March 25

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Set Spending Goals That Make You Happy

Week 4 – March 25th, 2019

It’s the fourth week of the month: if you can make the time, Write a Budget and Share Something.

I write a budget every month, and think of it as an arithmetic task. Something to keep my head busy but not my heart. If you are building a thriftier lifestyle, budgeting has got to be your foundation. But I have gradually come to understand that you do have to listen to your heart as well as your head when you plan how to spend your money.

The point of being thrifty is not just to make numbers add up. Ultimately it is about making your life better, about making you and yours happy. Avoiding debt, making sure you can afford to eat, building up savings just in case… These are all ways to make your life less miserable, more happy.

Trying to make yourself happier is always a good aim but is it one you think about when you are drawing up a budget? Personally, I think in terms of what I have to spend. I think about the boring stuff – utility bills, mortgage, car repairs… I treat them like they are foisted on me, not things I have actually chosen. But they are things we chose. And we chose them for a reason, even if it is lost in the mists of time. We chose them because we thought they would make us happier. When you draw up this month’s budget, try to think about how much happiness each item on it will bring you – and decide if that is good value or not, to you.

Read How To Buy Happiness to get you in the mood, or listen to Michael Norton’s TED talk on the same subject. I will be back next week with a recipe for Humiliating Scones. How can you resist?

Free, Downloadable Thrifty Habits Planner To Keep You On Track

Click here to download your copy of this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner.

So, you want to get into the habit of spending less without putting in more effort? You need something to remind you what to do and when, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. The Thrifty Habits Planner is a simple tool to help you do just that. Use it to pencil in which thrifty things you plan to do this week and to pin yourself down to when you plan to do them. If you take control this way at the start of the week, you are far more likely to have stuck to your plan by the end of the week. Sticking your plan up somewhere you will see it every day helps you to stay on track too.

Take time at the end of the week to give yourself a little treat as a reward for your thrifty efforts. Little splurges will actually help you to stay thrifty – read this to find out how.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner, instructions to make deliciously fragrant luxury candles and a recipe for Apple And Custard Cake. See you then!

August 29

How To Stop Being A Payday Millionaire

What is a Payday Millionaire?

A millionaire doesn’t worry about whether or not she can afford to eat in that restaurant. She’s hungry, she likes this place so in she goes. When she sees a dress she likes she does not turn over the price tag and wince. She probably doesn’t turn over the price tag at all. She just buys three – one to keep at home and one to keep at each of her holiday houses.

A payday millionaire also spends without thinking about it – but only when she has just got paid. After a few days of joyful splurging, she reigns it in sharply and lives like a pauper for the rest of the month. Mainly because a few days as a pretend millionaire have left her with barely enough to get by…

Does this sound like you? It certainly sounds like me.

Why Does Payday Bring Out Our Inner Kardashians?

I can’t tell you why your spending goes stratospheric when you get paid but I have been doing a lot of thinking recently about why mine does. I think it comes down to five things.

  1. I want to play. I have been very grown-up and sensible and responsible with money for several weeks but now my inner child would like to come out to play. She wants to just run about without fear of consequences. She lives in the moment and at this precise moment she has plenty money!
  2. I want to reward myself. I have kept our finances afloat for another month and now I want some recognition for that. I deserve some recognition for that. So, emboldened by the reassuring number of pounds in my paycheck, off I go to treat myself.
  3. I want to relax. I feel like I have been in a permanent state of financial emergency for weeks and now that it’s over I just want to completely relax my guard and not have to think – carefully – about every spending decision. Actually, I don’t want to have to think at all about any spending decisions  – so I just don’t.
  4. I want to feel secure. More than anything, I want to feel like I have enough – more than enough, in fact. I want to feel like I am definitely not just one bad spending decision away from financial disaster. I want to feel that I can spend carelessly without any harm. I want to feel that it is safe, at last, for me to take my eye of our bottom line. And, for a few days, relaxing my guard does make me feel that way. It’s a good feeling. And then it’s not.
  5. I want to make things happen right now. The last few weeks I have been stopping things from happening. Expensive things. It feels pretty negative after a while. Now I want to inject fresh life into my wardrobe, or set up a little holiday or get Tiny Tartan a new bike, or organise a girls’ night out… I want to make things happen. I want to be the driving force. I don’t want to be the brakes. And spending on things I have held back from makes me feel like I am in the driving seat. Somewhere inside I know I am about to turn off the money again – but that makes the need to use money to make changes all the more urgent.


