Just as much as a Partridge is unlikely to perch in a Pear tree, you’re unlikely to enjoy the New Year in debt. The truth is, Partridges actually prefer the ground, so don’t believe everything you hear – especially when it comes to buying your way to the perfect Christmas. Here are twelve top tips for a cash saving Christmas:
- Manage expectations - Talk to your family early on about how much you can realistically afford to spend this year, then set a budget and stick to it. It’s also worth sitting down with your kids and being honest about your situation to avoid disappointment.
- Gifts in kind - Time is sometimes worth far more than money, so make your loved ones special vouchers to be exchanged for things like babysitting, cooking or a foot massage.
- Treasure hunt - It can be tempting to buy lots of presents to extend the excitement of opening them on Christmas morning. Instead, prolong the fun by hiding presents around the house with clues to find them. You can even give a small chocolate for each correct clue to add to the reward.
- Handmade crackers - They’re really easy and cheap to make, plus handmade ones look far better! All you need is some toilet rolls, a pack of cracker snaps (Hobbycraft sell a pack of 12 for less than a pound) and some tissue/wrapping paper and ribbon. You can write your own jokes, make paper hats and pop in a small chocolate as a gift.
- Help others - Often the greatest gift is the one we give to others in need. This year, suggest doing something for charity instead, like making a shoebox for a child in poverty, or serving Christmas dinner to the homeless. The experience can often be far more rewarding than receiving a present.
- Bring Secret Santa home - Offices love secret Santa because it’s a simple, cost effective way of doing gifts, so why not try it with friends and family? Add creativity by writing a poem or riddle for the person to guess whom it’s from.
- Bring and share dinner - If you have a big family, suggest they all come over and bring a dish. That way you can spread the cost, and effort! If you don’t have lots of family, invite the neighbours and share a bit of festive spirit within your community.
- Free church activities - If you’re looking for entertainment, churches tend to put on a variety of free events around the Christmas period. Have a look at noticeboards or websites to find out about what’s going on in your area.
- Buy what you need - Decide to only buy presents you’d need to buy anyway. For example, if your kids are about to grow out of their clothes buy them new ones from Christmas instead of waiting until the New Year.
- Hold a swish - Need a new outfit for a work’s Christmas do? Before you hit the shops, host a clothes swapping party with some friends and see if you can create a brand new outfit for free.
- Club together – For bigger gifts ask others pitch in. It works well for relatives who were struggling to think of what to buy your kids, and means you are able to buy them something you couldn’t afford on your own.
- Remember what it’s really about – Money may bring you happiness but it’s only ever short-lived. Taking some time out to think about what’s really important helps put things back in perspective. Looking for some peace and quiet? Carols by candlelight and midnight masses are great escapes away from the mayhem. When was the last time you slowed down and reflected on the true meaning of Christmas?
If you’re struggling to pay your bills today and are worried about debt, don’t panic help is at hand. Christians Against Poverty offers free advice regardless of age, gender, faith or background. Visit capuk.org or call 0800 328 0006. They also run free money management courses to help you budget those bills and save for the future. Visit www.capmoneycourse.org to find a course near you.