Countdown to Christmas

Let’s talk about Christmas (or other year end celebrations you do in your family) . I know what you’re thinking: Christmas???? We’re in August, I am still deciding whether I should go on a holiday… But it’s coming, in only 4 month from now.

A few numbers from Christmas 2019*: In the UK, each person spent on average over £800 on Christmas! £800! For a bank holiday. Luxurious weekends and week long holidays can cost less.

So yes, it’s not too early to talk about Christmas and how to plan it. Let’s start with a few memories.

What did you get for Christmas last year?

What do you remember most fondly about Christmas last year?

A few years ago, our family sat around a table, full bellies, a little bit drunk, unpacking our gifts, when my brother said 

“I don’t even remember what I got last year from you all.” 

To which my mum replied “Me neither, I just remember the entire night playing cards, laughing and then Liam telling his bad jokes that no one understands”. 

And we all started sharing our favourite memories about it.

That was the moment when we as a family realised we don’t even care about the presents, and much more about having a lovely meal and night together. That this is already a big privilege and doesn’t need stuff on top.
We decided there and then to stop the regular present giving ceremony and to do a Secret Santa next year. So instead of each of us buying a present for all 5 others (we are 6), we draw a name. So everyone gives one present and receives one present. We share a wish list around prior, so that the one present is a hit.

We have done this ever since (year 4 this year), it saved so much money and so much stress!

Going back to the 2 questions I asked above. Can you answer them easily? Which one was easier to answer? This will help you figure out what is most important to you about Christmas.

A Secret Santa is obviously not the universal solution for paring down on Christmas gifts and doesn’t work for all families. Other ideas could be: Gifts for children and none for adults, agreeing on a budget per present (as small as £10, like a book or a voucher). Also, think about other spendings over Christmas, such as decorations and going out and on dinners. Many doom vouchers for Christmas (perceived as lazy gift), I think they’re clever, as the recipient can then choose what he/she likes!

Planning early will help you. Install a sinking fund. If you want to spend a certain amount on Christmas (e.g. £400), divide this amount by 4 (if you start planning now) and put £100 away every month to spread the cost evenly.

Once you start buying things for Christmas, make the habit to keep all receipts. Then you can assess afterwards how much Christmas really cost you.

For me with the lockdown and all we went through this year and the feeling of doom and illness lurking around, physical gifts have lost even more importance. But gift giving and receiving is important for many, and there are ways to make it work without going into debt.

How much do you spend for Christmas and how do you budget & make it work? Are you happy with how your Christmases play out? Thinking about this early might help you being organised and save some money & stress.

*https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/knowledgebank/how-much-do-we-spend-at-christmas

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