How do you fix it? I don’t know yet, but I suspect that recognising the need my payday splurges serve is the key. Because it is all about emotional need. Things we actually need in the real world (new tyres, a new work outfit, etc) go in the monthly budget. No, the splurging is about meeting my own internal needs. They are valid needs but splurging is not a sustainable way of dealing with them.  So my challenge for the next few months is to try to find other, non-spendy ways to meet those same needs.

At this point, I would love to give you a list of ways to stop being a payday millionaire. Hell, I’d love to give me that list. What I have at the moment is some vague ideas, slowly forming in my head, that I will refine and try out over the next few months. And then I will get back to you and tell you what worked for me – maybe it will work for you t00. What about you? If you have any ideas, please add them as a comment.


October 9

Grandpa’s Guide To Bringing Home The Brambles

When I was a child we spent a week each autumn in a caravan in the countryside. No electricity! no central heating!! No tv!!! No wifi!!!  Evenings spent playing board games; the soft hiss of gas lamps being lit as evening fell; beds still water-bottle-warm in the mornings as ice-crystals formed on the inside of the windows…

In spite of conditions that make Tartan Boy look at me with a mixture of horror, pity and incomprehension they were happy holidays. As kids, we looked forward to doing things that were different from our usual lives but still reassuringly familiar, because we did them each year. One of our favourites, enjoyed most days, was brambling with Grandpa. Grandpa is long-gone, sadly, but his approach to taking children fruit-picking stays with me. Here are the three wisest tips I learned from him.

  1. Kids need a reason – chat on the way about what you are going to do with your brambles when you get home. Make bramble jelly? Bake a bramble pie? Knock together a bramble and apple crumble? If that’s too far away to motivate them then offer a small reward for filling their containers. Most kids will do anything for a fun-size mars bar.
  2. Children need a quick win – don’t take big tubs for them to fill slowly. Grandpa used to collect empty food cans, drill two holes near the top and thread string through to make a long handle. Looped over a child’s head the cans hung at chest height, leaving our little hands free to pick fruit and pop it in the cans.The cans filled quickly, we felt proud of the speed with which we had reached the top and that spurred us on to fill another. Grandpa meanwhile tipped each full can into a big tupperware box. If drilling holes in cans sounds like too much work for a short brambling expedition, try dishing out small tupperware boxes for your kids to bring back to the mother ship.
  3. Children get bored quite quickly – don’t chivvy them to keep picking once they get restless. Move on – there will probably be a new patch of brambles not far away and they can attack that one with renewed enthusiasm. Or let them climb some trees, or play hide and seek, or sit down and have a snack… If none of that works, it’s time to call it a day and go home to eat your brambles.
May 22

Share Something

Once A Month Give Something Away

This seems an odd Thrifty Habit – why spend the whole month saving money only to give some of it away at the end of the month? What if you have nothing left at the end of the month for you and yours, never mind for sharing with anyone else? Surely when times are hard, the first things you cut out are the non-essentials?

Tartan Thrifty Be Joyful And GenerousIt was certainly the first thing I did when belts were tightened in Tartan Towers. Without even thinking about it I stopped giving away anything to anyone. I reasoned that it was wrong to give money away when my children needed it. But… A few months of thrifty living revealed that, actually, if we were careful, we did have enough and more. My children had everything they needed – and quite a lot that they just wanted. So did we. I was happy we were living well on less but uncomfortable with turning a blind eye to other people’s needs.  That’s when I began to formulate my Five Principle Of Thrift – particularly Be Joyful And Generous, Not Miserly And Miserable – because I realised that it is possible to be good with money without being Good.

Share Something is one of the Thrifty Habits that comes directly from this principle but I didn’t start including it in my monthly habits until I was researching How To Buy Happiness. I came across a study that demonstrated that sharing makes people feel happier. I realised that sharing a little is actually an investment in our own happiness as much as other people’s.

