Merry Thriftmas! How To Do A Magical Christmas On A Real-Life Budget
Christmas Is Not Just About Buying Stuff
It’s coming. Christmas: the time of year when we buy Stuff and immediately give it away. Sometimes Stuff we can’t afford. Sometimes Stuff we are not even sure the recipient will actually like. In the full knowledge that we ourselves are also about to recieve Stuff we wouldn’t necessarily have chosen, or, embarrassingly, would not have been able to afford to buy. (Martin Lewis Smith explores this more fully here – well worth reading.) It’s easy to believe that Christmas is mainly about buying Stuff.
And, actually… [whispers] I like the Stuff. I love getting a stocking full of the little fripperies I don’t usually waste money on. I love spoiling my children for one day. I love having a big, greedy feast to share with my loved ones. I love the way that, in the darkest part of the year, the house is filled with brightness and abundance.
A Celebration Of Enough
For me, Christmas is a celebration of having Enough. Enough food. Enough shelter and warmth. Enough loved ones and liked ones. Enough time to spend some of it relaxing with them. Enough money for treats. Enough stuff to share it with others.
Taking time to enjoy what we have, sharing with others, giving ourselves lots of little treats, celebrating relationships – these all fit in with my thoughts on Buying Happiness. I don’t have a problem with that. I do have a problem with the fact that our seasonal pursuit of Stuff mainly seems to buy unhappiness. We don’t actually spend the festive period kicking back and saying, “Relax! We have enough of everything.” We spend it worrying about the debts we have just rung up. We spent the weeks before worrying about whether we were spending enough to please the recipients of our gifts. If it leaves us this anxious, is there much point celebrating it at all?
I have spent this year trying to develop thrifty habits to make life for the Tartan Family happier and I don’t intend to fall off the festive wagon. This year, I am determined that Christmas in Tartan Towers will be in line with my own Thrifty Principles.
Five Thrifty Principles For Christmas
Take Control: You Are The Master Not The Victim Of Your Spending.
I have used my own Take Control Of Your Gift-Buying Budget Flow Chart to set a Christmas Gift Budget that we can definitely afford without going into debt or leaving ourselves without enough for our own needs. I have also had a look at what we actually need to buy, so that these things can make up the bulk of our gifts for the Tartan Weans – clothes, sports gear, craft supplies and kit for other hobbies. And I am starting shopping now, so that last minute panic does not get a chance to throw me off-budget.
Be Joyful And Generous, Not Miserly And Miserable.
I don’t want to be so fixated on not going over budget that I don’t enjoy giving people gifts that will bring them pleasure. On the other hand, I don’t want to be so fixated on giving other people lovely gifts that I spend more than we actually have. The key, for me, is reducing the number of gifts we buy, so that we have enough to buy quality gifts. Adults don’t really need other adults to buy them things, so we will be focussing our budget on gifts for children. We have made this clear to all the adults by the way – so they don’t go ahead and spend on us without getting anything in return. If you are going to go the same route, now is the time to let people know so you don’t win this year’s Scrooge Award. And we will be finding other ways to celebrate our relationships with adults and show them we value them.
Work With The Real Not The Ideal.
It keeps coming back to the budget. No matter how much we would like to spend on other people, we can only spend what we actually have. The same goes for all my other attempts to sprinkle fairy dust over everyone’s Christmas. I don’t have to do everything Martha Stewart has to suggest for a perfect Christmas; I just have to do enough.
Quantify Your Assets; Exploit And Enjoy Them.
I am making a list, and checking it twice, of everything we already have that could be used to produce Christmas Gifts – sweets left over from Halloween; preserves I put away over the summer. Offcuts and scraps of fabric; the candle-making and other craft supplies languishing in the cupboard; chocolate moulds collected over the years; festive cookie cutters, empty but pretty jars. I will be including equipment – my sewing machine, kitchen equipment, gardening materials, the printer, DIY tools – as well as the skills Tartan Dad and I already have. And time: I will be looking very carefully at exactly what pockets of time I have available to spend transforming these assets into Christmas.
Don’t Spend More Than You Have To.
We will be using up our loyalty points, googling for discount voucher codes for everywhere we do our online Christmas shopping, and taking advantage of special offers whenever possible. I am already signed up to Top Cashback and will be using Debt Camel’s advice to max the money I get back from my Christmas shopping. I will be checking out discount stores like The Book People to grab top gifts at rock bottom prices. I have already begun taking advantage of some of Aldi and Lidl’s weekly offers to stock up on surprisingly good quality gifts for the Tartan Weans. And we are not above buying second hand. Finally I will be exploiting the assets I quantified by making some gifts.
Will people actually appreciate a home-made gift? Now there’s a subject for a whole other post…
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