That’s right, I mean Christmas. I know it’s only October but there’s definitely merit to thinking about Christmas already. It’s such a hectic and expensive time of the year and I believe that a little pre-planning helps hugely in ensuring a happy, relaxed festive period, without breaking the bank.
For people paid at the end of each month, employers sometimes bring the December pay date forward. Although this might seem ideal, it actually makes January a very long month when you still have the usual ‘necessities‘ to pay for as well as any last-minute Christmas and New Year’s spending.
Try to put a bit of money aside on September and October pay dates to help towards Christmas costs. It really does help relieve the burden from having to spend most of your November pay on Christmas-related outgoings. And definitely helps you to avoid spending on credit cards and being lumbered with debt heading into each new year.
Parties & Get Togethers
The cost of work parties and get togethers with family and friends can mount up very quickly. New outfits, dinners, drinks, taxis and all the other expenses add up when you’re trying to catch up with and spend time with the important people in your life over Christmas.
I’m not fashion-conscious in any way so it doesn’t bother me to wear clothes I already own, or to buy one new item and then wear it more than once during the same festive season. Whether like me, or whether you’re much more fashion-focused, classic items which can be dressed up with accessories are a great option. I love Zara for quality clothing which lasts ages. I also love Primark for cheap but stand-out jewellery (honestly, I get more compliments on an £11 Primark necklace than I do for any other piece of jewellery I own!).
Set a budget for a night out, take the cash out in advance and leave the cards at home. This stops any over-spending and by making a plan and sticking to a budget, there will still be money left by the time you get to New Year’s Eve.
If you have lots of friends to catch up with, hosting a pot-luck style dinner is a really great way to have a fun get together without paying inflated restaurant prices for Christmas-themed set menus or having to book really far in advance just to get a decent time slot for a table big enough for your group. There are different ways to do a pot-luck dinner but suggest that every guest brings some drink and a dish so that everyone contributes a little bit. It’s definitely cheaper than eating out, saving not only on food but most definitely on drink. Just make sure to coordinate whether people will bring a starter, a main or a dessert so you’re not serving up an entire evening of desserts….hang on, is that a bad thing?!
Travel over Christmas and New Year is never easy. But don’t let it be stressful, it just isn’t worth it. We know that trains and buses run on reduced or revised schedules. These get released ahead of time so make sure to check out your route and schedule well-ahead of your travel date, and then double check the various reliable travel sites on the day too.
I live by the BBC Travel website as it gives really up-to-the-minute info about road and motorway issues (and rail too, although I’ve never used it for that). It makes such a difference to the stress levels to be able to plan travel to allow additional time or to take an alternative route.
I love to give a mix of bought and made gifts and this week I’ve started thinking about what I want to make so that I’ll have enough time and won’t be rushing last-minute. Sometimes the made element is just a big batch of Christmas biscuits which I bag or box up for each recipient and sometimes I’ll make things which are more individual to each member of my family. I’ve picked my crochet hook back up again in recent weeks and am really enjoying that so maybe I’ll start looking for patterns to give me some inspiration.
Whether you’re buying gifts or making them, Pinterest is my absolute go-to for inspiration. I’m always so amazed at the wonderful ideas found on there – just remember to make your boards private if you know your recipients use Pinterest too and therefore might see what you’re planning!
If you shop for gifts, make use of sites such as Quidco which give you cashback at so many online and high-street stores. I have a plug-in on my browser for Quidco so if I go to a site which I could get cashback on then I get a pop-up letting me know.
For unique gifts, look out for local craft and gift fairs or visit your local independent shops. We’re lucky that Birmingham has loads of amazing independents that sell pretty much every type of item you’d want to give as a gift, from coffee, chocolates, wine and whiskey, to ornaments, jewellery and so much more. Search Birmingham’s independent directory here.
I hope my thoughts and tips help make your Christmastime a bit more relaxed and a lot more fun.
What are your top tips for a stress-free, fun Christmas and New Year’s? Leave a comment or tweet me @amiilau.