Why You Need To Get Into The Habit Of Giving A Little Away

sharing a little is actually an investment in our own happiness as much as other people’s

Maybe you already need no convincing that it is a Good Thing to share with others. In which case, just take this as reassurance that you don’t have to stop being generous to start being thrifty (although you do have to start being realistic about how much you can afford to give away.) But if you do still need persuading, consider the following ways in which sharing with others will boost your morale.

  1. Working out what to share makes you aware of what you already have. That makes you grateful, and grateful feels much better than greedy.
  2. Realising you have enough to share helps you keep a sense of proportion about your own financial worries – it makes you realise that your own situation is less dire than you thought.
  3. Money worries can make you feel very alone; giving to other people makes you feel connected again.
  4. Sharing is empowering. It leaves you feeling that, not only have you managed to stretch your income around your family’s needs, you have managed to stretch it a little way towards someone else’s. You have completed your thrifty challenge and then some.
  5. Sharing makes you more likely to let other people do the same for you. When I felt like we were barely making ends meet I was fiercely opposed to accepting any kind of hand-out from anyone. I needed to feel we were managing on our own. But when you feel you are part of a cycle of people sharing you don’t mind accepting what comes back your way because you know that what goes around comes around.

How To Share Something

Vintage-Grocery-Store-Basket-thm-GraphicsFairy-320x320If I have managed to convince you that Share Something is an important habit for thrifty people then do think outside the box – donating money is not the only one way to share. Put something extra in your shopping trolley to donate to a food bank. Donate your stuff to charity shops or give it away through sites like Freecycle. (Disclaimer: don’t do this if you desperately need the cash you could raise by selling your stuff instead.) Volunteer your time, buy a Big Issue, put a few coins in a charity bucket, sponsor someone’s fundraiser… It’s up to you.

As for how much to give… It depends what you can spare – and only you can be the judge of that.

Whatever you do, however much you give away, the key is just to start. Whether by letting you hold onto your values or by helping you to feel better about your own finances, sharing something each month will enrich you. Try it.

May 9

Five Principles Of Thrifty Living #4 Be Joyful And Generous Not Miserly And Miserable

Why Do You Want To Be Thrifty?


retro lady fro www.thegraphicsfairy.comAre you reducing spending so you can avoid debt – and avoiding debt because debt makes you miserable? Maybe you want to cut spending on some areas so that you can keep your money for the things that make you smile. Or do you just want to kick that anxious feeling that gnaws at you for the last two weeks of every month? Whatever your reasons – it’s a safe bet you are hoping that a thriftier life will be a happier one.

Saving our finances should never cost us our souls

But what if the process of reducing your spending makes you miserable? What if it turns out that you hate permanent self-denial, feel bad about exploiting other people/other creatures/the planet for a bargain and hate the drudgery of constantly cutting costs? What if, in pursuit of living cheaply you become…  cheap?

What if the whole process turns out to be soul-destroying? Saving our finances should never cost us our souls.

Saving Money Without Selling Your Soul

Four of the five Principles Of Thrifty Living are about spending less. This one is different. It’s about exercising some choice over how you save money so you avoid the trap of putting your finances ahead of your wellbeing and your values.

Choose Joy Over Misery

RetroNewYearsGraphicsFairyFrugality has enormous potential to make us miserable – not least because focussing most of your time and attention on money is never terribly healthy. And cost-cutting that also cuts all the pleasure out of life is a waste of effort – we humans rapidly lose interest in doing things that make us miserable and stop doing them. (That’s why gym memberships when you hate going to the gym are always a doomed purchase.) If you want to make thrifty living an effortless habit you also have to find ways of making it a joy – or you will effortlessly fall into the habit of not bothering.

Click here for this week's free Thrifty Habits Planner
Click here for this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner

So find ways of saving money that also enrich your life. Grow some of your own food and enjoy a connection with the natural world. Make something you would otherwise buy and enjoy the glow of getting creative. Try a new free or cheap activity every so often and savour the variety in your life. Team up with other thrifters – in real life or online – and enjoy the company as well as the advice you get. Take time to applaud your own thriftiness – everything you do to cut your costs shows that you are resourceful, smart and determined so big yourself up for it.  Hold onto your values and do thrifty in a way that still lets you do you.

Choose Generosity Over Miserliness

The thrift that does not make a man charitable sours into avarice. [M.W. Harrison]

When you don’t have much there are two ways you can go. You can take the miser’s route – focus on what you don’t have and hold tightly onto what you do. Or you can take the generous way – focus on what you do have and use it to make yourself and others feel good. Being a miser may result in more money but it won’t make you rich where it really counts.

Tartan Thrifty Be Joyful And GenerousSo share what you can with other people, and take heart from the research suggesting that people who share their money feel happier than people who don’t. Don’t exploit other people to get the lowest price. Don’t exploit yourself either – by overloading yourself with budget-busting tasks or by endless self-denial. Be kind to yourself – buy yourself a little treat now and again. Don’t just set yourself savings goals – set yourself spending goals to focus on what your money is going to do for you. Find a balance between being careful with your money and being Scrooge.

Getting that balance right is the key to developing thrifty habits for the long-haul that truly make your life better.

Getting Into The Habit Of Being Joyfully And Generously Thrifty

These weekly, monthly and annual habits are the ones to get into if you want to embrace joyful generosity and avoid miserly misery.

Each week

  • how to buy happinessBuy yourself a little treat to keep your morale up

Each month

  • Share Something so your own thrifty journey does not stop you from connecting with other people on theirs
  • Grow Something  so you get food in a way that lowers your costs while raising your pleasure
  • Try A New Free Or Cheap Activity so that avoiding more expensive outings does not become boring

Each year

  • Set Savings Goals to remind yourself why you are trying to cut back your spending
  • Set Spending Goals so you are clear what your money will be doing for you over the next twelve months
May 4

Make Something

Is Making Things Really Cheaper Than Buying Them?

Retro-Thinker-Mom-Image-GraphicsFairy-thumb-320x320Making things is fine if you are five, or fortunate enough to be naturally artistic, but… For the rest of us? Every month? As a genuine attempt to save money? Come on…

Make Something is one of my monthly Thrifty Habits. Why? Whenever we pay for products we are really paying for someone’s materials, their skills in transforming those materials into something we want, and the time it takes them to do that. But if you already have the materials, skills and time, why not put them together and get the product for free? This is neither a new, nor a crazy idea. You do this every time you open the fridge and knock together a sandwich to take to work instead of paying for a sandwich made by a stranger. You probably feel perfectly competent to make a sandwich – why not any of the other products you regularly pay for?

Being creative means you can always be flexible about getting what you want at a low price

Making at least one thing that we would otherwise buy each month turns saving money into an empowering,  positive experience.  Being creative means you always have options, can always be flexible about getting what you want at a low price – whether it’s a new set of cushion covers or a fully re-upholstered sofa.

sewing+printable+vintage+image-graphicsfairy2c-150x150I should say up front, I would make things even if it left me out of pocket. Creating makes me happy, and I am not alone – a recent study by Glasgow University found a connection between making and welbeing.   Making things helps you get into Flow, it can be sociable,  leads you to learn new skills, beats slumping on the sofa in front of the TV and gives an enormous sense of achievement.Which is why Investing In Creating Not Consuming is one of my keys to Buying Happiness. So Make Something is a happy habit – but is it always a thrifty habit? And what if you are really short on the skills side?

Why You Should Get Into The Habit Of Making Things

Making things you need but can’t afford is thrifty but only if it doesn’t end up more expensive than buying it in the first place. I am not just talking about costing more money – I am talking about the cost in time. If you have to spend time you can’t afford to make the thing – especially if you could have used that time to earn or save a bigger sum of money – then paying for someone else’s time might be more thrifty in the long run. So I am not whole-heartedly recommending the DIY lifestyle for every situation.

teeny tiny tea cup candle from www.tartanthrifty.orgWhat I am recommending is that, each month, you give it a go. Take one thing you would otherwise buy – or do without – and try to make your own version. What’s the worst that could happen – you find out this is not for you and that this is one area where you can cheerfully pay someone else for their time and skill? The best that could happen is that you discover an activity you deeply enjoy that saves more money than it costs. That’s worth a shot, surely?

