8 Ways To Save Cash For Christmas Now

We all know that cutting our occasional spending can reap big dividends in the run-up to Christmas, don’t we?  But how many of us actually do something to make sure that we don’t go overdrawn and end up not only overspending but eating into January’s pay-packet? How can we save cash for Christmas without compromising our daily lifestyle?

January is a very long month if you get paid earlier in December.  Combine a lack of funds with the usual (abortive in my case) attempt to take on ‘Dry January‘ and you have a recipe for full-scale New Year misery.  Even if you don’t spend your savings on Christmas pressies, having a little New Year fund to brighten the gloomy first weeks of the year is a great idea in my book.

So here are 8 things to start cutting back on now and stash the extra cash in a bank account, savings jar or even an old Quality Street tin.  Yes, I am that old.

save cash for Christmas - red take-away coffee cup on snow

8 tips to save cash for Christmas

Coffee To Go

You know this, I know this.  By the time you add up the cost of your £3+ coffees you could have saved around £360 (1 coffee x 5 days x roughly 8 working weeks left). Whilst lots of us are now working from home, it’s a lot easier to avoid this expense of course but I’ll bet you’ve added in one or two ‘necessary treats’ to keep yourself focused.  In my case, it’s dark chocolate digestives and Haribo marshmallows.

Magazines & Newspapers

Most of the glossies weigh in at around £4.95 and you can often find most of their content (and more up to date content) on their websites.

The same applies to many newspapers.  The Daily Mail website has made the printed edition more or less obsolete I reckon, although you’ll find articles for The Telegraph, The Times and The Guardian behind a paywall now.

If you do prefer your magazines in print, you can save a fortune on the cover price by investing in a subscription.  Case in point – 6 issues of Woman & Home at the moment for £6 – compared to the cover price of £4.99.

Single rail/bus tickets when you could be buying a weekly or monthly ticket

You can even use your mobile as a bus ticket on some networks.  And obviously, you are increasing your daily exercise by getting off earlier and walking, aren’t you?  At the moment, the less time you spend close to your fellow commuters the better.

Pre-packed sandwiches and lunch dishes

To be honest, so dismal was my last place of work (even the rats were desperately searching for an estate agent) that tottering up to Boots for a Shapers Meal Deal was the highlight of my working day.  That said, those costs certainly mount up.  At around £3.99, it’s still good value but that’s an extra £20 making it far more expensive than a home-made cheese sarnie.

Premium Branded Goods

The very wise Martin Lewis suggests that you can immediately save money by dropping down a brand level – so move from premium to mid or mid to supermarket’s own. Some things are worth exploring – cereal, milk, bread, jam etc.  Some, on the other hand, are worth sticking with if you really can’t face swopping them.  My non-negotiables are Nescafe Gold Blend, Yorkshire or Glengettie Tea and Clover or butter.  I swear some of the ‘faux’ butter spreads have never been anywhere near a cow.

Try a Fake-Away

Did you know that the calorie content of a standard portion of fish and chips is around 2000 calories? That’s roughly the day’s entire calorie count for a woman.  The husband and I went through a takeaway phase one year when we were doing up the house and the kitchen was out of action.  By the end of the week we both felt ill – although we did have a huge collection of those handy plastic containers.  We were also significantly poorer.

It’s just as easy to make your own fish n’ chip supper at home, or your own pizza, pasta or curry.  It just takes a bit of organisation.  And, in my case, delegation to the husband.

Cocktails

Mine is not a cocktail lifestyle – and being a complete lightweight I can usually only take one in any case. They seem to be extremely expensive and full of sugar whereas one decent glass of wine should be more satisfying and last longer.  Even better if you make that a gin in a long glass of tonic or white wine or spritzer.

Children

Horrendously expensive, usually unappreciative and with a boredom threshold that makes Keith Lemon seem like a Chess Master, kids can be a major drain on the finances.

It doesn’t help when the shops fill up with toys, glitter and sparkle – although this year most of us will be shopping online. It’s hard to feel Christmassy when you’re holding on to your wallet for dear life.

As parents we have to be strong enough to tell the little darlings that if they want it they must put it on their Xmas list to Santa”  and then if there is a vague possibility that they will help lay the table, remember their library book and present themselves for a bath without complaining, the elf on the shelf may work their magic.

Stormtrooper's Christmas by Kenny Louie

Credit: Kenny Louie

Seriously, pester power can be a very expensive thing at this time of year and if we give in we are just making it harder to, um, help Santa to do his job.

I’d also suggest paying attention to how much you spend on stocking stuffers.  We often get pre-made stockings from Hawkins Bazaar which are good value and save lots of shopping time.  It’s all too easy to spend as much on stocking gifts as you do on a main present.

