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Tuesday Tips : Have yourself a smug little Christmas! By Rachel

Christmas never used to be a particularly special time of the year for me. In my very junior years at the Bar I spent many a day between Christmas and New Year running to Court for those who were arrested and remanded in custody for misdemeanours over the festive period. Or fending the urgent removal of children from their homes.
Since having children, I have stopped working over the Christmas break and Christmas itself has become a rather magical time, even for me.
It’s taken years to master that chaos into some semi-decent routine but I think I have (sort of) nailed it, particularly after the birth of H who arrived just before Christmas a few years back.
So, what sound advice can I impart to you all? Probably not a lot but I’ll give it a go.
Like most family law barristers, the work diary in the run up to Christmas is absolute carnage. There are also Chambers’ / solicitors’ drinks to go to on many evenings, constant other work related demands on your time plus your own social circle’s various meet ups. If you have children of school-age, you have to fit in nativities, Christingle and carol services, not to mention the countless requests for chocolate for the tombola, wine for a hamper, money for raffle tickets and, well, the list is endless. This latter part, I have NOT mastered, despite being in four What’s App parent groups for each of my children.
HOWEVER, (and sorry to rub it in), I have already done all my Christmas shopping. I did most of it in the Christmas sales last year and the rest in dribs and drabs over the year, when there have been sales or good offers on. I never just buy a generic gift in the random hope I may give it to just anyone. I see something that I think a particular person might like, buy it and then tick that person off the list I
keep in my diary. Everything I buy then goes in the present cupboard, some with a sticky note to remind me who it was bought for. The only presents I leave to the end are wine and chocolates when the supermarkets are all vying for your business and there are really good offers on.
There are benefits to buying presents in this way. As with all good legal submissions, you should make three points. So, inevitably, I have four:
1. You don’t get hit with a massive bill for presents at Christmas time when VAT is also due plus the dreaded tax bill at the end of January.
2. You can really get some decent savings buying in the sales but you have to be clever about it. (My husband religiously looks at a website called UK hot deals and I am a massive fan of Martin Lewis’ moneysavingexpert website.)
3. When you wrap the presents and you find you are missing something, there is actually time to go out and get something. Not so much if you have left it to Christmas Eve!
4. Work is so busy at Christmas. You really don’t need the stress of Christmas shopping as well. #wellbeing and all that!
Cards? All written and those that need posting, posted. Again, I buy these in the previous years’ sales and write them with the kids in the very first weekend in December.  So this year, it was Sunday the 1st. This way, it’s all done and out of the way. We don’t write many cards as we are mindful of waste but we still think it’s nice for the children to write their cards and take them in. I still have very fond
memories of popping my cards into a bright red cardboard post-box at school and going into the classroom to find cards on my desk addressed to me.
That’s it for now. Next time, I share my experiences of Christmas party-time and attempts to have a stress-free Christmas. I’ve still not cracked it but hope to do so this year. Watch this space!