House-Painter-Lady-Image-GraphicsFairyAs for worrying about your lack of skills… There are plenty of projects that require minimal skills. Anyway, the only known way to develop any skill at all is to start doing something you can’t do and keep working at it until you can. Go for it!



For some creative inspiration, click here to view the Tartan Thrifty Make Something  and look up Make Something in The Habits in the sidebar to the right.

April 11

Try A New Free Or Cheap Activity

 Frugal And Fun Or Miserable And Mean?

RetroNewYearsGraphicsFairyIt’s the week to Grow Something and to Try A New Free Or Cheap Activity. (If you have never grown anything before you can sprinkle some cress seeds on a wet tissue and tick both boxes, I guess.) Thrift can be fun – it requires you to be resourceful and creative and that makes you feel good about yourself. But thrifty living can also come to feel relentless, dull and restrictive. It’s the difference between a hobby and a job, between something you dip into when the fancy takes you and something you have to do, however you feel about it today.

Thrift can make you miserable and mean – so it’s important to take steps to make sure it doesn’t. This is why one of my guiding principles is to Be Joyful And Generous, Not Miserly And Miserable. For me, it’s not enough simply to stay out of the red – I want our thrifty lives to be happy ones. Not least because, if thrifty living makes you unhappy, you will start to live less thriftily.


Do Something!

how to buy happinessOne way of avoiding financial misery is to find stuff you can get cheaply or even for free. These bargains are the mainstay of many a thrifty home. But when I was researching how to spend our money to max our Happy, one of the things I learned is that doing things makes us happier than having things. In other words, we would boost our happiness more by finding stuff we can do cheaply or even for free.

Which is why one of my Thrifty Habits is to try a new free or cheap activity together each month. Now, I am not suggesting that you limit yourselves to just one outing a month to save money here – quite the opposite. What I am urging you to do is make a point of mixing things up a little by trying something different each month. I am inviting you to find as many different ways as you can to have fun for free – or as near to free as you can. That way you will never be cooped up at home on a rainy Saturday with restless kids, wishing you could afford to go out and do something. Instead you will have a whole list of tried and tested, on-budget options to choose from.


Experiments In Frugal Fun

It took me a while to get on board with this habit – when I spend money I want something tangible in return that I can keep. Throwing it away on activities that finished in a matter of hours seemed the opposite of thrifty. But I took a long shot on this one and have been truly surprised by the result. Thanks to this Thrifty Habit the Tartan Family have tried lots of outings without much outlay. Some of them have become regular activities on which we now spend money. Some have remained free or cheap activities that we can fall back on when we are bored and broke. Some were a fun one-off that was not for us – but we still enjoyed trying something new. And these experiences have remained with us as happy memories. All these experiments in frugal fun have kept up our morale in money-less months. Variety and activity do make for happy thrifters, it turns out.

Retro-Camping-Image-GraphicsFairy-320x320Our experiences have convinced me of the importance of this habit but in case you are unconvinced, here is an actual expert explanation of The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things. If you do decide to try out a new free or cheap activity, why not come back and add a comment about it – I would love to be inspired by your thrifty outings.

March 7

How To Buy Happiness

Once you can afford to feed, clothe and house yourself, each extra pound makes less and less difference to your sense of well-being.”  Liz Hoggard, Making Slough Happy

Money can’t buy you happiness, right?

Wrong, according to Jonathan Haidt, author of the excellent The Happiness Hypothesis who insists that  “those who think money can’t buy happiness just don’t know where to shop.”  And then goes on to show how smart spending choices will make you thrifty and happy.

Tartan Boy ClimbingNow, I love Thrifty, but I love Happy more. Isn’t Happy what Thrifty is really shooting for? Why are you cutting your spending? Freedom from the misery of debt? A good life at a lower price? Saving up to live out a personal dream?  Whatever your reason, it’s about being happier. It’s always about being happier.

So, what should we be doing with our money, to maximise our Happy? I have been exploring the world of Positive Psychology and here is what I have learned.

