Planning for Christmas: Start early, save money!

planning for christmas

I know it’s only August, but is anybody planning for Christmas yet? I actually started in January. Not in a ‘What are we eating for dinner next December 25th’ sort of way. I’m not that organised!! However, I do generally peruse the sales for Christmas cards, wrap, decorations and the odd generic gift.

Most importantly, I start planning for Christmas by putting money aside, beginning in January. Having to find the money for Christmas (even if we do it in a fairly modest and frugal fashion) could easily be (and has been) a major source of anxiety.

The ghosts of Christmas past

planning for Christmas

In the past, I would leave it until November, thinking I was being pretty switched on by starting a couple of months in advance. In fact, the Christmas purchases would eat into our pay packets and leave us feeling very skint by January. A couple of times, it was left so late it went on the credit card. It is no fun when you are still paying for Christmas the following spring!

One notable year, when the kids were small and I was super skint, I bought almost all of the presents second hand from boot sales way in advance. This was good in one way. The kids had second hand toys that were in decent condition and new to them. I had very little last minute shopping to do. They were oblivious and perfectly happy with what Santa had brought them.

My relatives, however, weren’t impressed and didn’t get into my frugal Christmas spirit. As I have three siblings, their partners and kids, it is a large family. Buying for so many when you don’t have a lot of money creates a lot of pressure. As no one else was feeling the pinch in the same way I was it was hard to get them to understand the problem. I wasn’t being a Scrooge – I was broke! Christmas felt horribly stressful when it should have been a fun family time.

Paring it back

Eventually, when more nephews and nieces arrived and a couple of my other family members were having their own money struggles, when I suggested doing things differently they were more enthusiastic. We discussed a budget of no more than £5 per person or buying only second hand. However, we eventually settled on £20 for each child (‘child’ being in still education and not working) and a secret Santa for all the the adults. So we each buy just one present for whoever we draw for the Secret Santa and then budget £20 for each of the kids.

This works well for us. It save loads of time trying to think of what to buy, as well as saving money.

Putting money aside for Christmas is a crucial way to stay in control of the festive spending.

Planning for Christmas by writing lists

planning for Christmas

I write a list of everyone I need to buy for, with the amount I will spend on each person. It is important to include friends, colleagues, teachers, window cleaners (Yes, I buy a nice bottle for the window cleaner! I have had the same one for 20 years at 4 different houses!) on the list to help me budget. We do a secret Santa at work as well.

Set a budget for food. I can tighten this up once we have decided what is happening. Are we staying at home or going to family? Are we planning to host or attend any gatherings with friends? I actually asked my family the question this week, but I went in too soon. Some of them were still on their summer holidays!

Buying as you go

At this point in the year, I have often found quite a few little stocking fillers for Mr S and the girls. New Look has started their accessory sale, so that should be promising. I got some mega discounted items in their recent cosmetics sale, as outlined in my recent Frugal Friday post.

Marks and Spencer have their ‘sizzling summer event‘ on too. This is another sale I want to look at, as they currently have 50% off some items. Might be good for undies and pyjamas.

Another site I keep an eye on all year round for bargain gifts is The Book People. Their collections of books are such amazing prices. These are very good for stocking fillers. The only trouble is I have to stop myself buying loads for me! I have plenty to read at the moment.

No spend month

I always do a no spend month after Christmas, to get the bank balance looking as healthy as possible to start the new year.  This year, I intend to do another no spend month in October to get some more money into our Christmas and general savings.

A no spend month really focuses your attention on how much money you fritter away on small bits and pieces and never notice. It is even more helpful for people who haven’t managed to put any money away up to this point – it’s not too late to save!

Those of you who are keen cooks probably already have the ingredients for your cakes and puddings. I tend to make my life easy and go for whatever Aldi has to offer. They always have a nice Christmas food range.

Using last year’s present

We will very soon be using Mr S’s Christmas present from 2017 – two nights in a farm cottage in Norfolk. We have had a few breaks this year and this will be our third. I am looking forward to it.

I bought it through This is another site that is great when you can’t think what to get someone that they will really appreciate. Sometimes an experience works best.  Mr S is really hard to buy for!

How about your planning for Christmas? Are you super organised and already writing lists? Have you budgeted or are you starting to panic? I would love you hear your tips on planning for Christmas and saving money.

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15 thoughts on “Planning for Christmas: Start early, save money!

  1. Thank you for the timely reminder that we will soon be in autumn and man of us really do need to get a grip so that spending for Christmas doesn’t get out of hand. Thankfully, we have a small family which means a reasonably small list of people for whom we buy presents, but planning for anything – whether for Christmas or a holiday or anything which is going to create a hole in our bank account – is always a good idea. I think I will go against what I’ve always done and Make An Early Start, and I think buying 2nd class stamps for the cards will be one of the first things I do (we tend to forget how costly postage is, especially if we have a fairly long Christmas card list). I know some people send e-cards now, but they really aren’t the same thing, and some of them are so sickly-schmaltzy that I really don’t care for them at all. I have an on-going Christmas card list on my computer (which prints those sticky-back address labels which saves me the chore of writing every envelope by hand – handwriting the cards is quite sufficient for me!) and that will be the next thing I tackle.
    The only problem as I can see it: forgetting where I put the stamps and labels between August and December!

