Oh, don’t look at me like that: I know it’s still September, and I’m not about to go Christmas crazy on you. But let’s face it, before you know it we are all going to be drowning in everything tinselly. So I’m going to nip in here like a Jesus’ Birthday Ninja, before the festive hysteria begins gathering steam.
In previous years I’ve blogged about various ways to save money at Christmas time, from homegrown Brussels sprouts to voucher codes. This year I am going to be setting out, in a series of posts, how I prepare for Christmas.
There are two points to make. Firstly, for the most part, I don’t go overboard. I know there are superhumans out there who begin planning for Christmas in March, bake their Christmas puddings in April, buy lots of presents throughout the year and start running up tree decorations on their sewing machines in the summer. I have tried, but I am not one of those people. The nearest I come to it is buying next year’s Christmas cards for next-to-nothing in the January sales. But as for the rest of the year: I’m a busy person, y’all! I have a full-time job, a family, sleep deprivation and plenty of other stuff to do. I am sure that many of you are the same. So I am not about to tell you to go out and begin stockpiling on Christmas gifts now NOW NOW. There will be plenty of time for that and besides, the best Christmas bargains have yet to come.
Secondly, I’d like to doff my Yorkshire flat cap to the offers website Discount Voucher Site, for sponsoring this post. Thanks chaps!
Christmas is still three months away, so breathe easy: I’m not about to tell you to go out and buy anything. Instead, in this thrifty countdown to Christmas, we are going to begin with a notebook and a number.
Personal experience has taught me that the easiest way to save money at Christmas is to know your budget in advance. Once you begin stepping across the thresholds of shops, flexing the plastic online and trawling the supermarket with a whopping great food trolley, it is easy for the bill to soar if you haven’t worked out beforehand how much you have to spend in total.
So work out what your budget is going to be.
To determine your budget, take your notebook and pencil and break down your spending into the following categories:
1. Christmas Gifts
For whom will you be buying Christmas presents this year? List the recipients by name. Next to each name, write down the maximum amount you intend to spend on that person. (Leave some space on the page next to the names though. That way, when you do purchase gifts, you can log the items and prices and keep a running tally of what has been spent to date.)
2. Christmas Food
You don’t need to draw up your food shopping list just yet – unless you want to, of course. But put a figure on how much you plan to spend.
How much do you want to spend on a Christmas tree this year? If your decorations are tatty, do you plan to buy new ones? If you will be travelling to spend Christmas with friends or relatives, have you factored in petrol? List these costs, and others, in this section.
When you have done this, add up the pounds and write down your grand total…
…I bet my bottom dollar that it’s more than you thought it would be! Planning Christmas is like planning a wedding: all those small costs tot up fast, if you don’t keep a beady eye on them.
Now you have two options:
If your budget is within the realm of possibility: excellent work! Ring-fence that money: put it by, or save it up, as soon as you can.
If your budget is racked way too high: that’s fine too. Go back through the list with an eraser and pencil, revising downwards… and downwards… and downwards… until you end up with a figure you can afford. Even if it means making a DIY Christmas tree, or dollying up your tired decorations instead of buying new ones, or cutting your gift and food budgets to the bone.
In subsequent posts, we’ll be looking at various ways to slash the costs of Christmas, from homemade gifts to cut-price groceries and bargain buys, so at this stage don’t fret too much if the budget you have ended up with looks fantastically low. That said, if your budget is worrying you and you have particular concerns, let me know and let’s see what we can do to address them.
In case you are wondering: I am buying presents for 16 people this year including my husband and son, and my total budget for gifts is £180. I haven’t yet decided how much I can get away with posting about what I buy, make and do – there are members of my family who read this blog – but I’ll be sharing as much as I can without ruining any surprises.
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