As Christmas draws ever nearer, the pressure and costs seemingly rise at an alarming rate. There still seems to be so much to do, so many thing still to buy, lots of people to organise and a never-ending stream of adverts don’t help matters.
Not to point out the obvious, but Christmas happens every year, on the same day every year. The biggest factor to surviving Christmas on a budget is to plan, plan, plan. This is all so you can enjoy the holidays however you choose to spend them, without incurring massive expenses and going over budget.
- Work out a budget and stick to it. Be honest with how your finances are looking, and work out a realistic figure of how much you are going to spend for the holidays. If you are cooking Christmas dinner for 20 people, all those related costs need to be factored into this number. The bigger the family, the bigger the number is going to be.
- Be realistic. If you have worked out a number for Step 1, then thought about it and that number is far too large, then you have to be realistic at this stage. There is no point going into debt because of the holidays. Absolutely not. You can get some fantastic presents for relatively little money (see a future post on this!) and sometimes, it really is the thought that counts.
- Write a list of everyone who you need to buy a present for. This list is for those individuals who you cannot leave out, unless absolutely vital. For me, this would include my parents, my husband, my husband’s parents and both sets of grandparents. The number of people on this list can be vastly different, depending on circumstances, which is absolutely fine if you can afford the list.
- To a second list, add people who you would like to buy a present for. For us, these are cousins, second cousins and close friends. These generally tend to be smaller presents, especially if I need to post them. If you do need to post presents, then remember this also costs! Go for lighter presents, or gift cards which are easy to post.
- Using the number from Step 1, allocate a budget to each person. I typically spend the most on my husband and then my parents. Everyone else then gets smaller amounts, varying from person to person. This is discretionary and can be very flexible. You might get a bargain for one present for someone, which leaves a bit of wriggle room for another present.
- Research! Once you’ve got your budget in place and some (flexible) numbers in place, now is the fun part. Take time to think about what that individual would appreciate; I’ve got one friend who lives around the corner from a well-known coffee chain, so I always get her the same gift card for that coffee chain. I know she appreciates it, as it’s somewhere she likes to go, plus she gets to have a treat. She often treats herself to breakfast and a coffee with the gift card I get her, and often sends a picture as evidence! For me, that’s an easy yet appreciated present that’s right for her. I have another friend who I know prefers a more handmade approach to gifts, so I have made her some homemade chocolate shortbreads before which she loved. You know who you’re buying for, so take the time to think about what they would like. This doesn’t have to be the most expensive thing either!
- Go via a cashback website. If you are buying gifts online, make sure you check various cash back websites first, to make sure you are not missing out on cash back. I use both TopCashBack and Quidco for purchases, which do add up over the year.
- Use cash back credit cards. Not that I advocate using credit cards, but these are slightly different, and work well if you pay off the balance each month. If you are spending money in department stores, then some offer a % back on your purchases. I personally don’t have a cash back credit card (though I am looking into it!) but I do have a friend who makes about £300 a year back in cash back for things she already buying.
- Do not buy seasonal things you don’t need. It is so easy to get sucked into buying lots of Christmas decorations, patterned plates and over-priced bits of tat that shops are hoping you’ll buy just because it is that time of year. Yes, those nice gold, sparkly plates might look nice with Christmas dinner on them, but at £20 a pop, they are just not worth it. Plus, once your dinner’s on the plate, you won’t see all that sparkly stuff anyway. If you look on eBay after Christmas, you’ll see evidence of people buying lots of things they don’t need and then selling it afterwards for less!
- Avoid the expensive shops. If you’re really truly going to stick to your budget, then stay clear of all the expensive shops. These include high end clothes stores, jewellery stores, over-priced health and beauty products, and expensive card shops. Just don’t do it! There are plenty of good alternatives for you to look at. I am actually becoming more of a fan of supporting local businesses and individuals who are trying to make a living and supporting their own families. If you are going to buy from big chain stores, then do your research! And don’t forget cash back! 😉
I know that Christmas is an exciting time to spend with family and friends, but I realise that it can also be a stressful, pressured time where many families feel the pinch at this busy time of year. I hope that these tips are helpful and can give some insight into having a stress-free Christmas. I’m going to do a Part Two post about decorations and food in the holidays, including some cheap recipes that taste amazing!
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