The unsettling presence of festive tins and mince pies creeping onto the supermarket shelves while it’s still a warm sunny day outside, is a harrowing reminder that, like it or not, Christmas is just around the corner.
Specifically, 100 days away.
For lots of us, it’s an unwelcome reminder. Christmas is an expensive time of year, and against the cost-of-living crisis, many feel under pressure.
With just 14 weeks to go until 25 December, metro.co.uk spoke to social media finance guru Gemma Bird, aka Money Mum, about how we can avoid breaking the bank.
‘It is not worth getting yourself in debt over,’ says Gemma. ‘Christmas is about the little ones and about getting together with loved ones and having a meal together.
‘All the time I hear that people are getting stressed about Christmas. And I reiterate that it is one day of the year. ‘
Here, Gemma shares her money-saving advice on how we can all spend that little less on gifts, decorations and food:
- When it comes to toys for young children, going to NCT newly-new sales for toys can be a brilliant resource. Or you can talk to other parents with different ages about toy swapping. This works really well for kids five years old and under as they don’t notice if something is in a box or is second hand.
- Charity shops are brilliant for puzzles and games for children. Poundland, the Works and B&M have a section where you can buy loads of little bits.
- For grandparents and older relatives, you can save a lot of money with a homemade present. You can get a picture frame in Poundland, get some pretty paper and some glitter and create your own gift. You can decorate it with handprints – little ones love doing that – and it becomes a keepsake for the relatives and a really personal gift.
- Facebook Marketplace is a great place to look for toys. People give stuff away for next to nothing on there.
- Speak to friends and family about not buying for them. If you cut out aunts and uncles you can save a lot. I haven’t bought for my brother and sister for years and my husband Adam and I never buy for each other. We’d rather invest that money for the kids’ future or spend it on a holiday.
- When my son Brody was five, I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. He told me he wanted 15 presents. So I went to Poundland and bought him 15 things: little bugs, pots of slime, colouring pencils – and he was so happy! They just like unwrapping stuff. They don’t care what’s inside.
- Older kids are more expensive. If they are asking for X-boxes and things like that, speak to grandparents and ask them to put £50 in each to make it a combined present.
- Hunt around your house and be point savvy. Do you have old gift cards you haven’t used that you can spend on presents? And use your points that you have built up throughout the year. My Christmas food shop comes out of my Tesco club card points so it doesn’t cost me any more.
- Set a budget and stick to it. I do that today, even though I am in a better financial situation. And stick to a budget that suits you.
- When thinking about budgets, remember how much things cost in terms of time. If someone gives you a gift at Christmas that costs £20, and they earn £20,000 a year, it has taken them around two hours to earn you that gift. What’s your equivalent?
- If you are shopping online, make sure you have an app called Honey. Every time you go to checkout on any shop, it searches the web for any discount and automatically puts it in. I’ve saved hundreds using it!
- When it comes to food, make sure you’re being non-branded. At the end of the day it is one day of the year. Think of it as a Sunday roast. Buy what you usually would and switch the turkey out for a chicken to save a lot of money. Do lots of vegetables and potatoes because they’re cheap. You don’t need to spend millions.
- Try to resist the temptation to do a massive buffet in the evening. People are full anyway; they don’t need smoked salmon and an expensive cheese board. So much food doesn’t even get eaten. Just get some crisps and dips and nuts in.
- I’m making money at the moment by having a big clear out and selling things on Vinted. I make about £100 a week by selling clothes, toiletries and the odd toy and I will use that to buy Christmas presents.
- Look in your wardrobe before buying a new party outfit. It may be that you’ve already got a black dress that you can add different accessories too. No-one is going to remember what you wore a year ago, and even if they do, no-body cares. Or swap clothes with your friends and look in charity shops.
- When it comes to decorations, balloons are really cheap and they can look great in your tree. You can cut them in half, put them over your existing baubles and get a brand new colour. Or you can blow balloons up and put them in your tree and they look like giant baubles. Make sure you don’t have lights that burn though. It needs to be safe.
- You can get an inexpensive wreath from B&M to go on your door, and then double it up with a candle for a table decoration. That will work year in, year out.
- And look for free places to meet Santa! You don’t always have to pay.
Money mum’s quick money saving plan:
There are 14 weeks until Christmas, so think about where you can possibly make savings. Can you cut back on takeout coffee or weekend treats anywhere? It’s not possible for everyone, but definitely worth thinking about when you consider this:
Put £5 a week away and you’ll save £70
Put £10 a week away you’ll save £140
Put £15 a week away you’ll save £210
Put £20 a week away you’ll save £280
Gemma, who lives in Essex with her partner and two children, adds that although she is financially comfortable now and has paid off her mortgage, years of scrimping and saving have left their mark. Even now, she says, she is careful about what she spends.
‘People say to me every single day that they’re worried about money, that they’re in debt, that they’ve not told anyone, that it’s getting worse,’ she adds. ‘My best advice is go and speak to somebody. Speak to your bank, or your building society and they can do something about all those charges. Speak to a best friend, a family member or Citizens Advice.
‘And if it’s got really bad, you can talk to Step Change who can put a debt plan in place for you.’
‘Kids don’t need millions of toys and you don’t need to get yourself into debt. I’m very blessed now. But I still have not changed the way I do things and the way I save small amounts because I’d rather put it away.
I don’t want the kids to be spoiled. We make Christmas cheap. In the days when we were really hard up, I did a roast dinner that cost around £80. And it was just as magical. Everyone was happy.’
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