How can we do Christmas on a budget?
As someone who spent a number of years struggling financially I know how stressful Christmas can be when you are skint. Even now we are a bit better off (i.e I am not an impoverished student anymore!) Christmas can be an expensive time. But once a frugal tightwad, always a frugal tightwad; I am not going to let my newfound wealth (!!!!) spoil my money saving ways, so I thought I would offer some realistic suggestions to help you out this Christmas.
I have a love/hate relationship with money saving tips; while I am all for saving some cash I hate those patronising suggestions like ‘cancel your gym memberships’ or ‘don’t buy a latte in Starbucks every morning’ – like we can afford to do those things anyway! What I really wanted, when I was ‘poor people’ were tips I could use, not to be told to buy my food ‘a brand cheaper’ – it doesn’t get cheaper than 9 pence noodles!
With that in mind, here are some ways we try to keep on budget for Christmas. Part one is going to look at presents and the associated stress of giving!
How many people do you buy presents for?
Now how many people do you really need to buy presents for?
While trimming up the house, consider trimming down your present list. I go into this in one of my Pondering’s, but chatting to family and friends about not buying things is a conversation worth having when you are feeling the pinch. If you don’t have the option of not buying certain people presents – I remember suggesting it to my Mum one year and she was singularly unimpressed- then maybe temper their expectations. Tell them you have a budget and that is all you will be spending. And don’t feel guilty if they then choose to spend more and buy you a bigger present, despite you explaining to them. That was their choice and you shouldn’t be manipulated into giving what you don’t have.
Maybe you can get the whole family involved in a mass Secret Santa? That way you just buy one present, but you can set a slighter higher budget. I have been involved in a twitter based one this year and as I write this the present I have been sent by my Blogger Secret Santa is sat under my tree, eyeing me up, begging to be opened. We used an App called Elfster to organise the whole thing (I say we, the whole thing was sorted out by Casey), which is free to use and makes organising secret gift giving easier.
If you have children to buy for, whether your own or someone else’s – tell them what your budget is. Explain how much you have to spend and let them select presents that fit it. One year, when we were particularly poor, all of our kids agreed to having their presents after Christmas and we went out in the sales and they got almost twice as much as they would have had, had we had to pay full price for stuff! In the same vein, if you know you won’t be seeing the person until after Christmas, maybe hold off buying their present until the sales start and pick up a bargain.
Remember that there are plenty of cheaper options available. The Pound Shop – who I may have mentioned before!– have an amazing range of toys, home ware and chocolates, while Charity shops and church sales can also be a great source of gift sets and toiletries. If you have a very limited budget, you could even consider IOU’s or vouchers for babysitting, gardening or cleaning. Maybe you have art or crafty skills and could make presents, or bake cookies.
Never Ever …
I know we all want to buy our loved ones everything they want – especially our children, and it is tempting to go into debt or use credit cards to pay for it, but you must try to never do this. One day of the year is not worth the stress of having to pay off loans for months to come. Much of the stuff you will buy will be cheaper after Christmas – as I mentioned above – and a lot of the other things that people claim they just have to have are often forgotten about in a few months. Try to remember the point of the holiday : quality time with family and friends, repeats of films on TV and copious amounts of sherry…but mainly that first one about family and stuff.
If being, what you feel is a bit stingy this Christmas makes you feel a bit guilty, resolve to save in advance for next year; While I appreciate that this tip is of no benefit to you now -unless you happen to have a time machine that is- from the beginning of next year, look to start putting some money away each month for Christmas and look forward to a less financially stressful season.
What are your top gift buying budget tips? What limits do you set?