Christmas starts here!

Christmas is just three months away - here are the top four things you need to do now to help the big day go smoothly.

  • Shake up your Christmas finances
    Stephanie Lowe
    By   | Family and Home Editor,
    Last updated: 25 September 2013, 17:21 BST

    With just three months to go until C-day (that’s Christmas), it’s time to take your heads out of the sand and get organised. Starting with…

    Your finances. Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis talks us through his top tips for a financial niggle-free festive time. Christmas is a major expenditure, so plan now to avoid a New Year financial hangover.

    Don't pay for Christmas from December's income
    Never just plot a Christmas lust-list of everything you want. A typical family's Christmas spending is £835 - too much for December's income alone. So work out now what you can afford to put aside in October, November and December. Once you know how much you've got, ask: "What's the best possible Christmas we can have on that?"

    Save money by making small sacrifices can save you lots
    For example, walk instead of taking the £1 bus every day, or cut out the £2 lattes before work – every little helps. You don’t have to give it up, just work out which use of cash gives you more joy.

    Don't borrow for Christmas, but if you do, ensure it's at 0%
    Christmas borrowing's a bad idea. Far better to go, er, cold turkey, and have a more austere time (Christmas is just one day, after all).

    The cheapest way is on a 0% spending card - done right, it’s interest-free. The longest currently on offer is Tesco’s, which offers 18 months at 0%. Yet even though the offer lasts more than a year (provided you make the minimum repayments), plan to clear it before next Xmas or you'll compound your problems. If you don't clear before the 0% term ends, beware - it'll jump to 16.9% representative APR.

    Got it and don't need it? Flog it for fast cash
    Many old items can be worth serious cash. Online auction giant eBay usually fetches maximum cash. But for a faster, easier return, use a comparison site to find the top online buyers for old mobiles and gadgets.

    Set up a Christmas cupboard, then pounce on the biggest discounts
    Don't waste time and money - be a tactical Christmas shopper.

    Decide what you want, make a list, get a Christmas cupboard ready to put stuff in, then wait until what you're buying goes on sale at the cheapest price.

    Keep an eye out for codes, vouchers and one-day sales to find those low prices.


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  • Stir-it-up Sunday Nov 24
    Stephanie Lowe
    By   | Family and Home Editor,
    Last updated: 25 September 2013, 17:21 BST

    The traditional day for families to get together and mix the Christmas pudding - is on November 24 this year. So pass round the wooden spoons, get everyone to make a wish as they stir, and create this giant Christmas pud – it serves 10 - with a difference.


    • 100g raising
    • 100g sultanas
    • 50g currants
    • 175g dates stoned
    • 85g dried cranberries
    • Grated zest + juice of 1 orange
    • 1 thsp grated ginger
    • 100ml orange liqueur
    • 100g butter
    • 100g dark muscuvado sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 85g fresh white or brown bread crumbs
    • 50g s.r. flour
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 85g walnuts roughly chopped

    Walnut topping sauce
    • 100g butter
    • 100g light muscuvado sugar
    • 50g walnuts
    • 50g dried cranberries
    • Juice of 1 orange
    • 3ths orange liqueur

    How to do it:

    1. Put dried fruits dates, cranberries, ginger in pan with orange zest, juice and liqueur. Warm gently for 10 minutes. Then leave to cool.

    2. Grease a pudding basin 1.3 litre . Put small grease proof paper circle in the base.

    3. Beat butter, sugar, eggs and flour then stir in the fruits, breadcrumbs, cinnamon and nuts.

    4. Steam pudding for three hours. Either in a slow cooker or pan. Cool. Store for a week or freeze for a month.

    5. For the sauce, melt the butter and sugar in a pan, tip in the walnuts; stir for a few minutes. To toast, add orange juice, liqueur and cranberries. Allow to bubble until thick and creamy. Cool.

    6. To serve, steam to warm for one hour. Gently warm the walnut sauce. Serve the pudding. Pour over the sauce.

    7. Decorate with a sprig of holly, extra liqueur and light!

    Happy baking, and remember, keep your Stir-up Sunday wish a secret!


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  • Get organised
    Stephanie Lowe
    By   | Family and Home Editor,
    Last updated: 25 September 2013, 17:21 BST

    Use a calendar

    Avoid double booking, and as and when you find out when parties and school plays are, write them on a master calendar. Keep it next to the phone so if someone calls to ask if you’re free for an event, you’ll know the answer immediately.

    Update your Christmas card list

    Before you buy the stamps determine how many cards you need, and make sure you have updated addresses for friends and family.


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  • Top toys
    Stephanie Lowe
    By   | Family and Home Editor,
    Last updated: 25 September 2013, 17:21 BST

    Toy expert Mirella Cestaro says this year’s top toys are already selling well as people plan ahead.

    “There is so much choice out there for parents and it can be hard to know what to buy,” says Cestaro, editor of toy industry trade magazine Toys 'n' Playthings.

    “Many parents and grandparents are already beginning the Christmas shopping as many of the buyers and retailers I have been chatting to have noticed an increase in sales.

    “Here are the toys that the buyers and retailers are telling me will be flying off the shelves this Christmas, straight into the hands of the little ones up and down the country!”

    LeapPad Ultra

    VTech Innotab

    Lego Legends of Chima - The Lion Chi Temple

    Furby Boom

    Flutterbye Flying Fairy

    Monster High 13 Wishes Haunt the Casbah

    Doc McStuffins Doctor’s Bag Set

    Big Hugs Elmo

    The First Talking Sofia Doll & Animal Friends

    NERF Elite Rapidstrike CS-18




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