Ah, the Hollywood dream – cold weather, worthy of a lovely snuggly coat, scarf, cute hat and gloves. Maybe accompanied by your equally as well dressed partner, smiling as you walk down the busy, but not too crowded high street, carrying bags (the nice kind – you know, the ones that you end up keeping for “best”), smiling all the while.
The reality? Queuing to get anywhere near the city, then queuing some more as the local NCP operates a one-in-one-out policy. Once you’ve found the Holy Grail parking space, you join the multi-generational roving mosh pit rocking out to Mariah Carey. It could almost be considered a contact sport. The weather just about warrants a coat, but the second that you step into a shop you’re sweltering and sweating like you’ve just sprint 5k in a bid to beat Yusain Bolt (Marks and Spencers, I’m looking at YOU!). The bags, which you had to pay for because you keep forgetting that plastic bag charges aren’t just something that your local supermarket has had to implement, aren’t the nice ones. They’re the ones that slice your fingers and make you wish you had worn gloves (though it is too hot to actually wear gloves). Your partner is miserable as sin, and the mood is showing no signs of improving. Battle weary, you return home with most of the stuff you had intended to buy, some things you hadn’t planned on, and forgot some things in the muddle of bags.
Often, after my November pay, I brave the high street for a couple of items. The majority of my Christmas shopping is done online to save the stress. When we lived in the flat, as we lived above a business, the delivery men used to be able to leave stuff with the business who would very kindly leave it on our landing. In the event that it wasn’t delivered during office hours, we lived around the corner from the sorting office which opened at 7am so we could nip in before work. All that said, I don’t actually like online shopping all that much.
This year, we have our own front door, and no one to take in any packages for us. Work are pretty good if we order stuff to be delivered there, but I wouldn’t want to take the mickey. I also wanted to enjoy some of the Christmas atmosphere in Exeter. Here are my top tips:
- Make a plan of what to buy
We all know this makes financial sense, let alone anything else! Despite my misgivings above, I do actually like Christmas shopping. I like it too much actually. I get massively carried away usually, blow the budget and pay for it (literally) until Easter. This year, I’ve reeled in the spending, but hopefully not to the detriment of getting things that people want.
- Make a plan of where to go
This helped us massively. We literally planned to go down one side of the high street and back up the other. It was executed in a way that I think the military would have been proud of. There was no faffing, no browsing, just targeted shopping. I think this definitely helped me stay on budget too.
- Get in there early
Exeter is hardly London or any other major city, but the shopping area is really quite concentrated. I am not a fan of crowds, and find shopping with large quantities of people around stressful. I’m sure as a teenager, I used to enjoy this, but as I get older, I find myself less tolerant. Matt and I got in to the city centre for about 8:30am. We drove straight in to the car park we wanted to park in – no hassle. There was no battling through crowds to get to destinations or in the shops. As we left, it was just beginning to get busy and I was glad we were done. If you can’t do early, try getting there late. When I lived in Sheffield, an evening trip to Meadowhall was infinitely less stressful than a day time jaunt.
- Treat yourself
I was quite clear when Matt and I were formulating our battle plan that breakfast featured. Our original plan was to go to Brody’s (I fancied pancakes), but in the end, we opted for a breakfast Subway on the way in. It was nice, it definitely stopped me feeling grumpy, and felt like more of a treat than lunch.
- Don’t stress it
It just isn’t worth getting all stressed over. There are some things that I missed off the list (and therefore forgot to buy). Worst case? I’ll either pop in early again, or buy them online. This year I’ve had such a good experience, that I’ve realised it isn’t worth stressing about, or getting annoyed at the child that screams just below the pitch that only dogs can hear, or about the person who just randomly stops and you end up bumping in to them.
Needless to say that I am now sat here, smug in the comfort that I am pretty much done. I’ve got the wrapping to do, for what Miracle on 34th will be cracked out (my favourite Christmas film).
How is your Christmas shopping going? What’s your favourite Christmas film?