The Hidden Costs of Christmas

Yikes…I was out sending last minute Christmas cards on Saturday. How I hate doing this! Normally I’m much more organised and send all my cards at the beginning of December and save money by sending them either second class or delivering them by hand to people when I see them.

But with things having been fairly hectic on the work front this month, Christmas cards have caught me unawares. “We haven’t sent any yet, so nobody else will send them either,” I’d foolishly thought. But it turns out that DJ and I have more friends than we reckoned with and so far we’ve received nearly 20 Christmas cards, and some from people we didn’t expect would send one at all. Even our hens Molly and Lexi have received Christmas post!

Unfortunately my lack of organisation has had non-frugal consequences. I handed over more than £8 for 24 first class stamps a few days ago and am still in shock. I also sent one parcel full of presents but taking the skinflint line with the rest – I’ll give them to the recipients when I see them after Christmas. Especially as one present is a heavy wooden toy which seemed like a bargain at the time when I got it half price in Argos’ summer sale, but may come back to bite me in terms of postage costs.

Anyhow. These unexpected postal charges got me thinking about the hidden costs of Christmas in general. After all, it’s all very well putting together a budget to cover things like Christmas presents and the slap-up festive meal – generally I budget a certain fixed amount per head for presents and do my best to stick to it, just as many of you who have emailed me recently do too. But there are plenty of other things that can creep unawares into the Christmas budget that we might not even consider.

There are the unexpected pre-Christmas drinks and dinners out with friends and colleagues, and possibly new clothes to wear if you feel your old standby outfit is looking tired. Fortunately I haven’t been invited to any dressy dos this year, so I haven’t had to worry about that. But it’s funny how many of my friends have been in touch suggesting we meet up before the holidays. I’m not saying it isn’t lovely to see them, of course it is. I love meeting up with my mates. But unless they pop round to your home or vice versa, it’s something else that dips into the budget. And because you’re seeing them, you might feel the need to buy them a present too, however non-frugal this may be. In fact, last week I texted a few of my friends who like to give me presents requesting that we give it a miss this year. Fortunately they agreed, although one of them still tried to give me a gift when I saw her the other day!

Plus there may be travel costs if family you’re visiting over the festive season are scattered far and wide. Some friends of mine spend a week each year travelling the length and breadth of the UK to see various sets of divorced parents, which isn’t cheap. And I imagine if you have kids the sheer strength of pester power (“Mum, I want this, I want that!”) must be very difficult to resist, especially if friends or family are spoiling theirs (or yours). My mum used to say that filling my Christmas stocking with gifts when I was a child almost cost as much as the other gifts for me under the Christmas tree.

Do you like to go mad with festive lights until your home looks like the house in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? I don’t mean to be a party pooper, but I dread to think how much some people in my area are spending out on electricity over the festive period…

Next year I must remind myself to factor these extra costs into my festive budget, or get organised earlier in order to minimise them!

What other hidden or unexpected costs have you encountered this Christmas?


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3 Responses to The Hidden Costs of Christmas

  1. Christine says:

    There is such a thing as a Christmas saving fund – for more information. If you sit down in January and look back at the cost of postage, presents, petrol, train fares and so on this year you could set aside so much money every month in one of these accounts. It would then be available in November for you to start doing your shopping. You would then have fresh in your mind the postage, paper, travel, presents that you have sent. You could also budget for a couple of drinks parties. And you discussed earlier in the year ways of dressing nicely on the cheap. You could also organise a swishing party – A grand way to do this would be just after Christmas so that you could clear out unwanted presents to be put away for the future. These extra outings should be allowed for in the Christmas budget and if you can\’t afford to go, well don\’t go. Life\’s hard and if you haven\’t got the money then you just have to accept that you don\’t do some things.

  2. piper says:

    Good ideas Christine. I think getting organised really is key to staying in control of your finances – and as you say, if in doubt saying no to the extra trips out that you can\’t afford. It\’s hard to say no to friends though.

  3. Christine says:

    Believe me Piper you can say no to friends and tell them why – especially if debt is a serious problem. You\’ll soon find out if they are really friends. And anyway you can only live within your means even if you are not faced with financial problems. No point in photocopying fivers she says laughing.

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