So what are your children getting for Christmas? All of the latest Star Wars toys? The newest game system? Maybe a new smart phone or tablet? How about a massive Lego playset, or the Playmobil Dragon Knights Castle?

Or perhaps none of the above. You might love to buy them for your children, but you simply can’t afford it.

If the expense of Christmas is getting in the way of your seeing it as a joyous family occasion, it might be time to reconsider your child’s ‘needs’. What can you do to create a happy Christmas on a budget?

Ditch the guilt. TV ads will tell you exactly what your child should have this Christmas. And your child will probably pile on the guilt by telling you that ‘everyone else’ is getting these things. Try not to be swayed by this – it’s not true! Remember last year, when that ‘must have’ toy was abandoned by 1st January, and has gathered dust on the shelf ever since?

Keep it simple. Your children, probably enjoy the wrapping more than the gift. Kids do everything from chewing the wrapping paper to sitting in the box, or scribbling on it, or just sitting in it! So for young children, buy (or bring down from the loft!) a great big box, fill it with blown-up balloons and wrap the whole thing in Christmas paper. Toddlers will love the playing with the box and jumping in the balloons.

Use charity shops. The recipient doesn’t need to know where the present came from, so long as it’s in good condition. You could pick up a lovely gift for under a fiver; it’s sometimes brand new and might have cost five times that amount.

Click and search. Go online to compare prices, so that if there’s one specific present you really want to get, you can buy it where it’s cheapest. You might find great differences in price. But be careful of delivery costs and dates!!

Cost doesnt count. Love isn’t expressed by the amount of money you spend. A child needs to know their true likes and dislikes have been taken into account, and this could mean a gift that’s not expensive. If your teenager plays the guitar, how about a new guitar stand, some new strings, and a Beatles song book! Wrap them all separately, and included wrapped chocolates inside each parcel!

Be creative. Can you knit? Are you good at crafts? Your child will appreciate something that’s been made with love, especially for him/her, rather than something they have ‘told you’ to buy.

Plan ahead. Buy bargains as you see them, throughout the year. This spreads the cost, and it also means you can pick things up cheaper than they would be in December. Keep this in mind for next year!

Save the pennies. Another one for next year … As Christmas draws nearer, set yourself the challenge of not buying that coffee on the way to work, or walking rather than taking the bus, and put aside the money you would otherwise have spent. That can be your child’s Christmas pot! The money you need for a particular present will accumulate bit by bit.

Thinking about others. As a family, you could sponsor a child in another country, or find a similar way to help your children realise that others have much less than they have. This might turn their eyes outward and make them realise how much they’ve got – even without that expensive present!

Your children are sure to make demands, and you’ll need to be strong in order to sometimes say that difficult word ‘No’.

Happy Christmas – and have good craic!

With thanks to Care for the Family UK, modified and used with permission.