10 tips for a stress-free Christmas

10 tips for a stress-free Christmas

Make sure the festive season goes with a swing by getting all your preparation done on your computer

Happy Christmas! If those two words send a shiver down your spine (it can't be nearly Christmas AGAIN, can it?) then you'll be familiar with the stress that tends to accompany this 'happiest time of the year'. There's no doubt the yuletide season brings a host of battles all of its own, but you can take the heat off an awful lot of it with some careful planning online. Here's how...

1. Keeping in touch

Christmas is all about family, but it's not always possible to have your nearest and dearest close to you on the day. If you've got friends and relatives spread far and wide, a video call using Skype is the perfect way to wish them a happy Christmas. You'll need a webcam , but if your computer doesn’t already have one, this option from Advent (with built-in microphone) is a handy addition at less than a tenner.

2. Wrapping with style

Wrapping up Christmas presents is one of those chores that requires commitment to the cause and – quite often – a serious amount of mulled wine. Make it a bit more interesting by trying some different wrapping techniques. The web is awash with crafting blogs and this Pinterest board brings together all sorts of intriguing ideas. Perhaps you might try the Japanese art of furoshiki, a traditional method of wrapping that uses fabric instead of paper.

3. Saving the pennies

They really should hand out medals for anyone brave enough to face the festive battleground that is the high street at Christmastime. Shopping online is so much quicker and easier – and it can save you money. Still, don't click 'buy' without first nipping onto a price comparison site such as Google Shopping to ensure you're getting the best deal. Or try Invisible Hand, a clever tool which pops up a message when the product you're looking at is available cheaper elsewhere.

4. Unusual gift ideas

Coming up with quirky and interesting gift ideas isn't always easy, but it's worth the effort. After all, Uncle Frank probably has enough socks by now. The likes of I Want One Of Those and Firebox are ideal for beginning your search for the unusual, offering everything from Marmite chocolate to traditional Christmas jumpers. Alternatively, how about using your own photos to make something truly personal? The myPIX service makes it easy to create proper books stuffed with prints of your own snapshots.

5. Stock up

Scouring the aisles for cranberry sauce and packets of chestnut stuffing is about a thousand times easier when the aisles are virtual and the supermarket is online. Head to your online grocery store of choice to save yourself the headache of the crowded shops – all of the big names have excellent delivery services. The BBC's Christmas food section is also hard to beat when it comes to recipe ideas.

6. Staying safe

With all this shopping online you'll want to make sure your PC's security is up to scratch. Follow our guide to shopping safely online, and take a look at securing your PC to ensure you've got everything locked up tight. For a quickfire checklist, try our 10 ways to make your PC more secure

7. Sending cards

If you have Microsoft Word on your PC, you can save yourself hours of addressing Christmas card envelopes by creating a simple mail merge job. This will store all the names and addresses from your Christmas card list, and enable you to quickly print them out on sheets of sticky labels. Once you’ve done this job once, you can reuse it year after year. As for the cards themselves, get creative by making your own on myPIX. The Royal Mail has information on posting cards and parcels at Christmas – including last posting dates.

8. Entertainment sorted

The double edition of the Radio Times remains a great Christmas tradition in many homes, even though RT's online version has even more content and will tell you all you need to know about what's on over the holiday season. To make sure you don't miss the Queen's Speech or Strictly’s festive finale, use your PC to watch and record TV. Then, take charge of your viewing by cueing up some movies on demand from KNOWHOW MOVIES.

9. Christmas snow

Will we see a snowy wonderland this 25 December? The Met Office has some interesting articles on what exactly makes a white Christmas and how many there have been in the last 50 years. Over on The Weather Outlook, the white Christmas forecast is updated once a week in the run-up to the day itself.

10. Getting crafty

If you like rolling up your sleeves and getting all homemade at Christmas, you'll find the web to be a treasure trove of ideas. The Make website has thousands of Christmas-themed items to create, and Pinterest is again a great place for collections of fun Christmas crafting. The ingenuity can even extend to your Christmas cards, with Royal Mail offering the option to make your own stamps.