It’s that time of year again. The children are drawing up their Christmas lists, plans are being made to eat enough food we will explode and every other advert on TV is a product which we apparently desperately NEED to buy.
Christmas is a minefield for those of us who are living on a budget. There seems to be pressure from all directions which says we should be spending thousands of pounds. If we don’t, then it can feel as though we have failed at ‘bringing the magic’.
There are shiny new tech items that the teenagers will want, the smaller children will be desperate for the latest fad toy and of course uncle Bob will only ever be happy with that aftershave which costs more than a week’s wages.
But, Christmas doesn’t have to be about the expensive gifts and carefully selected, hand-fed prize turkey.
Many of us are still feeling the strain of the pandemic, rising fuel and heating costs are making us feel the pinch, and let’s not mention just how much the price of a loaf of bread has increased this year!
If you are struggling to work out how you are going to manage this year, then I have a few tips which have helped me through tough years. Most of them have now become favourite traditions.
At its heart, Christmas dinner is JUST A ROAST. You don’t have to order from the butchers or pay for a giant bird which won’t fit into your oven and will mean you’re stuck eating turkey sandwiches until the middle of January. It really is just a roast dinner. Get whatever meat you can afford. My children are really fussy, so most years we will just buy a £4 chicken and roast that instead.
It is often cheaper to peel and prepare fresh vegetables rather than buying the frozen ones. I know this takes a bit more time, but it can make a big difference to the food budget. Most supermarkets will do huge deals on their vegetables in the week-or-so before Christmas, meaning that a 2.5kg bag of potatoes might only cost you 30p rather than 60p-£2 for a pack of frozen ones which is less than 1kg.
If you are having guests, ask them to bring something. Not only does this mean that you will have one less thing to think about, it will also mean that you aren’t having to spread your food budget quite as far.
I can’t sing the praises of charity shops loudly enough, especially when it comes to gifts for small children. Many charity shops this time of year will be filled with items from people having their pre-Christmas clear out. This means that you will often be able to pick up bargain toys and books which are in fantastic condition. I regularly buy items from charity shops for my children for birthdays and Christmas and they never care that it’s not brand new. It’s also worth second-hand book and game websites for those new releases as they sometimes pop up there at a massive discount.
One of my favourite places for stocking filler presents is a website called Toys For A Pound. There are thousands of items to choose from, with big brand names at a fraction of the price you will find in the shops.
If you have a large family and can’t budget a gift for each person, consider doing a secret santa together. This way, you will only have to buy one gift rather than potentially dozens. It can sometimes feel awkwards asking to do this, but most people will be happy with the suggestion as it means they get to save money too.
Social media is filled with perfect christmas trees and stunning decor. This is great…if you can afford to go out and buy a whole new set of decorations each year. Most of us can’t and it can leave us feeling as though we should be doing more to have an insta-worthy home. If you are someone who likes to have all new decorations each year, then consider a trip to your local pop-up christmas shop. Most towns will have one and they will often have decorations at very reasonable prices.
Alternatively, and this is my preference, re-use the things you’ve had in previous years. Each year, I will buy one or two new decorations and add them to my existing collection. It helps to freshen things up a bit while also meaning that you don’t spend hundreds of pounds. We also make a lot of our decorations each year. The children will make paper chains and snowflakes which are used to decorate the windows and upstairs areas. I always make sure to have a rummage in the charity shops for decorations too as you can often pick up some fantastic items for very little money.
However you are spending Christmas this year and whatever your financial situation is, I hope you have a wonderful one.