Christmas can place an inordinate amount of stress on a tightly managed household budget. A change in circumstances, a reduction in working hours or unexpected emergency can throw precarious finances into crisis.
Some families have been found to take up to three years to repay their Christmas spending. A desire to make this time of the year super-special can push already stretched finances to breaking point.
Here are a few tips to help you manage the expense of Christmas;
– Set an upper limit on gifts for adults. Then everyone has to use their imagination and be more creative in their gift giving. Or use a Secret Santa where everyone selects a person to buy for, or a bran tub where there’s one gift per person, all ways to reduce financial pressure and expense of Christmas. It’s often such a relief when one person makes such a suggestion. Usually others are more than happy to agree.
– Give children experiences rather than gifts. Maybe commit to one special present per child, but then think of ways to give your time and attention so that you can do things together. Children often treasure those shared experiences, especially if parents are usually busy working or doing chores. A day at the beach, the park, a nature trail, time spent fishing, doing crafts together, playing football are often experiences remembered long after all the expensive gifts have been outgrown.
– Source imaginative gifts at craft fairs and local markets, where there’ll be unique foodstuffs and fancy goods, often with no discernible price tag. A delicious food hamper, locally brewed beers, jewellery, paintings, fabrics are often available for sale at artisan markets and are reasonably priced, so helping you to manage the expense of Christmas.
– Offer help rather than gifts. A voucher for an evening’s babysitting, help with gardening or ironing, a beautiful homemade cake, hair styling or a pamper session may be much appreciated. Any could be a lovely way to give the recipient some much-needed support.
– Source free entertainment and manage the expense of Christmas. Carol services, concerts and country walks are often enjoyable ways of passing a fun few hours and can provide welcome reasons to give everyone a break whilst getting some fresh air.
– Reduce Christmas food spending by preparing in advance tasty staples like casseroles, stews and pies. It’s often a treat to wrap up warm, enjoy a brisk walk and return to delicious homemade comfort food. Guests will appreciate those relaxed meals as a welcome change from lavish Christmas fare.
– Have you heard of safari suppers; each house provides one course, then moves on for the next course, including everyone in the cost and effort. Christmas and post-Christmas can be times when arranging some inexpensive social time can be a welcome break, especially if it’s local with no need to travel too far from home.
– Accept offers of help. If guests want to bring wine, food or make their signature dish, accept graciously and reduce your financial burden. Let others contribute and feel that they’ve participated in the day. It saves you time and money.
– Resist the temptation to keep on spending. All too often we’ll see another ‘perfect’ gift or some ‘must-have’ tasty treat. Stop yourself from looking! Those items are often unnecessary, no one will miss them and yet they can add significantly to the overall expense of Christmas. Stay with your master plan and avoid any additional temptations.
Christmas is about sharing time and food with loved ones, family and friends. It’s great to read that more Americans go home for Thanksgiving than for Christmas and yet no gifts are exchanged at Thanksgiving. When we stay with the underlying message of Christmas we can have a special, loving time and yet not need three years to recover from the expense of it all!