How To Buy Happiness

  1. Invest in variety not volume.  It’s not the expense of a new thing that delights us – it’s the newness, the change from what we just had to what we have now. So frequent, small treats will create steadier happiness over time than occasional big purchases. Treating yourself little and often could make you more contented than saving up for one big expense.
  2. Invest in doing not having.   Activity, according to positive psychologists, brings greater and longer-lasting pleasure than possessions, especially activity that we share with others.
  3. how to buy happinessInvest in creating rather than just consuming.  Making things makes you happy. Buying things, not so much. Cook things, grow things, make music, design a web site, redecorate your home – whatever works for you.

    “Joy’s soul lies in the doing” (Shakespeare)

  4. Invest in your health. It’s harder to feel good when you feel bad. Money spent on nutritious food, a comfortable mattress, shoes you can walk in, etc, is money well spent. (Note to self: money spent on fancy wine is a less secure investment in lingering happiness.)
  5. Invest in relationships.  Spend money on connecting with others (meeting friends for coffee, travelling to visit family, sending a birthday card, etc.) rather than on competing to have the best, biggest, most luxurious and most expensive of everything. We are hyper-social animals and we need to feel connected to others more than we need to keep up with the Joneses.
  6. Invest in community: share.  Studies show that people who share more are usually happier than people who don’t.  Perhaps it’s because it reminds them how lucky they are to have more than others; perhaps it reassures them that they have something of value to offer to others; perhaps it helps them feel involved with the rest of the human race.  Perhaps we just feel good when we do good.  Whatever the reason, in terms of buying happiness, it’s a great investment.


Thrifty Habits PlannerClick here for this week’s Thrifty Habits Planner. It’s free – what could be thriftier than that?

November 22

How To Fill A Christmas Stocking For (Around) A Fiver

How To Fill A Generous Stocking On A Miserly Budget

Christmas Stocking Planner 1starLast week I shared my (only slightly control-freaky) Christmas Stocking Planner. If you are the kind of person who finds staying on-budget with your kids’ Christmas stockings easy then well done you – I am not. That’s why I need the Planner. My Stocking Planner has allowed me to make sure that, no matter what our current money situation is, we fill our stockings at a price we can afford.

I promised I would come back this week and show you how the planner works, even if you can only afford around £5 a stocking. (If £5 is more than you can afford, take a look at 5 Ways To Make DIY Stocking Fillers – When You Have No DIY Skills.) Here’s how I got on.

How to fill a Christmas stocking on a budget

My (almost) £5 Christmas Stocking Challenge

Stocking Fillers For £1

selfie stickPop-Up Pirate from poundlandThe natural home of £1 gifts is Poundland,  so that’s where I went. I picked the Pop-Up pirate because it is big enough to bulk out the stocking nicely but I could have picked any of a whole range of toys or art supplies. For an older kid I could have picked a mobile phone cover, or a selfie stick.

Stocking Fillers For 75p

75p stocking fillersFor gifts at 75p Home Bargains came up trumps with small stationery sets, art supplies, sticker books and the odd small toy marked down. I reckon a sticker book and bubbles would keep a young child busy at least until lunch-time on Christmas day – and that’s easily worth £1.50 to me.

Stocking Fillers For 50p

50p Stocking fillers

At the 50p level I found an assortment of character surprise eggs in Home Bargains, along with chocolate Santa lollies. Aldi has nets of chocolate coins, Santas or snowmen at this price. I cheated by choosing a 2-pack of cute snail sharpeners from Poundland – one for each boy’s stocking makes them 50p each.

Stocking Fillers For 20p

20p stocking fillers Finding decent gifts at 20p was harder – in fact, I failed. I did manage to find several gifts at 25p though, so I wasn’t that far off. Aside from small bars and bags of high street chocolate, I picked a pack of four pull-back racing bugs from Poundland – working out at 25p each – to share between the boys. If you are filling several kids’ stockings, dividing Poundland multi-packs of small toys, play-dough , stationery, etc. would be an easy way to get your 25p toys. Don’t rule out second hand – I have picked up seemingly unread books at 5-for-£1 at school Christmas fairs, for example. If it looks new to you, it will be fine for a child.

Stocking Fillers For 10p

stocking fillers for 10pFinding gifts at 10p was MUCH harder. Your best bets are second hand, multi-packs and dumb luck – the Melting Zombies were reduced to 10p in B&M Bargains, for example. The hollow chocolate tree decorations from Home Bargains were a multipack that worked out at 11.5p each. Foil wrapping gives them child-friendly shininess and the hollow shape makes a small amount of chocolate look quite substantial.

