Christmas is a magical time for families. But buying a tree, toys for the kids (and sometimes for big kids too!) and all the trimmings can leave us struggling in January when the credit card bills start landing on the doormat. A happy Christmas can quickly turn into a depressing New Year.
It’s easy to understand why Christmas is one time of the year when we’re most tempted to overspend. Before we know it, we can run up debts that last long after the last mince pie has been eaten and all the used wrapping paper has been put out for recycling.
Tips for sensible spending
Many couples find it helpful to agree a budget beforehand and to shop together where possible to avoid arguments. If you know how much you have to spend, you can ensure you don’t rack up huge credit card bills. Remember – the ‘bargains’ you buy on credit can end up costing you much more in the long run.
Planning ahead is also incredibly helpful. Try to start saving for Christmas as early as possible – perhaps in a savings account, or using supermarket savings stamps. Even just a couple of Euro a week through the year can really help pay for Christmas. Also, be aware that companies which offer you a ‘hamper’ scheme may overcharge you for food. And, if the hamper company goes out of business you might lose all the money you’ve ‘saved’ with them.
One of the most costly aspects of Christmas is all the things you’re ‘expected’ to spend money on. A bit of honesty goes a long way – if you can’t afford to buy presents for distant relatives, get in touch beforehand and ask if this year you can just send cards. You might find they’re relieved to not have to buy presents for you too!
Office nights out can also be expensive – particularly if you’re expected to bring your partner and/or need to hire a babysitter. Think carefully before committing yourself to going to a party. Of course, you might feel you need the opportunity to take a ‘night out’, and the social aspect of a ‘works do’ shouldn’t be underestimated. But realistically, if you don’t want to go, and you can’t really afford to go, be brave and decline the invitation. You may find your courage inspires other people too.
At home as well, you can feel under pressure to cook the traditional Christmas turkey with all the trimmings. Have a think about which ‘traditional’ Christmas items don’t get eaten – do you always find yourself throwing away almost a whole packet of nuts or dates in February? Perhaps there are other things it’s not worth buying.
‘Memorable’ doesn’t have to be ‘expensive’
One of the ways we can add to Christmas stress is by assuming that because we can’t afford a huge gift for our kids, Christmas will turn out to be a big disappointment. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Many children will be excited by the prospect of staying up really late to go to a midnight carol service, for example.
If your child has their heart set on one particular, expensive thing, ask all your relatives, family members and friends to contribute to one BIG present for the kids. Even if it’s just a few Euro – the money they’d spend on a chocolate ‘selection pack’ – it all helps. Plus they’ll have the satisfaction of contributing to a gift which will last a lot longer than sweets will.
Don’t forget classic party games, which don’t cost the earth. Get the kids involved in planning the games – setting the forfeits for Pass the Parcel, for example. Games like this can be a great way for children to forge strong relationships with older family members, like grandparents, aunts and uncles.
With thanks to Care for the Family UK