Halloween is approaching fast, then it will be November and, well you know what comes next … Christmas is on the horizon. Obviously, it’s a little too early to start celebrating it but with regards to preparing for it, well you probably can’t start too soon, especially if you’re looking to cut costs. I responded to a journalist’s request asking for ideas on ways to save money during the festive season a few weeks and I surprised myself (and my husband) with how many ideas I had. Want to hear them?
- Set a budget for everything – presents, food, drink, socialising, days out, outfits, travel etc based on what you can afford. Then stick to it. This is the simplest and most effective way to save money yet the hardest thing to do.
- Re-evaluate the list of who you buy presents for. Could you do ‘Secret Santa’ with a group of friends or family instead of buying each one a gift? I know some families where they just buy presents for the kids. Alternatively, a couple of friends and I decided to stop buying presents for each others’ kids as they were getting way too much, but we buy a gift for each other as mummies can get overlooked!
- Agree a price limit on gifts. For the past couple of years, Andy and I have done that – rather than being unromantic, it can be fun to see how imaginative we can be within a set budget!
- Agree to have a day out or night out with friends instead of presents, killing a couple of festive birds at the same time.
- Make gifts if that’s your thing – cakes, jams, sweets, candles, play dough, flavoured vodka, flavoured oils, bath bombs, painted or decoupaged picture frames or plant pots, cooking kits, hampers, babysitting vouchers …. so many ideas! Get the kids involved if you like. The act of spending time creating something for someone makes for a lovely gift. Beware though – you can sometimes spend more money buying supplies to make something than you would spend if you just bought the item.
- Personalise gifts using social media photos, e.g. print out someone’s favourite Facebook photos and frame them (I never, ever get round to doing this, it would be best present ever!). Or give photos of your kids to relatives or make salt dough handprints etc (there are at least 1,000 ideas on this theme on Pinterest).
- When thinking of presents for your kids, it might help to decide on a formula e.g. one big present, one book and a stocking to focus your gift buying. Or whatever works for you.
- When it comes to stockings, I always include practical items that I would have to buy anyway e.g. socks, hair bobbles, stationery, gloves and a new, fun toothbrush as well as more exciting things.
- Once you’ve narrowed down your list of what to buy – aim to never pay full price! Most retailers will have some sort of flash sale before Christmas. There have been a flurry of toy sales already and some are on at the moment at Sainsbury’s and The Early Learning Centre. SHOP AROUND! I just looked online for a doll that Seren wants – it was £27.99 at Tesco and £18.99 on Amazon.com. Though another toy was £60 on Amazon.com and £40 at John Lewis!
- Do you have to buy new? See what’s on offer on gumtree, eBay or local selling sites. Pre-schoolers won’t care if something has been lightly (or even not so lightly) played with. We always unbox toys and set them up anyway before giving them so something not being in original packaging wouldn’t bother us. We gave the girls a second hand dolls’ house last year which they love.
- Remember to maximise rewards during this time of heavier spending – have you signed up for a cashback debit or credit card? Got a reward card for the retailers you’ll use? Don’t forgot to use Quidco or similar on online purchases.
- When you go shopping take a list and stick to it. When you have finished shopping, don’t go shopping again and stop looking online! You will be far less tempted to buy “just one more” present.
- Meal plan for December (not necessarily yet) including for Christmas week and the day itself if you’re spending it at home. Think about the baking supplies, treats and drinks you would like to have too. Don’t panic buy or think that you need to have a variety of everything seasonal to offer guests. Remember the supermarkets are only closed for one day. Shop around for expensive items and you could start buying non-perishables now to spread costs if you have the space to store them. I’d advise against buying Christmas chocolate yet though unless you (and the rest of your family) have super strong willpower!
- Hunt out offers on batteries for those toys – don’t leave that until the last minute!
- With regards to decorations, wrapping, cards and crackers, well the trick is to buy those in the sale right after Christmas. But if you didn’t, then head to the pound shops and supermarkets for these. I used to be a bit of a greeting card snob but now I’m all about the Card Factory! I find cheap crackers (as long as they “pop”) just as impressive as expensive ones and kids find thin, cheap wrapping paper much easier to tear into than thick, expensive paper.
- In fact, think about whether to send greetings cards at all. They aren’t for everyone (and now we can spread greetings so easily via social media, are they redundant?). But some people love to send and receive them (I know I do!). But I admit to cutting down my list each year and I definitely try to hand deliver now that the price of stamps has shot up.
- Handmade cards and decorations are definitely more expensive to make than to buy cheaper alternatives. BUT, if it’s an activity to keep the kids entertained for an afternoon then let them loose potato printing star shapes onto rolls of drawing paper or cards or something like that. They can make stars or Christmas tree triangles out of ice-lolly sticks and decorate them to hang on the tree or cheap paper chains are another old fashioned and surprisingly relaxing idea. Again, Pinterest is your friend for more ideas.
- Christmas jumpers have been a big thing over the last couple of years but I resent paying too much money on limited use clothing so definitely head to the supermarkets for this sort of thing. Christmas t-shirts tend to be cheaper than jumpers or go for something festive but not just for Christmas like a Fair Isle pattern, red and white stripes or gold stars.
- Visiting Father Christmas in one of the many grottos that spring up in shopping centres, attractions and garden centres can cost around £15 per child where we live. However, we always end up seeing him more than once because he also appears at the school fete, toddler party and carol service that we go to. I’m wondering whether to miss out the expensive trip this year!
- We seek out local panto productions instead of paying expensive West End theatre prices – which would be totally wasted on Seren. There are probably similar local productions where you live.
- Think about free festive activities to fill your diary and socialise at such as town light switch ons, carol services (some churches do family specific services), story time at the library, local neighbourhood walks to look at lights and decorations and Christmas film afternoons with hot chocolate and candy canes.
If you have any more tips, I would love to hear them!
PS – 10 Signs You’re A Parent At Christmas