From all the Christmas parties to all the present shopping, the holiday season can be a strain on our purses. Luckily, Penny Golightly knows all the tricks in the penny-pinching book and she joined us for a jolly good Facebook chat.
Here are her top tips for getting through this holiday season:
1. I can’t recommend budgeting strongly enough; it’s great to match your Christmas spending with what you can afford. I always set Christmas budgets for food and drink, entertainment and travel, and of course gifts!
I try to spread the cost by getting started early. In my house we buy Christmas things over a period of about four months, but I also know people who put a little aside every month the whole year round in a savings account, so there’s cash available whenever they see a bargain. I also try to buy as much as I can using discounts, vouchers and special offers, and make things myself at home, to keep the costs low. It’s better to fit your budget around what you have than to get into debt.
2. If you’re planning for a wedding at the same time, quietly work out how much you can spare for the festivities, and stick to it like glue. Make sure your other half-to-be is on board with that as well, so you can support one another.
Then start dropping a few hints here and there about how shockingly expensive weddings are, and how you’re worried about the financial side of newly married life. Finally, finish off with “and so we’re on a really strict budget this festive season.” That’ll sort out anyone who’s likely to ask for really pricey gifts.
Then look at your budget, and maybe stick to one gift per person. Get on lots of shop and service mailing lists, so you know every morning who’s doing the best special offers, deals and multi-buys that day. You can make further savings by using discount voucher and cashback sites, so you get even more for your money.
3. The office Secret Santa is often a great big brain-ache! My best advice to you is first to make sure you know what the price cap for the gift is, and make sure you know a little about the person you’re buying the gift for (not always easy if you work in a large company, but you can ask around a bit). Then you can base your purchase on the following: their job in the company, their personality, or their hobbies and interests.
For example, in one place I used to work there was a limit of £10 for the Secret Santa gifts, and someone bought the Finance Director a ‘Paint Your Own Piggy Bank’ kit from a department store – it was really fun and it went down a storm with the recipient. If you’re really stuck, try some of the 3-for-2 offers in high street chemists (you can get some other Xmas shopping out of the way at the same time) or go into a toy shop and look at the pocket money toys for things that’ll make people smile.
PS there’s no such thing as ‘Secret’ in Secret Santa – you’ll always get found out if you play a prank!
4. If you’re unemployed and not sure when you’re next going to be paid, it’s so important not to run up a debt – I’m sure your family and friends will agree with me on this. If they don’t already know, have a chat with them, and maybe as a family you can all come to some kind of agreement about gifts and other expenses this year.
If you have no spare cash at all, you can still give the gift of time: offer to help people by cooking, babysitting, giving them a manicure, and so on – it’s still a nice treat for anyone who’s stressed, busy or feeling under the weather.
If you have the materials to hand, you could also make some homemade gifts. Depending on your skills, that could be fudge, spiced biscuits, Christmas cake, jam, tree decorations, toys, socks, and so on. Many people secretly love traditional gifts like this, myself included.
If you have one or two spare pounds, you could all agree to do a Secret Santa among the grown ups, so every adult gets one gift each. Or you could have a maximum price for gifts, say £5, or say stocking fillers only. It might not be the usual place that you shop, but you’d be surprised what you can find in supermarkets and pound shops if you’re selective. If you have any supermarket or loyalty points saved up on a card somewhere, you can cash them in too, either for Christmas food and drink, or for special offers from the card supplier.
Got an idea for our next Q&A sesh? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions!