Christmas for free?
Oh I know - I'm sure I've said this many times before, but I LOVE Christmas!
I also HATE debt as much.
Back in the old days, when we were both teachers and had a big house, two cars, holidays, dinner parties, etc.,etc. in addition to our mortgage we had 'little' debts - credit card, loan for a car, loan to extend house...
But for a long time now I can see the horror of debt and we don't have any.
Now, we rent a little house, and save up for anything else. We have a healthy contingency fund and live completely 'below the line'.
So how do we manage Christmas? Buying gifts, having decorations, rich luxurious food, bottles of wine....we love to have these things at this time of year.
Without going into debt, this is how we do it:
- I have a large box into which I gather and save gifts all year round. Spoiler alert - one gift that some people are receiving this year is a set of two designer tea-towels. These were on special offer earlier in the year and I bought some sets then.
- I have a fund that I put cash into each month for large gifts for the grandkids and kids. I operate the plan that these four (plus Man Wonderful) have a larger gift plus smaller ones at Christmas.
- The local shop has a savings stamp scheme. It pays back at a 4% profit - you fill in 48 stamps and it pays out £50 in the month of December. Every.single.time we visit there (it's a Coop) I buy a £1 saving stamp. We use these completed cards to buy special food, wine for gifts and to fill two hampers for the kids. We also use this cash to add to the homeless collection box. It feels like free because we paid throughout the year and hardly noticed that £1 each visit. I have also, in the past, given the kids a completed card within their gift hamper. They can then spend £50 on whatever food items they'd like.
- I buy Christmas-specific items in January. Yes. It's the best time of year to buy wrapping paper. You can also pick up wee stocking-fillers. This year I got a pack of Christmas rubbers and pencils, and some playing-card sized Christmas jokes. These cards have formed part of my gift tags.
- I have a Christmas notebook that sits within my paperbacks on the top shelf (away from Grandkids' reach!). I have a list of who I want to give gifts to, an idea of the gift and a tickbox for when I have completed this. This makes it really easy to buy across the year.
- I keep a list of who gifted to us the previous Christmas; who to write cards to, etc.
It's actually very easy, and although it is still the same amount of outgoing, because it is spread across the year it does not dent the budget at all. No sudden spending.
It may be too late for this year for anyone - but I do hope it will ease things for someone reading today.