Of course, not only should you be looking for ways to save cash for Christmas, it’s a good idea to find ways to make some money on the side.

And, of course, for us compers, December brings those Advent competitions which keep us all glued to our laptops in the hope that those fabulous tech, hamper and jewellery wins will make it a very happy Christmas for all indeed.

Plus, the majority of competitions and giveaways are free to enter (as are mine).  And the good thing about comping is that hope costs far less than a pumpkin spice latte.

How do you save cash for Christmas?

10 Things You’ll Forget To Buy This Christmas (& Free Printable)

I was going to title this piece “The Mother Distracted Guide to Humbug-ery” and then I thought “best not”. Anyway, here’s my helpful list of things you might want to add to your Christmas shopping list on the basis that I like to be fully prepared for all possible emergencies, medical, psychological and social.

Christmas shopping list - cartoon of a small red car with an enormous Christmas tree on the roof

Most of these items are unremittingly dull.  But nowhere near as dull as trying to find a corner shop open on Christmas day whilst the husband is left to cremate the turkey and the kids dismantle any item costing more than a tenner which needs batteries….. which leads me to…

Things to add to your Christmas shopping list

1.  Batteries.

Best to buy in bulk over the internet if you’re organised.  If not, best join the queue in Argos for a pack big enough to power a space shuttle and spend 20 minutes watch the blinking TV screen as your order number takes an age to appear on the glamorous metal racking at the back of the sales assistants who would rather be anywhere else – probably doing their own Christmas shopping.

2.  Indigestion remedy.

Christmas is the only time of year when we are unnaturally possessed to consume our own body weight in dried fruit.  It ain’t pretty.  Better stock up on the indigestion remedies or some peppermint tea.

3.  Plasters.

Fabric.  Waterproof.  The sorts that are so strong that pain is involved in removing them. All other plasters float off as soon as they get wet, particularly any featuring Winnie The Pooh / Hello Kitty etc.

4. Wire cutters or very strong scissors.

Even the magician Dynamo would struggle to get out of some of the packaging toys come in these days.  You’ll need the fabric plasters to wrap around your fingers after it has taken you an entire festive episode of  Midsomer Murders to free Barbie and her range of microscopic accessories.

5. Tweezers.

After Caitlin’s “bead up the nose” incident, I’m taking no chances.  Plus I can’t remember the last time I actually scrutinized my eyebrows. And since we’ve got rid of the carpet and hubby has painted the floors, the risk of splinters in the foot (and even more annoyingly, shredded hosiery) is high. Less micro-pedi and more micro-shreddy.

Christmas shopping list - selection of Christmas baubles and berries with a lit tea-light lantern

6.  Bin bags.

Just remember that the ratio of packaging to gift for most of the stuff we buy these days is 85% packaging and 15% gift. However, failure to recycle correctly in this here shire may result in heavy tut-tutting from the locals and possibly a short prison sentence.  In our area, the council has decreed 2 black bags per wheelie bin every fortnight.  Good luck with that over Christmas.

7.  Fuel for the car.

No really.  If you’re off to see Aunty Vi in the back of Abercwmtwch, you just know that there won’t be a garage open this side of the Severn Bridge on Christmas day. Although come to think of it, that might actually be a good thing. You really don’t need a pasty and a copy of What Car magazine either. Don’t forget to make sure your car is fully prepared for winter travel too.

8. Enough cream..

Without fail if I buy a small amount, everyone wants some and if I buy it in pints, everyone wants custard.  I’m sure it’s deliberate.

9. A gravy boat and a cream jug.

What has happened to the nation’s fleet of gravy boats?  Are we all using Pyrex jugs or those strange jugs in the shape of a cow?  And I never have anything suitable to put cream in.  It’s not the same served straight out of the carton, is it?

10. An emergency present.

Tricky.  I find boxes of Matchmakers or Ferrero Rocher chocolates kept for this purpose usually vanish. You’ll just have to be strong or invest in a prettily wrapped gift card from somewhere like Marks & Spencer.

I’m sure you have your own list.  Let me know.  I bet there are loads of things I’ve forgotten!

What would you add to this Christmas shopping list?

For a free printable list of all my essential not-to-be-forgotten Christmas sundries, click here.

Spending On Kids’ Christmas Presents: How Much Is Enough?

An article in The Daily Mail (26/11/2013) entitled “OUCH! Average child’s Christmas list adds up to nearly £900 – and a third believe they’ll get every single thing on it” left me feeling distinctly unsettled.

It seems, according to this article at least, that the average child receives a hefty, and in many parts of the UK surely unbelievable, £207 worth of presents.

Are we really raising a generation of materialistic, greedy youngsters who, as my parents would say, know the cost of everything but the value of nothing?

What has happened to parenting when the purse strings are seemingly controlled by the offspring?