How Do You Fill A Stocking For Barely A Fiver?

Money-savingPoundland, B&M Bargains, Home Bargains, Lidl, and Aldi are great for very cheap stocking fillers but most supermarkets will have good deals on novelty chocolate treats well under a pound. Sugar is cheap – the less you can pay the more likely you are to spend it on sweets. If you don’t want too much sugar in their stockings, aim to keep your 50p and upward gifts for non-food items that will see some use after Christmas Day.

Thinking outside the box is key – buy second hand, make your own, buy a pic-n-mix and then package up the individual types of sweets in tiny DIY containers, bake festive cookies and cake-pops, team up with a friend in the same position and split multipacks, etc.

Christmas-Fairy-Image-GraphicsFairy-597x1024The main thing I learned is that it is possible to do a stocking for around a fiver but it is not easy. I would struggle to put together a stocking on much less. If you are putting together a magical Christmas for your family  on a very small budget this year you have my sympathy and my respect, for you are working a miracle. Skint Mums And Dads Of The World, I salute you – yours is the true spirit of Christmas.


HandNoticeVintage-GraphicsFairyMore Christmas Posts


How To Fill A Bulging Christmas Stocking Without Busting Your Budget

5 Ways To Make DIY Stocking Fillers – When You Have No DIY Skills

1 Cheap Pic-n-Mix, 10 thifty Stocking-Fillers


November 14

How To Fill A Bulging Christmas Stocking Without Busting Your Budget

Christmas Stockings – A Thrifty Essential

christmas-santa-graphicsfairy010I still remember the outrage with which I greeted my mum’s suggestion that, since none of her “children” were even in their teens any more, we could, maybe, just not bother with stockings this year. I was horrified – didn’t she realise that the little bits and pieces in our stockings each year were part of the very fabric of Christmas? Hmmm?

the little bits and pieces in our stockings each year were part of the very fabric of Christmas

I was reminded of this ten years later when Tartan Dad had a year out of work and we were approaching a very budget Christmas. We did our sums and worked out that we had enough left to either buy each other a gift or a stocking – but not both. It turned out my thirty-something self was no keener to do without stocking fillers than my twenty-going-on-five self. So we ditched the “tree presents” instead – and had a lovely Christmas morning without them, opening our stockings.

santaThat year, more than ever, we needed the abundance of little fripperies that fill a stocking. We needed them because we were carefully, painstakingly sticking to our budget to avoid going into debt – we had enough of everything we needed but we did not enjoy an abundance of anything. Just for one day, we got to be greedy.

santa's faceWe needed those little stocking-fillers because, while our budget allowed us to save up for the big, important things we needed, it did not allow us to just buy little things that took our fancy as we walked round a shop. But our stockings were full of those – all the little things we had routinely denied ourselves every other day of that year.

santa chucklingAnd we needed those fripperies because, in a year of living sensibly, they were a little ray of silly, luxurious fun. Living on a budget is a serious business but sometimes we need to cut loose a little or we will lose the will to keep going.

Thrifty Christmas Stockings

ChristmasRetroShop-GraphicsFairy1No surprise then that I am still a huge fan of Christmas stockings. I am not a huge fan, though, of the way the cost of filling them can spiral out control faster than Prancer, Dancer and Dasher taking Santa on an emergency trip to Toys-R-Us. Some people spend more on Christmas stockings than I spend on the kids’ main presents. And when I say ‘some people’ I mean even otherwise thoroughly thrifty people. OK, I mean me. Readers I am Tartan Mum and I am an uncontrolled stocking-stuffer.

Christmas Stocking Planner 5Or I was, until three years ago when I finally found a way to take control of our Christmas Stockings. I used to just buy until I had what felt like enough stocking-fillers at what seemed like a vaguely filler-y price. Then I would get a shock on Christmas Eve when it turned out to be way too much to fit in our stockings. And an even worse surprise when I finally added up the total cost. I needed to set limits that gave us bulging stockings without stretching our budget to bursting point.  The Tartan Thrifty Christmas Stocking Planner was born.

