Saving for Christmas -My Plan
Why am I talking to you about Christmas now?
I know, I know. It's been a particularly hot summer around here and I appreciate that for many of you there might be other holidays before Christmas that you still need to get through before you can get into the mood.
Personally, expecting the arrival of baby #2 shortly before the Big Day, my hormonal and newly frugal mind couldn't help making several plans how the run-up to Christmas will be special for #1 without being a strain on the plastic.
I say this because, truth be told, last year was a little bit of a turning point in my relationship with Christmas. It was the first time we had invited the family over to ours and even though people had contributed to the cost of all food and drink we consumed over the holidays, it cost a lot more than I had thought possible. Add the presents, the tree, some arts and crafts supplies for presents and cards, the wrapping paper, the visits to Christmas markets and odd bits of decoration purchased and you are looking at a considerable percentage of our monthly income spent on a three day period.
Was it worth it? As much as I loved hosting and for the first time ever having Christmas the way I always pictured it, starting 2018 didn't seem as great as it should have. Enter the master plan...
Do you need to win the lottery to afford Christmas?
No, I promise, you don't really need extra income to prepare. But you should definitely consult the ghost of Christmasses past - or, as you might choose to call it, your past bank/credit card statements.
As always with budgeting, you need to be honest with yourself and factor everything that you usually spend money on in the run-up to and the Big Day itself. How much do you spend on average on your Christmas presents? Are you a Christmas card sender? How much did your last Christmas dinner come to? With the internet going wild for Hygge, how many candles and hot chocolates did you go through?
I'm not going to say this is how much your Christmas should come to because the way we celebrate is so individual. But what I have done for us this year is to divide all these costs up into categories: there's food, presents and everything else Christmas spirit-y (we are talking the tree, decorations, crafts and outings here).
Now all you do is to divide the average spend you've seen for these categories by 12 and you will know how much you need to put away into your piggybank, savings jar or envelope system every month for a year.
For us, this is turning out to be a pain-free way of squirelling away the costs we paid for Christmasses past - and it feels great knowing that come December, the money will be there.
Is that all you've done?
No, not quite, though the plan would probably work quite well if you solely based it on the average spending of previous years. I have actually gone a bit further than that and, if you are a planner or just a pregnant woman with a due date close to Christmas like me, this might be something you want to do, too.
Sit down in summer and plan what Christmas presents everybody will get. It's not a joke but due to my growing bump I'm planning to start getting the first preparations done in October already - and maybe, so my theory, this is something we all should do to have a more laid back December.
If you put a plan together in summer you have time to research and watch price fluctuations for your chosen presents. But, more importantly, you still have time to try and find a make-your-own alternative. For example, this year, my little one will get a teepee and even though I had eyed up a lovely one on Etsy for months, countless instructions on the internet advised me that it is actually easy enough to make my own. I have researched the cost of material and even with really good-quality canvas, I'm looking at about half the price.
My Christmas-plan has also led me to ask myself if our present-buying might have been over the top the last few years. Having a young child, I have asked myself how many gifts are too many gifts every time there's a gift-giving day on the horizon. For Christmas and birthdays, I've decided to stick to the following formular: one "winner" (that means something they really, really wanted and are going to love), one experience-based gift, one thing they need (think a lovely set of PJs or another garment) and one treat (a book or DVD, a generous amount of chocolates, whatever works).
Since becoming a mum, I've decided that the grown-ups in our lives will only receive home-made gifts going forward. This way, I'm hoping to keep the magic of Christmas alive a bit longer for our children: they can be included in the creation of meaningful gifts while we as a family avoid the shops. If asked, I can explain that Father Christmas only gives to children and that this is why we go through the effort of making gifts for our relatives.
But if I'm being honest, a lot of the time I feel that gift-giving has gotten out of control. In the past, I have received and handed out so many presents that were bought simply because of a feeling of obligation. And as far as I'm concerned, that is an empty gesture that only clutters up everybody's homes. I'm planning to be honest with the people in question (who tend to be people we don't really see for Christmas anyway) and opt for a mutual stop to gift-giving.
I'd also say that the same goes for decorations. There's no need to buy them on an annual basis. If you get bored with your colour scheme, for example, you could always swap with a friend or relative for a year. But if you have decorations that really mean something to you (think family hand-me-downs), then you are not really in any danger here. I can recommend making your own, there's so many tutorials how to decorate baubles or put together other ornaments that you can have a totally unique tree you won't tire of looking at.
Remember when I said you didn't need to win the lottery...
...that is still the case, however, if your household income is currently not as great as it used to be/could be and your struggling to make ends meet, this plan alone is not going to sound super helpful. I realise that.
You could look, however, at using some (more ore less) low-effort sidelines and putting the money you earn from there specifically towards Christmas. Are you familiar with Swagbucks, for example? If not, check out my article here for an overview of what it is: https://hubpages.com/money/Is-Swagbucks-actually-worth-it
This is something I'm doing myself quite successfully at the moment to bolster our budget for presents. In just a few weeks I have earned €60 worth of Amazon vouchers which will go a long way. Should I keep earning at this rate (which is unlikely as my success depended on cashback earned on out of the ordinary higher cost items) then our presents could be almost completely covered.
If you are a more experienced contributor to Hubpages and have some income from your articles, then you might also be able to set that money aside specifically for Christmas.
But definitely check out other posts online - side hustles are so in right now that everyone can find an additional income stream. Just bear in mind that side hustles might be taxable so always do your research first.
Over to you...
Do you save for Christmas?
© 2018 Sarah