 

stack of Christmas presents

What is really going on here?  Christmas advertising seems to start earlier and earlier with John Lewis, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer all taking each other on for the “Christmas ad of the year”. The supermarkets all compete to give us tables groaning with high-calorie treats and drinks, with each promoting a cutesy backstory (handsome Mr Iceland takes giggly ingenue to a party for example).

There is literally no escape from Christmas merchandising and marketing. Even if you turn the TV off, shops are groaning with Christmas themed confectionery and gifts.

In a Twitter Party conversation last night with Tots100.co.uk (@tots100) which runs a well-respected index of UK parenting blogs, and comparison website Go Compare (@gocompare), several parents said they felt that £50 to £100 was quite sufficient to spend on a child, with some saying that £270 constituted their entire Christmas budget.

It must be soul-destroying if you are struggling financially to have the added burden of child-induced guilt as they request the latest computer gizmo or branded toy. You can see why people are so tempted by payday loans with their catchy advertising. Both my children recognise the Wonga old people and think they’re ‘funny’. I don’t find APRs of 5853% particularly amusing.

The Government has said it will introduce a new law as part of the Banking Reform Bill to cap the cost of these loans. This level will be decided by a new industry regulatory, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). As yet, we have no idea what this cap will be or whether it will be effective in helping those who quickly find themselves in over their heads when they cannot pay off these loans as quickly as they had anticipated.

It’s funny really because the old fashioned skill of ‘housewifery’, apart from having had a mild renaissance and a new cupcake and retro apron image, has always been slightly looked down upon. But the related skill of maintaining the household budget (and sticking to it) must surely be worth its weight in gold.

It became clear from last night’s Twitter chat that some parents had their budgets by the horns and were actively seeking out the best rates for savings and credit and benefiting by canny use of cash-back and comparison websites. I came away with the realisation that managing your money, particularly at Christmas, HAS to be an active and not a passive activity. No wonder Martin Lewis shouts. It’s so easy to put your head in the sand.

When I was a child, my sister and I would always receive one ‘main’ present and a couple of smaller ones from our parents which would be supplemented by gifts from grandparents, uncles and aunts. But what I remember more than anything else was the stocking my dad would meticulously prepare for us both every year.

It was always one of his old walking socks and there was always an apple, a satsuma, one or two walnuts or hazelnuts and a small novelty gift (one year it was a cap gun which we both loved) but, the ultimate in decadence was the small tube of liqueur chocolates he always included. I can still taste the shock of a mouthful of sherry followed by the sweet, gritty chocolate.  I hasten to add that we were of a respectable age for such adult treats.

As for the ‘main presents’, do you know that, apart from an Action Girl doll one year and a Sindy doll another, I honestly can’t remember a single one.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

How much do you think is acceptable to spend on your children? I’d love to know.

Bad Budgeting or Bad Santa?

The tribe and I have just returned from Mothercare (impromptu feet measuring and welly purchasing) and things were going relatively peacefully until the Boy spotted his dream item – a Buzz Lightyear costume.  Cue “spooky face” and “I want it now”. Cue immediate removal of the Boy back to the car to reduce our embarrassment levels and to avoid sympathetic and/or judgemental looks from other parents.

On the way back, stunned into silence by the melodious tones of Killswitch Engage and the loud sucking of Wether’s Originals from the back of the car, I found myself wondering how other parents approach buying Christmas presents for their brood. What is the best approach? Do you set a budget per child, which means they simply will not receive some of the toys they have on their Christmas list, or buy them one big present supplemented by smaller stocking fillers, which is what my parents did.

I know I should be disciplined and start putting away a few bits and pieces now to avoid the nightmare that is Christmas shopping with children and the painful January credit card statement. I say every year I will have all the shopping done by 1st December. I’ve never managed it yet!  You can see why online shopping has grown so rapidly – at the very least you avoid ‘pester power’.

Wanted: for incomplete Christmas list fulfillment

Source:  www.spectator.co.uk

Christmas has become a time for conspicuous consumerism. I remember my mum reading Louisa May Allcot’s wonderful novel Little Women (download a free copy) to me when I was very young and I’ve never forgotten the bit where, on Christmas morning, the four March girls agree to give up their breakfast for a poor mother with a new baby and six other children to feed. Even at a young age, I could appreciate that the feeling of contribution and doing some good could outweigh the pleasure of receiving a gift. The value of charity and community is certainly something I will be teaching my kids.

In the meantime, it’s time for parents everywhere to gird their loins in preparation for the annual marketing onslaught that begins any day now on every single medium you can think of – TV, radio, press, internet, billboards, trains, buses, taxis – there truly is no escape.

 

Source:  Questgarden.com

And I’ll be sitting down with a calculator to work out a sensible budget.