Now that the shops are filling up with festive things, and coffee shops have their festive cups and flavours on the go, I think it’s probably just about safe to starting mentioning Christmas over here too!
Recently we have been having the discussion of how we want to approach gifts with the kids this year and what our budget will be. We have talked about how we will continue to teach them the spirit of giving to others (especially those in need!) and what we want to do to capture the magic and spirit of the season. I know for many that Christmas can be such an expensive time of year, and that the prospect of “affording it” can be quite daunting. I think with so many things that we and the kids think we want, it can be tempting to get things on credit, or just overspend, all in an attempt to satisfy that desire or to make it bigger than last year.
I know how easy it is to want to spoil the kids and buy them what they want, but if we are not careful, and if we don’t set limits, our kids will not only be unappreciative and potentially overwhelmed too. Not to mention that our bank accounts could be drained and we can be left pretty skint come the new year.
This year I am more determined than ever to set limits with what we get the kids and each other, because the number of gifts and spending money isn’t really what makes Christmas a special time of year – it’s about gathering together with your loved ones and sharing in the joy whilst relaxing from the every day. It’s about helping others and reminding them that there is still love in this world. Christmas to me is an opportunity to do good as well as some serious cooking or watching a few old classics with some mulled wine or hot chocolates. It’s a time to go for walks in the crisp chilly air (snugly wrapped) and to create magic and tradition. It’s an opportunity to lift the spirits of others and share what we have been blessed with.
Christmas, if we are not careful, can lose all of this and very quickly become a time of year where we overspend or get into debt. Reining in our spending can avoid this, and help us have a lovely season without overspending! Reining it in doesn’t mean that you give everyone a tangerine in a sock or something of cheap quality, rather it simply means that you don’t throw money at the occasion in the hope that it’ll make Christmas more special.
The key to a joyful Christmas (I believe) is that you do things with the people who matter the most to you, and you do things for others. Yes, of course you’ll need to do some spending, especially if like us there’s children on the scene and giving presents is such great fun. But, before you start compiling lists of unfeasibly expensive gifts, just take a look for some good budgeting advice and then put some of the following ideas in motion – I hope that they will help you have a lovely and memorable Christmas season without overspending!
Create a budget and try to come in under it
Having a budget (especially if you don’t have a lot of extra money) is an essential step to having an affordable Christmas. I am sure it would be great to be able to afford to spend the same lavish amounts on everyone you know, but unless your surname is you’re pushing your luck! Reigning in how much you spend on each person through a simple budget is so important and, is something you shouldn’t feel embarrassed or tight about.
In our family there are a lot of us and so we find that doing secret santa works really well. The budget is always £5 for the kids and then £15-£20 for the adults. This way we are only buying one adult gift each from our siblings and one kid per each of our kids (plus our parents). Doing this minimises the gifts we need to buy and it also cuts costs massively whilst keeping it fair. It means that you get one very thoughtful and lovely gift as opposed to a tonne of stuff you probably don’t really need or want! We each look forward to sitting in the hot seat and trying to guess who bought for us.
On a personal level with our children, we have always tried to limit the amount of gifts we get for our kids. I don’t like them having tonnes of stuff and nor do I think they need it just because it’s Christmas. Instead we try to teach them appreciation through the means of something they “Want, Need, Wear, Read” and then we add in a small toy from santa. We then do things throughout December to expose them to those in need and ways they/we can help. As I say we get them each a gift from Santa with a stocking at the end of their beds and then, they get one thing for each category or a want, a need, something to wear and read – from us. We always have a budget set for each one of them, as well as a budget of how much Nathan and I will spend for each other and our parents too. I like knowing ahead of time how much we plan on spending, and then I can look for sales, discounts or second hand bargains on Gumtree/Facebook. There is nothing wrong with buying a used toy or techy item (etc) in good condition or even going down the homemade road in order to come in under budget. I am sure that handing out homemade gingerbread cookies to teaching assistants or homemade soaps to the neighbours, will be very much appreciated and loved, as well as going a long way to saving you money!
Sign up for Amazon Prime
I think that most of us these days do at least some of our Christmas shopping online, its so much more convenient (and warmer!). If you’ll be expecting lots of parcels in December then free shipping is a huge help. Amazon offers a free month trial of its Prime service (normally £7.99), so if you sign up in early December you can mix the P&P for a lot of your deliveries and save a lot. You’ll of course have to look for items that are eligible for prime, but if it’s saving you at least £2.99 per present then it’s definitely worth it.
Always look for voucher codes
I love the feeling of getting something for less! Spending 30 seconds (or a little more) looking for online voucher codes for the retailer you’re about to visit before you dive in will help cut spending. Even if it’s just for free delivery or 10% off purchases over £30, doing this for every single purchase will mean that you’ll soon tot up some savings that you can either use to buy a few more presents with or just high 5 yourself for saving a few quid off your budget!
Agree on a no-present policy with some friends and relatives
This of course won’t work with everyone, but if you find out that someone else is also trying to spend less this Christmas, then they might be as relieved as you to be able to give presents a miss and just spend some time together! If you’re planning to meet up, then you could always offer cookies or a mix as a little favour, or simply do some random acts of kindness together instead.
Avoid trying to keep up with others
We can so easily fall into the trap of wanting to have the same as others or doing things the way they do it at Christmas time. The age old saying of “keeping up with the Jones'” is such a dangerous trap and will almost always lead to us not been satisfied and spending more than we have. It isn’t good to feel like we need to give our kids the same as other families do, or to believe that they may be hard done to because they don’t seem to have as much as friends at school! All of this really isn’t important or what Christmas is about and if we start to compare then it is likely that our Christmas will not be what we hoped and it will never feel enough. As a result of this attitude, our spending will quickly soar and we will end up buying unnecessary things.
Really try to focus on what is right and important for your family and it will in turn help you spend less.
I am pretty excited for this Christmas (which is refreshing) and I hope that you can look about at what is really important this season and what you and your kids really need (guaranteed it won’t be half the things they pester you for)! Don’t forget to set your budget and stick to it – If possible find some deals along the way through codes, offers and pre loved items and find small and simple ways to cut costs and rein in the expenditure!
Don’t get so busy buying and looking around at others, that you end up overspending on your own and forget to cherish the magical moments with your dear ones! Christmas is such a lovely time of year that is filled with countless opportunities – try not to let that be tarnished by overspending and too much “stuff”!
*This is a collaborative post