With another (arguably)’ Merry Little Christmas’, just around the corner, and with families already struggling to divide up their income between horrendous utility bills, petrol, and rising food costs, there has never been more pressure to ‘do’ the festive season as cheaply as you possibly can. Impossible you might say, especially if you want to keep everyone in the family from partners to teenagers and small people happy into the bargain. But this year, it’ll be Christmas On A Budget for lots of families.
With a bit of careful planning and lots of list making, (I love a list!) there are ways you can get presents for everyone and cook up a storm in the kitchen, on Christmas Day too without completely emptying the family wallet.
For sure, it may be a Christmas, not quite as you’ve known it before, but let’s face it, it’s more important to keep your family warm and toasty throughout the winter than to go over budget with presents in December, and worry yourself to death about how you are going to pay your bills in January.
KIDS DON’T KNOW IT’S SECONDHAND.
Boot sales can be the answer to many a request sent to Father Christmas. Young children in general don’t know or care if something is secondhand. It’s new to them, and that’s all that matters. And whilst lots of boot sales close down as soon as the ground gets muddy and wet, there is a new option springing up, whereby they decamp to hard standing areas, often in Park and Ride car parks, which are not usually used at weekends. This means sellers can sell, and buyers can buy more or less all year round.
A list is invaluable, even at a boot sale; there’s nothing worse than wandering aimlessly about and buying things just for the sake of it. Every child, every year has a new passion, no matter if it’s Barbie and her horses, Lego, or Dinosaurs. Ask probing questions, and listen carefully to their conversations with their siblings, you’ll soon get an idea of what you need to be on the lookout for.
Make sure the relevant item is clean and in good condition. Once wrapped in whistles and bows, trust me they won’t know or care where it came from and will be overjoyed, and you will have saved a fortune.
TEENAGERS WILL LOVE DESIGNER
There is an unseen, and unnoticed moment when the above-mentioned children, who have once been quite happy with secondhand toys, begin to turn their noses up at the very mention of a preloved item. It then becomes tricky to buy presents for them whilst also maintaining the secondhand mantra to stretch your budget.
However, there isn’t a teenager I know, who can’t be tempted by a pair of designer trainers or jeans, or a football kit for their favorite team, and with the rate that teenagers grow these days, it’s easy to find something suitable in very good condition. If boot sales don’t tick the box for older children, then eBay or Vinted certainly will.
After you’ve explained to older children, that you are having to cut back a bit on your budget, and you mix up the secondhand presents with some lesser value new items, then they will still be happy, and if they aren’t, then it’s maybe time to point out a few of their school mates who aren’t half as lucky as they are. That usually brings them back down to earth with a bang. It does in our house anyway!
SECRET SANTA OR SET A BUDGET
Everyone is feeling the pinch, and it may come as a welcome relief to your extended family, if you suggest putting an end to expensive gifts, or indeed suggesting even that you just buy for the children. Either way, you can set a budget. Depending on the size of your family, I’d suggest £10.00 is the perfect figure. Not too shabby, but not too excessive either.
Of course, Secret Santa is really the way to go. Names in a hat, and you buy for the person whose name you have picked, again, with a budget set. Yes, it limits the number of pressies you get, but better still it limits the number you have to buy. Factor in the wandering around the shops, the car park fee the aching feet, and it’s a win-win situation!
Personally, if you choose that option, I’d much rather have something useful, than a jokey present, which, I ‘get’ provides laughter and a fun moment, but I’d appreciate a collection of say 3 nice nail varnishes, much more than a whoopie cushion. You get my drift.
THERE WILL ALWAYS BE ONE
In any family, even though agreements have been made, and budgets decided, there will always be one person who doesn’t stick to the plan. They may be a tad more well-off than everyone else and feel the need to make that clear. So whilst that person receives a pressie to the agreed value, they will splash out on something extravagant worth much more.
My advice? Smile sweetly, be gracious, and simply say, ‘oh you shouldn’t have’….. and leave it at that. Don’t make a big deal out of it, and give them any credence or extra brownie points, as that’s exactly what they are aiming for.
If you’ve spent £10 on a make-up bag for them, and they’ve spent £50 on a designer jumper for you……cut and run. Enjoy your jumper, you’re a winner.
ITS TURKEY TIME
Pre-planning is crucial for your Christmas Dinner, especially if you are on a budget. We rinse and repeat our festive food menu, every. single. year. It’s the same, year on year, and just like everyone else, we love it. We pig out on sausage rolls and vol-au-vents, as soon as our eyes open, washed down with Bucks Fizz, and that continues until someone says, ‘you won’t want your dinner’……….oh yes we will!
If you are hosting, it’s wise to get an idea of how many you are going to be feeding well in advance. And this is where you must power through and pick up those yellow sticker items as soon as you see them. Prawns, yep, I’ll have those, straight in the freezer. Sausages, yep, I’ll have them too. As long as you have a freezer, you can start your Christmas On A Budget food shop in September if you want to. Who cares.
Not one person around your table is going to ask, ‘and what date exactly did you buy this ham hock Karen’. Now is not the time for holding back, buy the yellow sticker stuff as soon as you see it, throw it in your freezer, and don’t leave everything to the last minute, or the last pound!
And yes, it’s back on the lists again. Once you know your numbers, make a rough meal plan, and jot down what you need and how much of it. Otherwise, you may end up with too much stuff and waste money in the long run. Nobody wants to eat cranberry sauce in February…. so shop carefully.
It IS possible to adopt a frugal mindset at Christmas, whether you have to, or just want to. Secondhand purchases help not only the environment, but they also help the buyer, and the seller, so don’t ever feel embarrassed or guilty.
You can get your table heaving with delicious Christmas food without spending a fortune. Start early, batch cook as much as you can, from the reduced section in the supermarket.
That’s Christmas On A Budget sorted. BUT… don’t forget your list!