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
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
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 BuyaGift.co.uk. 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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