For many people Christmas is taboo until at least mid-November. If you mention Christmas shopping before then, you will be met with a hard look, a dose of humbug, and the question 'how many days until Christmas?'
However, there are a number of areas where if you want to get the best deals it's really not too early for Christmas. In fact, there's a risk that in some instances if you're not fast enough you'll be too late, and like in all the best Christmas films you'll be in a mad panic on Christmas Eve. Here are the five things you need to sort now for a cheaper Christmas
If you want to get the best deals you need to act now. The train company booking systems let you book no more than 12 weeks in advance, so you need to get in at roughly the 12 week point in order to find the cheapest seats - before they sell out.
If, for example, you wanted to travel from London to Birmingham on 22 December, leaving it to the last minute will mean buying an 'anytime single' for £64. Booking in advance will mean you get a cheaper ticket, but how much cheaper it is depends on how many of the lower-price tickets are available. A couple of weeks before the big day you could easily spend £33.50 or more, whereas 64 days in advance the are still a few tickets available at £6.
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Christmas shopping events
A number of the high street shops will offer special Christmas shopping events, with discounts or points across the store. Boots, for example, is holding a number of shopping evenings, where you can get £12 of points for every £5 you spend. Debenhams, meanwhile, has traditionally run an event in late November offering 25% off almost everything, and at a similar time of the year Selfridges has a day where most departments offer 20% off. It's worth timing your shopping to co-incide with these events if you don't want to leave yourself with the uncertainty of the last-minute pre-Christmas sale.
Black Friday bargains
This is typically an American tradition - where stores offer huge discounts on the Friday after Thanksgiving. However, last year more UK retailers joined the fun - most notably Amazon, so it may be worth timing your purchases for the end of November - as long as you can be very flexible about your wish list.
Early bird deals
If you're willing to shop right now, there are a number of companies offering 'early bird' deals which typically provide between 10% and 20% off the full price. Sometimes there are freebies thrown in too. Thebookpeople.co.uk for example, typically offers anything up to 70% off the cost of books anyway, but at this point is offering 15% off for Christmas and a freebie if you spend over £40. It's also worth keeping your eyes peeled in the supermarket for things like cards and gift-wrap, which in the next few weeks will start offering multi-buys. If you leave your shopping more than a month there's a good chance you will end up paying full price for them.
If you're planning to go out, it's worth booking in advance. Not only will it ensure you're not left standing in a dark corner of a horrible pub, but there should be some special offers available now too. So, for example, if you book a table for eight or more people at Cafe Rouge before 31 October you'll get a £15 egiftcard. Meanwhile if you book La Tasca before 1 November (and start before 6.30 Sunday-Wednesday) you'll get £3 off per person.
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