There are few things in life more satisfying than standing back to admire a huge pile of gifts you’ve just wrapped, and knowing you’ve picked the perfect item for each person you’re buying for.
Although it’s wonderful to give gifts, however, there’s no denying that if you’re on a tight budget, the whole season can be horribly stressful, and can even lead people into acquiring debt, just to make ends meet.
If you’re trying to do Christmas on a budget, and are determined not to spend too much, there are ways to enjoy the season without spending too much. I give you fair warning: if you believe Christmas is all about the gifts, this post isn’t for you, and will seem horribly Scrooge-like. Not everyone can afford a lavish celebration, however, so if money’s tight this year, here are some suggestions…
START SAVING IN JANUARY
Christmas is probably the LAST thing you want to think about at the start of the year, but if you start saving now, and try to put away a set amount every month, by the time December rolls back around, you’ll be able to look forward to a stress-free season – financially, at least.
START SHOPPING IN SUMMER
Again, probably the last thing you want to do when the sun’s shining, but the summer sales can be a great time to grab a bargain, as stores will often bring out last year’s unsold winter stock, and sell it at rock-bottom prices. Failing that, the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales are also a good opportunity to tackle the Christmas shopping.
Still don’t want to spend? Try these ideas:
HAVE A GIFT AMNESTY
If a few of your friends or family are similarly strapped for cash (maybe you’ve all just moved house, or graduated college, say…) consider having a gift amnesty, and, instead of all buying each other gifts, spend whatever you can afford on going out for a meal together, or doing something else that will allow you to celebrate the holiday together without spending a fortune.
(Note: if you’re going to do this, it’s a good idea to make it an “adults only” amnesty, so the children you shop for don’t have to miss out!)
ORGANISE A SECRET SANTA
If you still want to give gifts, why not organise a ‘Secret Santa’? You’re probably familiar with this concept from work or school, but instead of everyone buying a gift for everyone else, you all simply put your names in a hat, and each select one person to buy for. That way everyone gets a gift, but each person only has to buy one item, thus retaining the tradition of gifting, but without spending too much.
IMPOSE A SPENDING LIMIT
If you’d rather buy a gift from everyone in your circle, think about imposing a spending limit on gifts, so each person should spend no more than £X on each gift. The limit you choose is up to you, but this arrangement can be really helpful in forcing you to stick to a budget.
Of course, these ideas will really only work when you’re buying for people who are ALSO trying to save money. If your recipients are happy to spend a little more, you might encounter strong resistance to any suggestion that you limit spending. For some people, gift-giving is central to their idea of how Christmas SHOULD be celebrated: they want to be generous, and they believe it’s miserly and Scrooge-like to attempt to cut back.
If you do encounter this problem, I have one more suggestion for you:
TRY HOME MADE GIFTS
Home-made gifts almost always go down well: they’re thoughtful, unique, and show that the gift-giver has cared enough to put some effort into their gift. If you can make, bake or otherwise create something, you can save quite a bit of money AND keep everyone happy.
IF ALL ELSE FAILS…
If, however, crafting isn’t your thing, or you just don’t have the necessary time and/or skill to make a home-made gift, your best option is to do whatever you can manage regarding gifts, and “make up for it” by emphasising the other important aspects of the holiday season, namely spending time with family and friends. Have people over for a holiday get-together (make it a pot luck or BYOB if necessary), research some free or low-cost activities you can all do together, and generally make the most of the season – without spending a fortune.
After all, it’s the thought that counts.