I can hear some virtual sharp intakes of breath at the thought of planning for Christmas when we are still in August! How dare I mention the C word when we have only just had the bank holiday!
I belong to several money saving Facebook groups. One of them is all about planning for Christmas and has been running since about April (if you are interested, search for Thrifty & Frugal Christmas). There are plenty of people who like to get organised! This group is full of ideas for cheap presents and even some freebie stocking fillers.
Take the worry out of planning for Christmas
Some of the money saving groups I read feature people who are anxious about the cost of Christmas. There was a big discussion on one thread about how to keep costs down. One young woman said she would only have a budget of £100 and she was worried about the strain of buying for her various family members. There is something terribly wrong if you are losing sleep months and months in advance of the event. Planning for Christmas should be fun, not just another thing to worry about.
It reminded me of how I felt a few years ago with three small children to buy for, loads of relatives (I am one of four children) and a very limited amount available to spend on Christmas. Even if I stuck to £10 a person, it was still more than I could afford at the time. I suggested to my family that we stop buying for the adults and just stuck to purchases for the kids. We all have plenty of everything already and have seen enough Christmases to be past disappointment if we don’t get a huge pile of gifts. Now we do a secret Santa for the adults and buy just one present for whoever’s name we pull out of the hat costing £15 – £20. It works really well!
However, it took a few years for everyone to agree to this. It seemed we were the only ones feeling the pinch. So I had to find other ways to save money. The following is an amalgamation of my money saving ideas plus those I have gleaned from Facebook to help you with your planning for Christmas.
Both with yourself and your loved ones. Tell them your budget and what you will be spending on each of them. Make it clear you don’t want them to go over that budget when they purchase for you. You might even decide between you not to bother, or perhaps to spend a little extra on something else, like a nice meal out together.
I know that Ilona from Life after Money doesn’t do Christmas at all and I respect that. She says, ‘I find it very liberating that I have chosen not to join in. My brain is not cluttered with the worry of getting the right presents, buying the right food, sending cards, and generally running around like a headless chicken trying to keep up. I can sit back and relax and watch everyone else getting their knickers in a twist. You will not see a furrowed brow on my face, you will see a wide grin from cheek to cheek.’ You can read an article about Ilona and her approach to the festive season here.
I love this! If you think it is a load of nonsense and don’t intend to join in with the rampant commercialisation of the season, don’t be afraid to say so.
Start early and spread the cost.
This is the reason I am writing this post at the end of August. I know that some of you will already be on top of your Christmas planning and might even have bought gifts in the January sales. However, if you haven’t, buying something each week will mean you notice the impact of your spending a lot less.
I usually start about now, especially with Christmas food. I already have plenty of cards, gift wrap and decorations purchased in the post Christmas sales. Now I am on the look out for everything else!
Charity shops and boot sales, Facebook Marketplace, eBay and Gumtree are all great places for this. One lady on Facebook said, ‘I help in a charity shop and we often have new items in from big stores, and many of the toys look like new’. I remember doing almost my entire Christmas present shopping at boot sales one summer. I saved an absolute fortune and I honestly don’t think anyone was any the wiser!
If you are crafty you can make all kinds of presents. Pinterest is awash with great ideas for making gifts out of scraps and upcycling. I used to love soap making and created some really special soaps one year that rivalled the poshest in Lush but were much cheaper. You can knit or crochet, paint, or grow plants. Just use your skills and talents!
Photos of your children are lovely gifts for grandparents in a charity shop frame (if they are old enough, get the kids to decorate it). If you are a cook you could make foodie gifts such as cakes, chutneys or biscuits. You could make them up into a hamper. Home Bargains is excellent for cheap baskets to use for these.
Hunt for bargains and freebies
Check out the sales and join Facebook groups where excellent deals are posted daily. As well as the Christmas one I already mentioned, I like Spend Less, Live Better and Free Samples Giveaways and Competitions UK. Check out stores such as Poundland, Home Bargains, B&M, etc for stocking fillers like colouring books and pens. They also do great offers on bigger toys and nice but cheap items such as candles. If you have a gardener to buy for now is a great time to find bargains in these stores.
If you have a family to buy for you could make a hamper for them to share and fill it with inexpensive bits and pieces like sweets, chocolate, small toys, etc.
Use cash back sites
If you are going to buy Christmas presents online you may as well get some cash back – it soon adds up. I use Top CashBack often but have also just signed up for QuidCo. Both offer cash back whenever you click through to make a purchase to a retailer. If you click through to Top CashBack via my link I will earn a small commission and you earn £2.50 when you spend £5.
Give time, not money
One suggestion on a Facebook group that I liked was to offer time as a gift. You could give tokens promising babysitting, gardening, car washing, ironing, cleaning, etc. This is a nice gift for teenagers to offer older relatives.
Set a limit and make it fun
If you don’t fancy Secret Santa, how about setting a limit per person and making a game of it? I read about a lady whose family agreed their gifts to each other could cost no more than £2. This meant they had to be really creative – either a home made gift, something cheap but amusing from the pound shop, or a charity shop bargain. They tended to make the gifts funny rather than serious and had a lot of laughs along the way.
Don’t feel bad about not spoiling your children
Everyone knows children whose parents almost bankrupt themselves spending thousands on gifts. Do the children appreciate lots of presents more than two or three thoughtful things that they really wanted and waited for? I remember being desperate for a Barbie and her horse when I was a kid. Because I had to wait six months for it to arrive on Christmas day I loved it even more and remember the pleasure I got opening it to this day.
Ask for contributions
Finally, if you are hosting a Christmas gathering don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to bring a contribution. A bottle of something at the very least, but preferably a dish as well. It is fun to share and this way everyone is involved.
Does planning for Christmas make you anxious? What are your top tips for effective Christmas budgeting?