The Stocking Planner – Christmas Under Control

A simple system for setting a budget, keeping to it, and building a well-balanced stocking

The Stocking Planner is a way to plan and keep track of our stocking-fillers so that I buy lots of very cheap fillers interspersed with a few more pricey items rather than lots of pricey items interspersed with the odd cheap one. It has stopped me buying too many gifts at too high a price, as well as making sure there is some variety in the value of the fillers in our stockings.

Christmas-Fairy-Image-GraphicsFairy-597x1024It has also helped me figure out what the appropriate budget for our family’s stockings is – because that’s different for each family. There is no government-approved minimum stocking spend – just what fits your lifestyle and finances. Think a little structure could help you stay on budget this year? Here’s how it works.

Step 1: Set A Top Spending Limit For Stocking Fillers

You need to decide what is the highest price you are willing to pay for a stocking filler. So – imagine you are shopping. Your kid* suddenly spots – and demands – a £50 doll’s house.  You have not budgetted for a doll’s house and £50 is a lot of money so you probably say no without a moment’s thought.

What if it was a £40 toy? Still no without needing to think about it?

What about £20? £10? A £5 plush toy? What if it was a £3 comic your kid was pleading for? A £1 sticker pack? A 50p novelty chocolate?

retro lady fro www.thegraphicsfairy.comSomewhere on that sliding scale there was  a point where you would stop saying no without thinking and would start to think – however fleetingly – about whether you could just buy it. So what was your threshold? What was the last point on that sliding scale where you wouldn’t have to think about whether that was too expensive or not?

That threshold price – that’s the price for the top level of your Christmas Stocking Planner. You are going to buy one item at that price for each stocking. Any gift that costs more than that gets parcelled up and put under the tree. Anything that costs less is a stocking-filler.

Step 2: Set the rest of the prices for your stocking-fillers

Each level should be cheaper than the one above it. So if your top price is £5, for example, that will mean that your next level is, say, £3, the one after that £2 and so on down to 50p. That gives you five little 50p gifts, four gifts at £1 each, three at £2, two at £3 and one at £5. That’s a total of 15 gifts for £23.50 per stocking. Click here to download a copy of the £5 planner.Christmas Stocking Planner 5

If you opt for my planner with a top price of £3, and a bottom price of 20p, your stockings are going to cost you £13 each. Click here to download a copy of the £3 planner.Christmas Stocking Planner 3star

If the most you can spend per item is £1, then your stockings are going to come to just £5.30 each. (Don’t believe you can fill a decent stocking for a fiver? Come back next week and see how to do it.) Click here to download a copy of the £1 plannerChristmas Stocking Planner 1star

If none of these plans suits your price range you can download a blank planner here to price up as you see fit.

All of my planners have space for 15 gifts. That number suits the Tartan Family, but if you and yours like a fatter stocking, adapt it by adding an extra row (or more!) at the bottom. Because the lower rows are the cheapest you will up the quantity without hiking the price greatly.

Step 3: Take A Reality Check

worried gift-giverYou need to check what the total cost of your stocking plan is and multiply that by the number of stockings you will fill. Now take a good, hard look at that figure – can you afford that this year? If the answer is yes then skip to Step 4. If the answer is no you need to decide carefully how much you can afford to spend on each stocking and reduce your top price and all the prices below it.  Your stockings will have just as many items in them; only the prices will be different.

Step 4:  Get Ready To Shop

Once you have picked the planner that suits your unique circumstances print one out for each person. Whenever you buy a stocking-filler, note it in the box for its price-point. That way you will be able to see at a glance whose stocking is full and whose still needs stuffing. And you won’t accidentally buy everything at your top price. (Been there a few times!)

Christmas Stocking Planner £5 part filled

That’s it. A simple system for setting a budget, keeping to it, and building a well-balanced stocking. I hope it works as well for you as it has for me!


retro lady fro*What if you are filling stockings for adults, not kids? Imagine you are shopping and you spot something that [insert name] would just love. At what price would you buy it without hesitation? And at what price would you pause to think about it? That’s your threshold price – the top price you will spend on stocking fillers for adults.


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