My large family Christmas celebrations on a tight budget
Family Xmas celebrations are memorable events
With three (almost adult . . . ) kids, brother, sister, parents, five stepbrothers and sisters and an assorted extended family, my Christmas gift buying and family celebrations have been on a tight budget for many years now. Planning and preparing my festive celebrations and budgeting my finances can be a little stressful at times, but I think I've got it down to a fine art now.
Celebrate Xmas on a budget
Budgeting for gifts for family and friends
Most people appreciate the care that's been given when handmade gifts are presented. In the past I've given pen and ink drawings to adult members of my family as Christmas gifts and I know my mum particularly liked the drawing I did of her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Susie, it's still hanging on the wall in her hallway!
It does take a lot of time to prepare and present gifts of this nature, though. Another handmade gift idea that I went for big time when I was a singleton was baskets of candied and sugar-glazed fruits. I just needed to source a variety of different sized baskets, cellophane, pretty ribbons and fruits and then prepare the glazed fruits. There's a video at the foot of the page showing just how to do this.
The baskets did look lovely, though I'm not sure this gift went down so very well with some family members!
For Christmas this year, I'm contemplating making Scottish shortbread, peppermint creams and handmade truffles and giving them as token gifts to members of my extended family when I visit over the festive period. Small paper or card gift boxes will hold a handful of these sweet treats and they'll make an ideal small present for people I don't see often. Certainly, anybody that does arts, handiwork, baking or crafts regularly should consider giving personal and handmade gifts at Christmas as I've always found gifts that I've made are appreciated far more.
When it comes to buying gifts for my kids and family, I do start to shop around for presents in September or October. Many stores offer discounts at certain times (see the 20% discount on nightwear in the image shown below) or gift vouchers to customers spending above a set amount, like Argos seem to do every year here in the UK.
I also look out for three for two deals in stores, though I've bought clothing gifts for my kids before and been disappointed to find they've never been worn so there are problems when buying clothes for teenagers. I'll never forget the beautiful suede and fur designer jacket I bought for a bargain price ten years or so ago for my eldest daughter, it was never worn and just stayed in her wardrobe!
I keep an eye on homeware and personal products arriving in my local Aldi, they don't stay on shelves for long and if there's anything suitable for family gifts I buy it as soon as it arrives.
I also look round local markets and crafts fairs for budget buys or unusual trinkets. I've found some bargains for my kids' stockings on markets like mobile phone covers, items of underwear or small pieces of jewellery.
Last year I managed to find some stylish knitwear on a market in the Costa del Sol and surprisingly my daughters liked the items too!
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Shop round for great deals on Xmas foods
Budgeting for Xmas food and gift purchases
Just like my Christmas gifts, I start buying my festive food and drink early. I did order a hamper for Christmas some years ago, but was quite disappointed with the food provided.
Now I tend to stock my Christmas food cupboards from a range of outlets. This year I've managed to buy two large tins of chocolates for £8, a variety of tinned foods including lumpfish caviar (which my kids have never tried and it's really cheap from my local supermarket), some frozen desserts and snacks, discounted boxes of chocolates from a local news retailer and have stocked up on mince pies and some bottles of alcohol on offer at supermarkets. I always opt for cava now instead of champagne, it's so much cheaper and tastes virtually the same, especially when it's in a Bucks Fizz. The only trouble with buying mince pies early is that my son is addicted to them, so they're unlikely to make it to Christmas!
I used to order fresh meat and luxury desserts from M&S every year, but now find the variety of continental meats, fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh or frozen specialty Christmas meats and desserts on offer at my local Aldi are not only great for my budget but also fairly high quality. For 2013 we'll be eating goose, turkey and gammon or pork as our main meats. A friend is giving me a few slices of goose breast to try out as I've never had it before. The unsmoked gammon joint on sale in Aldi for 2013 is a little like a reconstituted piece of meat (I know because I bought it on 14 December!), so I will probably buy a better piece of gammon from another store.
I've made my own Christmas pudding and two Christmas cakes, although they probably worked out more expensive than buying from stores the quality will be much higher.
There's no point spending loads of money on Christmas shopping in the run up to the holiday, in my opinion, here in the UK the major food stores are only closed for a day and it's so stressful running round filling trolleys with goodies and waiting in massive queues to pay.
Planning and organizing my Christmas celebrations well in advance helps me budget for the festive season and it also lifts my spirits over the dull autumn and winter months as I get out and about around local shopping centers and markets regularly. The other positive aspect of course is that I don't have to spend hours in traffic jams or pushing my way through hordes of Christmas shoppers for my festive goodies.
How to sugar glaze fruits
Sugar glazed fruits
Sugar glazing fruits is a simple process and merely involves coating fresh fruits with the sugared glaze. The glaze adds a crystal-iced appearance to the fruits, making them look like they're covered in winter frosts. Simply package your glazed fruits in a wicker basket, cover with cellophane and tie with a bright bow and you'll give a Christmas gift that looks great and is sure to be appreciated..
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© 2013 Dawn Denmar