even more popular on those dates, so book these up sooner rather than later to avoid higher prices or be forced into more expensive alternatives.

Plan your Christmas food & drink

We all know food price inflation has been huge, so I’d recommend planning as much of your festive food now as you can to save money.

Doing this can help you to avoid food waste – which is effectively throwing money in the bin. So don’t get more than you need. Obviously some food you’ll need to get nearer the time, such as fresh fruit and veg. But others you can nab now and put in the freezer, even the turkey.

In fact, the room you clear in the freezer as you defrost these items is perfect for picking up those yellow sticker bargains that will appear on Christmas Eve. And with Asda, M&S and Waitrose supermarkets saying they’ll close on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day it’s a good sign there will be more reduced to clear items than on a normal day.

And of course, if you can still get one, make sure you’ve got any online delivery slots booked. If you missed out it’s worth checking again to see if extra dates and times have been released. Or you might even get lucky and find one that has been cancelled.

One thought on “Don’t make these expensive last-minute Christmas mistakes

  1. Great advice. I did all of my Xmas shopping back in November in order to avoid disruptions like this.


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