Cutting the budget on gifts.
Gifts must be the biggest outlay at this time of year, especially if you have children. It is a tradition that has has become big business and can mean the difference between a good and bad year for some retailers. Giving a gift as an expression of thanks and kindness is all well and good, but when it becomes an extravagance we can ill afford, I do question the sanity behind it all. In my post about giving teacher gifts at the end of the year I mention that as a teacher it is often more rewarding to receive a hand written thank you note or home made card than an expensive gift. The same applies to Christmas. In my quest to cut our Christmas budget I do a number of things:
Ask the question:
- Who do you buy gifts for?
Divide them into 3 piles:
- Give a gift
- Make a gift
- No gift
Be ruthless with your decisions if you are serious about cutting back on the amount you spend. If necessary talk with the people you think it is not necessary to swap presents at this time of year with. I tend to focus on presents at birthdays for close friends , but Christmas gets complicated with such a large family so keep it to the very closest or find an alternative way of celebrating with those you love , but can't buy gifts for. A girls night together when everybody brings a item to provide a manicure and some nibbles is one suggestion. Time spent together is priceless as they say. I am also contemplating trying again to suggest to both families that we focus on presents for the children not the grown ups! We have a lot of cousins and children to buy for - add in the adults and it starts getting really expensive!
Making gifts is fun and personal . It is an inexpensive way to provide gifts. Making a couple of batches of homemade cookies and wrapping them in pretty tissue paper is a thoughtful gift. Buying a small canvas and getting the children to do handprints or a simple painting on them is a lovely gift for grandparents. Framing your own photos in individual frames you have picked up from charity shops and painted is another inexpensive idea. I also pick up pretty cut glass containers for a snip from Charity shops and fill them with pretty traditional sweets or bath salts . It is amazing what you can pick up from Charity Shops for a fraction of the price of the High Street. Making a playlist of songs you think each person would like and putting them on a CD is an individual and thoughtful present.
However, I know that homemade gifts are time consuming and time is something a lot of us don't have an awful lot of! Donating to a charity is a popular alternative - examples such as buying a goat for a village have become increasingly popular. Not a cheap alternative, but a possibility to do as a family together instead of swapping gifts this year?
We also only give Christmas cards to people and family who we don't see at Christmas. It got to a point where I was sending over 200 cards - extremely expensive and really not a good use of my time writing them all. I now only send about 40 cards to people who live away or we don't see much of.
For those you are buying gifts for, whether it be children or a spouse or a parent, set a budget. Don't go overboard. Shop around for the best deals and look ( and ask) for money off vouchers and codes. I got both boys main presents over half price last year by using my vouchers at Tesco in their double up offer. I am setting myself a strict limit per child. I hate to see gifts ripped into and discarded because there are just too many. A few valued presents are worth far more.
Our Christmas day now consists of the children opening a stocking each on our bed. These are the usual chocolate coins, pencils and pens, a new wallet, sweets, a book, etc and one bigger present such as a DVD or DS game. We then have a croissant and coffee breakfast and open a few presents after breakfast. The dinner goes in the oven and then we head out to the Christmas Swim. This happens every year - mad people dress up and dive into the sea at 11am for a swim. Crazy. I watch. Don't intend joining in any time soon!
After the swim we congregate at a friends house for mulled wine and a few nibbles. We stay for about an hour and then return home for a late lunch . We eat about 2.30pm, then open the main presents and then collapse for the rest of the evening. Last year our elderly neighbour joined us as she was on her own. She ate more than any of us and took the left overs home with her!! Brilliant!
Whatever you decide to do this Christmas - make it your decision and enjoy!