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 this year it could be even harder than usual.
With Royal Mail strikes and snow likely to disrupt plans, it’ll be more likely 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 and posting dates
I think it’s fair to say at this point there are no guarantees that anything you send will get to its destination in time. There’s already much more being posted or sent by courier at this time of year than in other months, and in 2022 the strikes and huge demand are creating further pressure.
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.
There’s also still the chance right now it 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.
For cards and letters the dates are a few days earlier than last year, though you’ve still got time according to Royal Mail, but I’d get them sent ASAP. The last post dates are:
- Monday 12 December 2022: 2nd Class
- Friday 16 December 2022: 1st Class
- Monday 19 December 2022: Royal Mail tracked 24
- Wednesday 21 December 2021: Special Delivery guaranteed
For international letters and parcels the deadlines have already passed for most non-European destinations, and the rest are approaching fast.
Oh, and if you still need stamps, be careful where you buy them – some shops will charge you more than they’re worth.
Listen to Cash Chats, Andy’s award-winning podcast. Episodes every Tuesday.
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 with every Christmas there will be no trains on 25 December, and very limited service on Boxing Day. But if planned strikes go ahead on 24, 26 and 27 things will be even harder. And if this pushes more people to travel earlier and later, then prices will shoot up for those journeys. In fact, you might find some Christmas Eve trains are already sold out. It’ll impact coach and flight tickets too, which are going to be even more popular on those dates.
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.
Different train companies will have different refund policies, so it’s worth checking out what the situation will be if you have booked for a train that could be cancelled due to strikes (or bad weather). You’ll definitely be able to get money back, but you might also be able to travel on a different train without paying inflated prices.
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.