With December just around the corner, the media headlines are full of Christmas, from gifts to food to toys and budgets. Some families are no doubt anxious and worried about the holidays and seeing to it that their kids don’t go without and everyone gets something from under the tree.
Hubby found this one yesterday (source) and I thought I’d add my five eggs worth.
Grab a cuppa and a sandwich, this is a long one.
Budget is my middle name, but in years past (and now too to some extent) I had to plan months in advance as most Christmases saw me entertaining, not only the in-laws, but the ex wife and partner, and even an uncle and aunt invited to our house by previously mentioned in-laws, so I was busy in the kitchen most of the day.
Not everyone got presents though, and that wasn’t just because they never bought for us or contributed anything to the meal. My generosity could only stretch so far.
The article says Three Tips for managing your money this Christmas, but twice in the narrative they mention five.
The first is something everyone does all year anyway when they’re on a tight budget, and that’s to make sure all bills and expense is covered before you even start to think of extras.
The second is to shop around for presents and stick to a list (maybe that counts as two).
This is all well and good if you have the time, and the means, to shop around without being a busy parent holding down a job and having kids in tow when you want to shop. On-line shopping can come into its own then, but don’t forget to take into account delivery costs.
The third is to be realistic and make sure you can afford increased costs.
OK then, my five pennuth:
Have a budget, and stick to it. If you have a large family, everyone is probably in the same boat, so to spend a little extra on kids, buy token novelty pressies for adults. We had a LOT of fun limiting adult gifts to cost no more than £1.
If you are all going to one house for Christmas, have a Santa sack for the kids, and donate one gift per child in your family to it. So if you have one child, that’s one gift, two children two etc. You can do the same for adults, but for me Christmas is really for kids, the younger the more pleasurable because they have no expectations of designer clothes, phones or shoes.
Again if you are all meeting at one house, take something for the buffet table. Rather than alcoholic drinks, I used to make a fruit wine punch and continue to add lemonade to it thus weakening it down as the day wore on.
If you prefer to buy gifts for individuals. do not exceed your budget. Years ago for me it was £3 per child and £5 for couples, but you would be lucky to get something decent for that price today as cheap usually means nasty, unsafe and breaks within minutes, unless you can get something in the sales earlier in the year.
Yes, there is nothing wrong with buying Christmas gifts in the January Sales, or during the year to take advantage of bargains! The only drawback with that could be that tastes change in 12 months and you may have gifts unsuitable for those originally purchased for.
Many years ago Christmas Clubs were starting up in January accepting regular monthly payments which you would then receive in December ready to shop. Unscrupulous people and firms going to the wall put the kibosh on that and those who could least afford it lost hundreds of pounds, if not more. However, you could do something similar with a small bank account purely for that purpose in your own name.
Food shopping early is OK if you have Will Power or can hide it. Watch out for mince pies though, many of those in the shops now have a best before date BEFORE Dec 25th.
Above all, be honest with yourself and your family if you are feeling the pinch and cannot splash out as much as you used to or as much as you’d like.
Christmas is a time of joy and giving, but if you are going to get stressed trying to keep up with everyone else, there is always Plan B.
One box of chocolates or biscuits per family plus a card, and shut yourselves away for a few days.
Remember, it’s the thought that counts, not the cost. Some people tend to forget that.
Here’s a poem I wrote for 2012
I think of Christmases long ago,
Holly, mulled wine and mistletoe,
Times have changed so much I know,
But we wish you a merry Christmas.
Twinkling lights on the Christmas Tree,
Wonderful food for dinner and tea,
Oh how merry we all would be,
Together each year for Christmas.
Presents were opened, one by one,
Thought and love packed into every one,
Happy and tired, when the day was done,
Warm memories of Christmas.
Loved ones have moved far away,
Keeping in touch whenever they may
As time rushes on, day after day,
But we think of them all at Christmas.
The street is quiet as we close the door,
Two of us and the dog, never no more,
Curling up by the fire with the ones I adore,
God Bless you all this Christmas.