Do you ever get the feeling that at some point Christmas just got out of hand? Whether it’s the ever-increasing gift list or the over the top food, it’s easy for it to turn in to a season of excess rather than happiness. It just seems to completely snowball! (pun intended) We end up spending more than we imagined and often far more than we can afford. Here are our top tips for having a happy Christmas without the stress of spending too much.
Set a budget – You may have heard the old saying ‘failing to plan, is planning to fail’. If you’re planning to not break the bank this Christmas, then putting a budget together is key. However, before you start listing everything you want to buy the best place to start is by deciding before anything else how much you’ve actually got to spend. Be realistic, although we may want the latest gadget, it won’t be worth it if we can’t afford it in six months’ time.
Think ahead – Research suggests that we think very coldly about our future selves, which is why many of us struggle to save, but a helpful place to start may be to think about the kind of January you want- stressed out with debt or relaxed in the black? Try and think about the long-term effects of your decisions and plan ahead. When budgeting don’t just include presents but all the extra fun activities you’ll be getting up to, any extra decorations you may need and festive food, throw everything you can think of in to it. Be like Santa, make a list and stick to it because we all know how dangerous Christmas shopping on impulse is.
Reduce costs – When it comes to what we buy at Christmas for many of us only the best will do. We go for the top named brand, most lavish product and we’re constantly looking to see how we can ‘keep up with the Joneses’. Don’t forget children are not born retail snobs, we buy them expensive gifts and then they go and play with the box! We often remember experiences more than presents and we tend to appreciate gifts with more thought than just more expense. There are lots of ways we can reduce costs at Christmas. Why not try some homemade presents or handmade treats this year? Why go for the finest brand when sometimes the cheaper option wins the taste test? Why not cut out the parts of Christmas you could do without or reduce the amount you spend on the non-essentials?
Reduce waste – How many times have you received a present you didn’t want or never used? We seem obsessed with buying tat at Christmas. The list of those we need to buy for keeps increasing. It’s not helpful for our finances or landfills. The problem is we get trapped by a sense of obligation to return the favour. Why not join in with Martin Lewis (of money saving expert fame) who launched the NUPP campaign. The No Unnecessary Present Pact isn’t anti-present, it just helps break the cycle of reciprocal tat buying. This year try sticking to only buying presents for those closest to you or just the kids. Set the expectations of others by telling them this year you’re joining in the NUPP campaign and tell your extended list you won’t be buying presents and don’t want to receive them either.
Focus on what’s really important – Although all the presents, activities and festive treats are fun the thing we often enjoy the most is time with family and friends. Christmas isn’t a retail festival it should be about how much love we can spread not how much money we can spend. The origins of Christmas are the birth of Jesus, whose family weren’t wealthy or special. He was born with the animals; His dad was a hardworking carpenter and his first visitors were mucky shepherds.
Invest time rather than money – There are loads of opportunities to do things with friends and family that are either free or cost very little. Many churches will be hosting free Christmas events and carol concerts which are always a treat to get along to. One of the reasons we give gifts is because it feels good to give. Many people will take up volunteering around Christmas and give their time to soup kitchens or other charities. Could this be an activity to try out with friends?
If you want to explore more of our ‘How to survive Christmas’ series check out the other editions here:
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is a charity that exists because nobody should be held hostage by debt and poverty.