Can You Control Your ‘Occasional’ Spending?

How many times have you set a carefully crafted budget and, convinced you’ve thought of everything, set off towards a secure (you think) fiscal future only to find that, bam, you’ve forgotten someone’s birthday, your anniversary, or your sister’s cat’s third birthday.

birthday cake and presents -

It’s not what we spend regularly that causes us the biggest headaches, is it?  It’s the occasional spending. And, as this infographic from Swift Money shows, we Brits spend a whole heap of cash on those events which crop up each year – Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day – even though we could budget for them if we remembered!

So what’s the answer?  Here are 5 top tips:-

* Agree upfront the maximum  you will spend on birthday presents and whether, in fact, all members of the family still want to swop gifts. If you hardly ever see each other, do you really need to splash out on big gifts when a card and perhaps a gift voucher for a nominal value would do?

* Diarise when you need to order flowers etc for Mother’s Day and check the voucher sites well in advance to see if there are any deals – could you find an alternative gift on Groupon or save on

* Make your own gifts – even if you are hopeless at crafts, you could still make jams or chutneys, bake a cake or make flavoured oils  in pretty bottles.

* Dine out either side of the day in question.  We all know that restaurants inflate their prices for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.  Why not book the day (or weekend) before Valentine’s Day or the Saturday before Mother’s Day?  You’re more likely to find a babysitter too – and lot’s of sitters won’t take bookings on these special days either.

* Buy gifts when you see them, rather than start shopping close to the event.  Canny shoppers have got this down to a fine art – starting their Christmas shopping in the January sales.  The rest of us could learn a lot from them.  You’ll normally find really unusual and more special gifts in places like National Trust or museum gift shops or the craft shops on your summer holidays.  If all else fails, a gift card for the restaurant you know they’ll love will always be welcome – and used.

I think the most important thing to note is that you do not have to participate in the various seasonal events which are frequently designed by marketers to part the unwary shopper from their case.  You can still observe the sentiment of the day in question without forking out for gifts which will probably end up still in their packaging in a drawer somewhere.

As long as you are upfront with your relatives about the fact that you are cutting back on your spending and don’t expect them to reciprocate either, all should be well.

You may well find they are fed up of forking out for events like these too.

Personally, I love ‘occasional’ days because I see them as a change to celebrate what it means to be a family (or a partner) and lord knows some days it seems to be a very gloomy old world.

But going into debt to do this is madness when you are watching every penny.



Ex marketing professional turned family lifestyle blogger. I live in Cardiff with hubby Mat, Caitlin (10) and Ieuan (8).

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