A budget Christmas?
People are starting to talk about the Christmas season for 2022 now, maybe you are too. If you are struggling to make ends meet, November and December can be a very stressful time. Thoughts may turn to how the hell you are going to be able to afford to give the kids a good Christmas. This year is probably especially difficult what with mortgage / rent increases the obscene energy rises and everything else going up too.
Most people equate a good Christmas to one where the tree has multiple gifts for everyone, Santa has visited and the festive dining table is groaning with huge amounts of food. Fair enough.
Or is it? November and December can easily be spent in an absolute frenzy of spending with hundreds and hundreds of £’s being put on a credit card. Oh the joy of finding the perfect gift for elderly Uncle John, so difficult to buy for, or pouncing on that elusive must have toy this year for a small child. Then there is the grocery shopping, trolleys piled mega high with so much you will struggle to use all the leftovers.
January – Arrrgh
And then, THEN, there is January. I was still paying mine off in the summer most years for the December binge fest. I SO loved giving people great gifts and catering for feasts. Oh the horror of running out of something. Anything!
I love Christmas, always have. I adore the special family time, the intimacy of family gatherings, the fun, the laughter, the feasting, and yes the exchange of gifts.
But here’s the thing, you really, really, REALLY don’t have to overspend to achieve a wonderfully special time. And it’s certainly a crap idea to go into debt or overspend for it. And as for payday loans to pay for it, well, I can get SERIOUSLY sweary about that particular ‘solution’. When it comes down to it, for Christmas, for Valentines, for birthdays, we want the people we love to feel special, to feel loved by us, maybe even to feel cherished. And money ain’t the solution to that, never was. If the period after the celebration is spent being worried sick about the overspending, where’s the love, or the joy, in that.
Many of our Christmas traditions were invented in Victorian times, often by Dickens. And they have been taken, and amplified, many times over, by retailers. Christmas is the main revenue production time for them. But whoa, where is the rule, the proscription, and who says, that you have to do…. any of it?
What is the best part?
Now I’m going to ask you to have a little think. Go back into the memory banks and retrieve the feelings you experienced for a most special time in your life. One where you felt amazing. It’s odds on that what was making you feel amazing wasn’t the amount of money that had been spent. Even on your wedding day, for those that have had one, at bottom, I contend that it was marrying your love that would have done it. Think back to those childhood Christmases. Was it the toy of the year you remember; the 17 hours Mum spent in the kitchen, making everything perfect; all those leftovers? Or was it playing in the giant cardboard box; sitting on a warm lap all afternoon watching a lovely film and eating more chocolate than is good for you; playing endless charades or board games; getting the decorations down from the loft and decorating the Christmas tree, or that first mince pie.
And those difficult to buy for relatives? I wouldn’t think that they really want more socks, handkerchiefs or padded coat hangers. They might enjoy a little hamper of small pots of favourite jams, pickles and conserves. And no, of course you don’t have to make them if you don’t enjoy it. Or take an afternoon tea round to theirs and talk to them, or possibly more to the point, listen to them. Or take them out to the pub for lunch, or ask them round for lunch, or take the makings, go to theirs and chat, cook and eat. Take the kids to see grandparents and let them spend time together.
Santa doesn’t have to have a big budget
And Santa? That delicious scrunch of a stuffed sock doesn’t need to contain expensive items to be exciting and memorable. Minimal gift giving might involve a stocking with a tangerine in the toe, a few walnuts, some inexpensive little things/small toys. My children and I sprayed some walnut and almond shells silver one year when they were just old enough to still want a stocking but had stopped believing that Santa brought it. They insisted that those nuts went in the stocking every year for years after that!
Even surly teenagers and adults might enjoy a stuffed stocking. Then for a main gift, have one to one time with a child / partner doing something they want to do. Present it nicely as a voucher. Or write out some coupons with a promise to make a favourite meal, watch a film, home done manicure, wash the car, clean the bathroom, spend three hours playing minecraft with them. That kind of thing.
Maybe have a picnic. Pack some soup in a flask, some nice bread and some brownies or something, we’re not talking Fortnum and Masons. Then crunch along the beach and get some colour in your cheeks, run along the cliff top, race round the lake, wherever you are, enjoy the company of who you’re with.
What’s your budget?
For any special occasion, set the budget you have available, and spend that, and only that. It does NOT matter that you don’t have Christmas serviettes, matching crockery or every possible seasonal goodie. And if you don’t have a budget because you’re skint? There are dozens and dozens of ideas on blogs and Pinterest for gifts and treats that cost little or nothing. One of my most treasured possessions is a love letter that was written as a Christmas gift when we were broke one year. It cost a lot to write, but no cash. The people you love usually want to spend time with you, to chat, to laugh, to talk, to listen, and to be listened to.
Meal planning is a bit of a cliché these days, but if, like me, you have a tendency to feel you have to have every Christmas goodie available, it can be a great way to save at Christmas time as well as the rest of the year. The people who come to me at Christmas don’t ever eat a pudding at lunch, they’re too full. And they don’t really want any tea either, just a few choccies, and, at most, something to pick at. So I no longer buy supplies for those things. No fancy seasonal puddings, huge Christmas cakes, extraordinarily expensive cheese boards or boxes of special savoury biscuits. And I don’t have to find ways to use them up either having not eaten them on Christmas Day! So if you’re catering at Christmas, be realistic about what you’ll need and take that list – you know how good shops are at getting us to buy more than we need, and those lovely Christmas wrappings REALLY make me want to buy them
Get the kids involved in doing 12 days of Christmas. 1 Christmas tree, 2 ornaments to put on it, 3 Christmas crackers, 4 Christmas cards, 5 (has to be) gold rings, which they could make, 6 snowflakes made out of paper, newspaper if necessary, Happy Christmas in 7 different languages, etc.
I hope I have given you some ideas on how to show your love and affection without spending any money. If you are new to living on a tight budget, please try to bear in mind that it really is the thought that counts in situations like these. You really really really DO NOT HAVE TO SPEND ANY MONEY AT ALL if you can’t afford it. Please do not get sucked into the idea that it doesn’t count unless you have bought an expensive gift and splashed out on far too much food.
If you want practicalities around catering, have a look at the meal plans where there are several week long meal plan festive food suggestions at around £1.30’ish each per day.
I’d like to wish you everything you wish for yourself and your loved ones at this very special time of year. Enjoy the coming few weeks of preparation, or opt out if it’s not your thing. You decide what makes you happy, don’t get in debt because some marketing suit tells you you need to buy this years must haves. It isn’t worth it