Can you believe how fast Christmas is approaching? While some of you may be ready to roll (go on, you!), many of us are still struggling to pull it all together in time. With the projection of the average UK family spending just shy of £800 on the holiday this year, the season that is meant to be full of joy and delight can become a stressful and anxiety-filled spectacle in no time.
The following is our go-to checklist of things to keep in mind when planning for Santa’s big day, that we hope will help you manage your Christmas budget and put your mind – and wallet – at ease.
Start Your Planning Early
Easier said than done most days, but we still feel like it’s early enough to put this into practice. Making a list a few weeks (or months) in advance of not only gifts but meals, travel expenses and more, will give you a realistic idea of how much you’re going to want to save, or start shopping for, in advance. Having at least a loose plan will allow you to begin checking things off and make you feel like you’re accomplishing something towards the end goal. It will also likely keep you from going out the week before and splurging on whatever you can find.
Put a cap on gifts
This can be tough, especially if you and your best friend always exchange presents, but now that we’ve also got a family, outside gifts are harder to budget for. Instead, I always try to get together with my girlfriends over a nice meal or a bottle (or 2) of wine and we call it even. If that’s not possible, putting a cap of £5-£15 can cut down on costs getting too out of control.
This is one of my favourites. Christmas craft & food markets are one of my favourite things about the holiday season. The UK is full of great local designers, crafters, and producers and I love nothing more than being able to support the hard work they do. While retail shops can sometimes be on the cheaper side, the ability to find a one of a kind, quirky gift far outweighs a plastic toy that might break a month or two down the road. Shopping early & local is also a great idea when it comes to the main meal and keeping within your Christmas budget. Pop into your community butcher/cheesemonger for all sorts of local fare that you may be able to freeze weeks in advance. You’ll likely get it at a better price and will know you’re supporting small businesses.
Keep eyes peeled for online deals
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday under scrutiny lately, it’s hard to tell when the things you need are really a good deal or not. By planning ahead (see point #1) and checking in on prices regularly, you’ll be able to see when the prices actually drop, and get the best deal. As we mentioned in a previous budget post, sites like Groupon are great for deals on all sorts of things from spa days to toys to trips, so they are worth keeping an eye on as well!
Purchase an Artificial Tree
I remember having both real and artificial trees as a child. While the real trees gave you that piney scent, they also created quite the mess as the weeks wore on. That one time expense every year can add up, though, and the quality of artificial trees are actually quite impressive. It’s a one-time purchase that you can use year after year and pack away with the rest of the decorations without all the pesky cleanup!
While I’m sure we all dream of having a Christmas tree straight from the pages of Good Housekeeping, with kids (and pets) that’s rarely a reality. I loved crafting as a child and Christmas crafts were always a fun way to spend a cold, dreary day indoors. With a few easy pieces of supplies, there are plenty of decorations to be made at home including paper or popcorn garland, tree decorations and more!
Family Pot Luck
Take the stress out of big shopping lists and prep with a potluck family dinner. I’ve never understood how it could possibly be fair to one family member to take responsibility for feeding the entire extended family, so I’ve always been a big supporter of potluck dinners. Also, when everyone brings a dish, you get far more variety in your choices! Just make sure you organise who’s bringing what in advance so you don’t end up with all meat and no veg – or worse – no pudding!
Christmas is a great time to get a few necessities for the kids in the form of gifts. Socks and underwear? Just wrap em up! Sometimes the joy children have on Christmas morning comes more from the unwrapping of the gifts then the gifts themselves! Growing up, my stockings were full of things like that – with a few special treats and gifts thrown in to gloss it over!
Family friendly gifts
Save money on trying to figure out what to get every member of your extended family by condensing gifts into ones that are fun for the whole family! Things like board games, puzzles, outdoor game sets or a Christmas movie gift set (complete with popcorn and hot cocoa!) would do just fine!
Learn to give, not only receive
When you think back on your childhood, do you remember every toy you were ever given? Maybe the big ones, perhaps, but cutting back on the faff can really save you a lot of money in the long run. Instead, why not get out with the family, create some wonderful holiday memories and give back to the community by volunteering at a local shelter or donating old toys/clothes to a local charity/shop. There are plenty of UK initiatives that are perfect for the whole family to get involved in and it will help teach your kids that while it’s nice to receive gifts, giving to others is what the holiday is truly about.
As always, these sorts of things do take a concerted effort and it’s good to remember not to lose sight of what’s important this holiday season. Spending time with family and making memories that will last a lifetime are the most priceless things you could give or receive.