You’re being lured in by the adverts depicting a luxurious Christmas spread, with rosy-faced children standing in awe of the £300 gift that Santa rustled up this year. The pressure is mounting, but is your bank account ready to take the hit?
Given that 23% feel “under pressure to spend more than they can afford” (1) we absolutely need to give thought as to how to have a brilliant Christmas on a budget.
No One Has Everything
Remember from the start that what symbolises ‘Christmas’ to one family won’t be as important to another. If you’ve never had German Stollen at Christmas, or cheap cracker toys were always part of the family joke, that doesn’t change just because the adverts are portraying a different image. Remember – the adverts are trying to entice each and every family to find what they want at their store. You don’t need to buy it all to have a good Christmas.
Lists & Budgets
It might seem that it doesn’t need saying, but the best way to ensure you succeed at Christmas on a budget is to make the budget in the first place. Draw up lists of where money will be spent. Not just gifts, but food, cards, days out and more. Then look at your pot of money and assign it accordingly. Don’t do it the other way round. That Black Friday deal might look good at 50% off, but if it’s still 50% more than you have available to spend then it’s out of budget.
Make Magical Memories Not Debt
Somewhere in amongst the ease of online shopping, and our TV screens being flooded with images of a perfect Christmas, we’ve lost the fact that once all the stuff is removed come the 12th January, it’s the memories that last. Children will value and remember sitting on Dad’s shoulders watching the town lights be switched on for free, or sprinkling oats and glitter as ‘reindeer food’ on the lawn, more than a tower of presents that overwhelms them. Get baking, get crafty, and take things back a step. Collect holly in the woods, go to the local Christingle or Crib Service, and make family traditions that value time and not money.
When you’re bombarded with images of Christmas morning with new trampolines, games consoles, Sky subscriptions and this year’s must-have toys, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype. However, children only have the expectations that we give them. Use the Santa letter-writing exercise as a chance to talk about what is really important to them, and explain it’s a wish-list not a get-list. For Christmas-on-a-budget purposes it may be best to set the tradition that Santa only brings the stockings. Similarly, set expectations with friends and extended families. Perhaps only buy for children, or do a Secret Santa, or have an evening of mulled wine and mince pies instead of gifts.
Number one rule when it comes to Christmas Shopping is: don’t use the credit cards. Those bargains aren’t bargains once you add on the New Year interest that is going to hit hard. Many debit cards offer cashback and this makes them invaluable. And for protection whilst paying online, consider PayPal. Decide what you’d like to buy according to the budget and then get online and get comparing. By hitting several different sites, you’re likely to find that all sorts of gifts, including the most popular like Lego sets, vary enormously in price from retailer to retailer.
When it comes to the Christmas feast get even more spending savvy by using either mySupermarket online, or the app, to make sure you get your Christmas grocery basket as cheaply as possible.(2)
Think Free, Think Magic
Don’t underestimate the value of doing things for free. Cards (and their associated postage) can be swapped for emails with thoughtful wording and even clever animations. Norad (3) brings the magic of Santa directly in to your home for nothing more than an internet connection, as do various messages from Santa. Royal Mail will send your child a letter from Santa for nothing. Local events are frequently free and foster a sense of community spirit. Don’t use the landline to make those Christmas Day calls, use Skype.
Do Even Better Next Year
The sooner you start saving for Christmas the longer you’ll have to spread out the cost. So instead of waiting until November or December to start thinking about saving up, you could put a little bit away regularly and watch this figure grow over time. For example, if you were to put away £20 a week for the whole year, you’d have £1040 saved up by the end of it.
Magic is Not Money
It is possible to have a truly magical Christmas on a budget. Plan, give time, and remember that once the glow of Christmas is past, you have to live with any debt you’ve accrued. So make 2017 the Christmas on a budget that still brings the magic in to your home.