  2. I’m with you on the organising for Christmas front! It’s definitely worth planning and spreading the cost across a few months/pay packets. For a few years now I’ve had a spreadsheet for each Christmas, it helps me keep on track and organised with what I’ve bought, what’s left to buy and how much I’ve spent. I’ve already started to buy a few things as and when I’ve seen them too 🙂 all the best with your Christmas plans!

  3. I have always been very organized for Christmas as I used to have many, many to buy for – but thankfully, nieces and nephews are grown and I rarely see them and most friends have all decided on just small gifts – and preferably consumable – as we are all trying to downsize and purge our stuff rather than adding to it!
    Money is also going to be very tight going forward so I really am going to rethink matters. I will sit down one day next month and figure out what I’m going to bake and for who – then I may buy very small things to go along with the baking (i.e. mini bottles of alcohol, tea towels or small kitchen items) and make up a small basket.
    Also, one thing that last week’s purge brought to light was a collection of small things that I have bought over the past few months intending to use them as gifts. I have now put these where they won’t be lost and forgotten about so I have started. I also have enough wrapping paper and gift bags and I’ll check my card supply but I think I should have most of what I need for this year – aside from a couple of special ones. I’ve already started buying some extra stamps each pay period to avoid both sticker shock and the long lines at the Post Office! I will buy either some small, cheap baskets or brown paper gift bags from the Dollar Store to package up the food items but I have all the ribbons hat I will need. I like to have things all done by the end of November so that I can actually enjoy December!
    I’ll also start to buy a few bottles of wine to put away each month and buy some extra food items as well. I like to entertain but I keep it to a smaller group now – tea for 4 friends – a dessert party for 8 but that’s the max now. I no longer live in an apt. that can accommodate 40 to 50 people and I no longer feel up to entertaining that many people at once so more small scale events will do just fine.
    A great reminder that it won’t be long now.

  4. A few years ago, my youngest contacted my close family (kids, grandchildren) to announce that it was really too hard for Mum (me) to keep buying presents for everyone any more. It cost me hundreds of dollars each year. So we did Secret Santa: 1 expensive gift for 1 only person. After a few years, more family members couldn’t do this, so now it’s a $20 present, 1 only, suitable for any one. Now, I just have to figure out how to deal with all those extra people whom I seldom see, who want Xmas prezzies…..

  5. I am one of those sad / organised / stingy* (*delete as appropriate!) people who buys presents and stocking fillers for the following Christmas in the January sales and then whenever I see bargains throughout the year. I have such a big family and four godchildren to buy for so it makes a lot of financial sense. Stockings are a big thing in our family and are much anticipated by everyone. I have a rule (rod and back come to mind!) that only people sleeping here on Christmas Eve receive a stocking. Consequently, we have had up to 14 people in the past! Having downsized last month, and a husband who is setting up a new business after redundancy in January, money is tight this year and the Christmas planning more essential than ever. In previous years, I have also bought cards and wrap in the sales to squirrel away but frequently forgotten and then bought more! This year, finances mean that I will do a thorough stocktake of everything I have and only buy what I need. Despite this, I have avoided having to pay for Christmas in the new year and beyond, which I remember doing in my younger days (in fact, there were a number of years when Christmas was only just paid for before the next one!). As a family, we really love Christmas, and careful planning and organisation means that, like you Jane, I can enjoy it without the financial worry. Great post as always – I always look forward to your posts. Stephanie xx

  6. When we lived in America we had to post the presents to family back in the UK by the end of October so I got into the habit of turning my thoughts to Christmas in September! Now it’s just ingrained, though I find there’s little in the way of inspiration in the shops until at least November.

    I have always saved a set amount for Christmas each month Thankfully we are a small family – only ever been 2 sets of grandparents and 1 sibling (no spouse/children) to buy for beside the 7 of us, so now I’ve started dipping into it for birthdays too, if needed.
    Christmas food also comes out of this budget and as I host the now 10 family members for Christmas Lunch, evening buffet and New Years Eve buffet, I need to remember not to go too overboard. This year was better – we’d finished the leftovers within a couple of days of the New Year instead of the usual week after! 😀

    Being teens and young 20s, my kids now just want money, though I try to get them something to unwrap (usually alcohol related!) with everyone else. They really don’t care for stockings either (4 boys!) but it’s a tradition I like to continue as they get so little the rest of the year, so now try to get them consumables like deodorants, snacks, cans of fizz etc.

    I celebrate Yule for 12 nights so for me, everything needs to be done, dusted and under the tree by the evening of the 20th. 🙂

  7. We have six children between us, they have a partner each and there are eleven grandchildren, so that’s 23 immediate family before we even consider anyone else. I don’t want to do as some peop,e do and stop buying for my children now that I have grandchildren. This is really important to me, as is being able to buy nice foodie extras, so I save a set amount every month. I’ve been doing this for the past ten yearss or so. Husband does the same and come Christmas, we’re sorted.

  8. For last few weeks I have been buying one £1saving stamp each time I am in the supermarket; already i have £10 ‘saved up’ and should end up with about £20-30 in stamps which will cover the Christmas/ New Year food-shop. It’s a great way of saving without really noticing, and if I’m struggling one week then I just don’t get the stamp.

  9. Organisation is absolutely the key to Christmas! Those years when I’ve left the shopping to the last minute, I have always spent way more than I wanted too. But like you, I love a list! I make lists for everything.

    Great post! Thank you!

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