We can do our best to be frugal most of the year, but when it comes to Christmas all our best intentions can easily go out the window. Peer pressure and pester power from kids combine to leave our best laid budgets in ruins. Fortunately lots of you sent me some great ideas about how to save money during the festive season, which I have compiled into the following list:
1. Think frugally. You may feel the usual panic and peer pressure to spend a fortune on the ones you love – a nonsense, frankly – but ignore it. Create a frugal exclusion zone in your mind to block out the fear that Mum will realise her lovely gift was £1 from a charity shop. What does it matter how much you’ve spent – it’s the thought that counts. Christmas isn’t about bankrupting yourself.
2. Make a frugal plan of action. Work out how many gifts you’ll need to buy and decide how much you want or can afford to spend on each. Stick to your guns. Kerri says she has several nieces and nephews to buy for and the price “can really add up if you’re not careful”. It might be a bit late to do this now, but she suggests trying to find out early what they might like and then seeing what’s available in the pre-Christmas sales. But with retailers feeling the pinch, there’s still likely to be some bargains ahead of the festive season.
3. Head to discount stores, such as TK Maxx, Primark, Woolies, factory outlets and pound shops, as well as the supermarkets for cut-price gifts and clothes. One reader saves up his supermarket loyalty points all year round to buy items. Don’t forget charity shops, car boots sales or even your local chapter of Freecycle which can be a good source of second hand toys and other items.
4. Shop online if you can. You can make use of online voucher codes available on many websites, as well as the usual online discounts at Amazon and Play.com etc. compared to high street retailers. Plus you can shop calmly without the marketing pressure that you might feel in high street shops.
5. Resist pester power with kids and family members, warns Christine. “There’s no reason to believe the ‘everyone is getting one and all my friends will have one’ tune”. Too right!
6. If you’re crafty, then make some of your gifts. Isla Marie is a student and also saving to get married, so money is tight. She likes to bake cakes for family members, make up photo albums as gifts and she also buys cheap T-shirts from Primark and customises them for friends with embroidery. “Ultimately it means so much more to the receiver and there is a lot of thought, time and effort which has gone into it,” she says.
7. Become a shameless regifter! Dig out any unwanted presents or items you no longer want and give them to new homes. It can be nerve-wracking but there’s nothing wrong with it, as long as the gift is suitable and the receiver didn’t give it to you in the first place!
8. If you can’t face regifting or can’t think of a suitable match for your unwanted items, then why not claw back some cash by selling unwanted DVDs, CDs or books on Amazon, Ebay or a car boot sale, as Christine suggests?
9. Avoid expensive pre-wrapped packs of toiletries and food and instead buy single items and wrap them up in pretty paper, as Kerri suggests. Last year I bought a pack of little silver bows for 50p and stuck them on my presents, making some rather cheap items look very attractive.
10. If you’re out of ideas then why not create vouchers offering your time to do babysitting, dog walking etc. as a gift instead of the usual boring socks or toiletries?
11. Be ruthless with friends. It’s easy to get into the pattern of buying meaningless presents for mates because that’s what you always do. But explain that you’d prefer not to exchange gifts this year and would rather just enjoy their company or, as Kerri suggests, a quick drink. They’ll probably feel exactly the same way as you.
12. If you’re not exchanging some gifts until after Christmas, why not wait until the after Christmas sales before buying your presents? You might get them half price.
13. Don’t waste money on expensive decorations. Scour charity shops for bargains or make your own Christmas tree, as Christine suggests, by finding some big sticks in the woods, tying them together and spraying them with silver glitter. Don’t bother with Christmas crackers either. They are a waste of money and rarely have anything useful in them! If you have to have them, then make your own.
14. Plan out your Christmas meals. Too many of us panic and buy enough food for a siege. Start buying non-perishable items ahead of Christmas, and if you have family coming to dinner ask them to contribute food or cash to the meal. And you don’t have to eat turkey – which doesn’t come cheap – why not have something else for a change?
15. Whether or not you’re religious, remember that Christmas is about enjoying time with family and friends, as Isla Marie points out, not racking up debts for the New Year. So chill out and have some fun!
16. Why not volunteer at a homeless shelter or with the elderly over the festive period? It’s something different that many people find very rewarding to do and you’ll only have to give up a few hours of your time.
Have I forgotten anything? If so, leave a message and let me know. Thanks, Piper xxx
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