Christmas comes but once a year, but when it does – boy can it hurt your wallet! However, with many household budgets squeezed in these austerity driven times, it’s important to find a way to celebrate Christmas without piling on the debt. Is it possible to cut Christmas costs without foregoing all the fun?
Of course you can be both festive and frugal at the same time! In a way, this may be an opportune time to reassess the way you and your family celebrate Christmas. Is it really all about the presents? What about spending quality time together, using the festive period to engage with the local community or as a time for quiet reflection? There are many ways to make Christmas count. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some useful tips and ideas to help you make Christmas special without breaking the bank.
How many presents?
In the interests of financial management and to avoid getting sucked into an excessively consumerist lifestyle, it’s a good idea to sit down with your nearest and dearest and discuss the thorny issue of Christmas presents. How many is too many? What’s a realistic budget for gift purchases? What about friends and acquaintances? Do you need presents at all?
Perhaps you can agree to restrict present giving to children so as not to shatter the Father Christmas illusion just yet, or have a Secret Santa where everyone only buys one gift. Some people make a ‘no presents’ pact with their friends and family or choose to make a charity contribution instead, others set a price limit or insist on homemade gifts only.
Plan ahead and spread the cost
If you do need to buy presents, be prepared and be in control. There’s no need to fall for the Christmas hype and no reason to do all your gift shopping in a rush in November and December. Keep your eyes open for suitable presents at sensible (ideally bargain) prices all year round and have a Christmas cupboard where you keep everything until the big day.
That way, you’ll be in full control of the purchasing process, able to strike when you find the perfect item and the price it right. Also, helpfully, you’ll be spreading the cost of your Christmas shopping across the year by taking out an unsecured short term loan.
Out with the old, in with the new
Generating extra cash at Christmas can be tricky, so why not start by taking a look at what you already have? One child’s outgrown toy may be another kid’s dearest Christmas wish and that winter coat you never liked may well be someone else’s idea of high fashion.
From local car boot fairs all the way to eBay, there are plenty of second hand selling platforms to choose from to turn your unwanted possessions into much needed Christmas spending money. What’s more, decluttering before the festive seasons is not only a liberating exercise, it makes room for new presents!
Christmas Day is just one day
We’ve been conditioned to exchange presents on Christmas Day and woe betide if the gift should be late. Retail companies exploit this weakness to our financial disadvantage. Here’s a thought: rather than putting the new pair of shoes for your daughter wrapped up under the tree, give her a voucher for a shopping trip in the January sales. That way, you’ll be getting the shoes at a lower price and a lovely girly day out to boot!
Similarly, if your family is planning to eat out, don’t make a restaurant booking for Christmas Day – you’ll be paying through Rudolph the Reindeer’s nose! Instead, adjust your plans so that you have Christmas Dinner at home and save dining out for another, cheaper day over the festive period.
Sending Christmas wishes
Here’s an easy way to kill two birds with one stone. Save both time and money by freeing yourself of the chore of having to write meaningless Christmas cards to everyone you know! It’s an old fashioned custom that is not environmentally friendly and generally unappreciated by anyone under the age of 50.
If you really want to send your best wishes at Christmas, do it via email or social media. Alternatively, lavish some personal attention on absent relatives or friends via a phone call or Skype call.
Rediscover Christmas crafts
One of the best ways to save money at Christmas is by giving homemade gifts. Why not do away with frenzied shopping trips to overcrowded shopping centres and rediscover the art of crafting? It’s much more in tune with the spirit of the season. Whether you fancy pickling, baking or chocolate making, photography, knitting or oil painting, now is a great time to indulge in some homely activities with results that will make someone you love very happy.
How about taking a course in pottery or stained glass, learning carpentry or making silver jewellery? Thoughtful, homemade presents hold much greater sentimental value than shop bought items. And while you’re at it, think about the miles of commercial wrapping paper that gets used every year. Could you not make your Christmas gifts more personal by using your crafting skills for quirky gift decorations?
Showing love in other ways
Finally, who says that Christmas presents have to take on the material form? According to Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages, receiving gifts is only one of 5 ways that we can express our love to family and friends. The other 4 are: physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation and gifts of service.
This Christmas, why not give someone the gift of telling them how wonderful they are? Or making sure your children get plenty of cuddles? You could give Grandad the gift of playing chess with him or washing his car once a week, or your wife the promise of a monthly date night. If Christmas is a celebration of love, it really needn’t cost a lot.