When you have children it really isn’t an option (even if you wanted to) to cancel Christmas. But how can you ensure your children have a lovely time stuffed with happy memories, without you, their parents, starting the new year in debt and despair?
Here are our seasonal suggestions for cutting costs without anyone noticing.
1. Make a list. Don’t buy on impulse or just for the sake of it. Those last minute presents are the ones that push your finances into crisis. Leave your credit card at home and take out a specific amount of cash – then stop.
2. Make a ‘no presents pact’ with family and friends. Father Christmas will, of course, come to the little ones, but us adults can probably do without jolly reindeer jumpers and the latest Nigella cookbook. If you think it’s really sad not to exchange presents, set a price limit, agree a Secret Santa so each person had to buy just one bigger present for a specific person, or insist on something homemade.
3. Use an online shopping website. One child’s tat (or at least grown out of) is another, younger child’s treasure. Lego and PlayMobil collections can be had for tiny amounts. Simply wipe them down (although most sellers are very fastidious) and rehouse them in a spanking new plastic box.
4. Don’t get hung-up about December 25th. It really is OK to promise to buy your teenage daughter a new coat for Christmas, but to suggest you look together in the sales – most of which start on the 26th anyway. If you want her to have something to open on the day, write your promise down on a card and sign it.
5. Decide this will be the year not to send Christmas cards. You’ll be seeing or phoning your close friends and family. If you really do want to continue the tradition of sending Christmas cards, think about cutting costs by making homemade.
6. Before you even think about going shopping, STOP yourself and think for five minutes. It may decrease your impulsive buying.
7. Be brave with the Christmas menu – and all the extras. Turkey prices are ridiculously high and cost a lot to cook. What about another cheaper but even more delicious roast?
8. Don’t overbuy food. You really don’t need to have cupboards bulging with chocolates and biscuits and fridges jammed high with cheeses. You’re shopping for one day, not a siege. Shops will be open again on Boxing Day.
9. If you’re determined to have turkey, clear space in your freezer so that you can squirrel away leftovers before you get sick of the sight of them. Bulk cook and freeze and menu plan minutely if you are having family to stay. Try and give yourself a meal budget and stick to it.
10. Food shop with a list. Check your cupboards for ingredients before you start, so you don’t end up doubling up.
11. If you’re having a large family Christmas, share out the cost by asking everyone to bring something on the day. (Be very specific about what you need, though – everyone’s so full of the Christmas spirit that you could end up with enough food to feed an army.)
12. Club together with friends and family, and bulk-buy at wholesale warehouses.
13. Remember that very small children have more fun opening presents than playing with what’s inside. Even a small and inexpensive present should be packed in a large cardboard box.
14. Remember, too, that Father Christmas often puts very cheap but extraordinarily useful gifts – like new toothbrushes and pencil sharpeners – in Christmas stockings. BOGOF offers on smellies are also brilliant for stockings and teen presents.
15. Get organised for next year – the best time to start shopping for Christmas is Boxing Day.
OK – so forward-planning isn’t going to help with cutting the cost of Christmas this year. But it’s unlikely that any of us are going to feel any more flush in 12 months’ time….