It’s all gone so quickly; a few days ago I was on BBC Radio 2 expounding on the merits of getting into Christmas prep well in advance, and now I’m writing the final article in our three-article series on making Christmas easier by thinking ahead. Don’t worry, though; in December we’ll return to this topic and I’ll be posting a cornucopia of tips and hints, as well as genuine how-to guides and recipes for your very own perfect Christmas!
Money is perhaps the biggest issue for families facing Christmas. Many of us find it difficult to make ends meet and Christmas is a famously popular time for going overboard. Who can resist getting ‘one more present’ for the kids? And buying all that food – most of which won’t be eaten – weighs heavily on any bank account. These preparatory tips can make a huge difference, not only to the overall cost of Christmas but also to your ability to afford what you do end up buying.
Obviously, spreading the cost is a really good way to make sure you can afford Christmas. This is a trick any family should know, and most singles, too! By buying Christmas presents either year-round when you find suitable items, or starting sometime in the summer (September at the latest), you can spread the cost of gift-buying immensely. This allows you to lower the pressure. Twenty, fifty, or even a hundred pounds a month; budget carefully and you’ll be able to spend more money than you would if you save your Christmas shopping for the last few weeks of the year.
Obviously, this technique allows you to take advantage of various sales, too. While most people might not want to think about Christmas in the January sales, you can actually save unbelievable amounts of money by doing so. But there are other bank holiday sales you can enjoy, and of course having plenty of time allows you to comparison shop online, as well. Be sure you leave the large gifts for the kids for last, as interests in children often waver and you want to make those decisions closer to the time.
In terms of decorations, making some homemade bits and pieces can save you some money. In December, I’ll be posting some guides as to how to make a cheaper and prettier wreath. It’s not at all difficult and you’ll even be able to let your children help. What a way to get into the Christmas spirit! Some strings of beads, tinsel and miniature baubles can easily be made into lovely home-made mini-wreaths that can be hung from any hook or bracket in your home, and can look absolutely amazing despite costing very little indeed.
Speaking of decorations, if you notice your tree looks a little poor this year, buying new baubles, tinsel and bits and bats here or there right after the holidays allows you to save a lot of money. Just store the new boxes away with your other decorations and next year you’ll have some brand-new glittery things to enjoy. If it’s a bit late for that, buy your new decorations right now, online. You’ll still be saving a lot of money versus buying them once everyone stampedes to the shops!
Know where to cut corners, too. Many people, my husband chief among them, feel that the turkey isn’t a place to cheap out. We buy locally from a genuine old-fashioned butcher and we do save a few pennies, but what it’s all about is the quality of the bird. For us, it would be ridiculous to buy an inferior bird to save pennies.
Instead, we buy inexpensive wrapping paper that isn’t, perhaps, the most tasteful but costs very little. Our kids think it’s amazing that Santas dance all over their presents, and we save a few bob. I also save money by home-baking, which may not be viable for you if you hate baking. Weigh and measure what’s worth saving on and what you really feel a need to go all-out on. You’ll be surprised at how much cheaper things end up than they would if you just blew the budget on every item!
Ultimately, Christmas is about having the ideal day. Not worrying about money allows you to chill out and really enjoy the event. So save your pennies and ease the strain as you get ready for a wonderful holiday season!