Since it’s December 1, so why don’t we celebrate the start of advent calendars with a Christmas-themed post? After spending the last 12 months flitting between living frugally and saving every penny for travelling, and having a cheeky blow-out here and there – I seem to have struck a good balance between splashing out and holding on to my cash. It’s amazing actually to note the differences between my whole attitude towards spending now compared to a year ago – before I would just pop out on my lunch-break most days and “treat myself” to something for the sake of buying something simply because I worked in town. Now, I still like to buy myself nice things, but I seem to have gained a lot of perspective on how I want to spend my money – in short, I’ve really realised the value of my hard work and the limited funds I earn. How did I do it? Well after booking my travels, I started thinking about every penny I spent in terms of what I would get for it in Thailand or Australia. I realised that paying £50 for a new dress for one night out was ridiculous if that could pay for five night’s accommodation in Asia.
It’s amazing when you start thinking like that how it can affect what you spend – and it doesn’t just work for the travellers among us. If you’re saving for a house deposit you could easily think of what you are spending in terms of the freedom and space you will get. For example, one weekend away with the girls can get you away from from living with your parents for two nights, but it could also put away between £2-300 towards a deposit. Or for those saving up to buy a new car, you could think in terms of buying lunch for work every day costs around £25 a week, maybe more, and over a month that small cutback could save you over £100. Over 12 months that runs up to £1,200 and before you know it you’ve saved a huge wedge of money towards it by just making packed lunches. Wow.
With Christmas coming up quick, everyone is making lists for Santa and proclaiming they’ve been good all year. But what happens if you’re saving hard for something special like me? If you’re planning to start your new year with a bang by travelling the world, buying a house or a new car, or getting married – Christmas can seem like a bit of a scary prospect if you have a lot of people to buy for. And let’s be honest, not many of us manage to put a bit aside each month in preparation, or to spread the cost over a few months of shopping. I’m normally a lot better organised, but I’ve had so much going on lately that all my Christmas shopping is happening in December this year. This year however, that doesn’t phase me one bit and you know why? It’s because I’ve firmly decided that this year, unlike last year, I am not spending the earth on gifts. My friends and family all understand that I will be cutting back a lot this year because of my travels, and many of them have used it as an excuse to do the same.
How am I cutting back this Christmas – and how can you do the same?
- Prioritising who you buy for is important. I’ve been known to buy everyone I’ve ever met a gift, whether I am actually friends with a person or not. What’s the point? I’ve cut it back to close family and friends this year.
- Spend time with people. Christmas can be a great time to catch up with lots of different circles of friends while you’re all off work and people would much rather spend time with you than have a faceless gift.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. Slightly contradicting number two – it’s okay if you don’t have the money to pay for all the meals, drinks and nights out, and it’s okay if you fancy a night in front of the television.
- Don’t buy useless crap. I have one rule about Christmas – that I never buy rubbish for the sake of giving a present. I refuse to give half-hearted gifts – you know the bath sets etc, when I can give something special and individual.
- Be thoughtful. A thoughtful gift you have spent ages creating means far more than a rubbish gift set – think photo albums, scrapbooks, something personalised and special. They’re often not even that expensive but mean so much more.
- Make an agreement. If you and all your girls are hard up for cash – why not agree to do Secret Santa as a group, or decide that no-one does gifts and instead spend some money on a meal out or a night in together?
- Buy people things to do. Some of the nicest gifts I’ve had have been gig tickets from my boyfriend, a spa day with my mum, or afternoon tea with the “mother-in-law” because they were an opportunity to spend time with people, and can cost as much or little as you want.
- Get crafty. It’s so easy to make decorations, Christmas cards or even gifts, plus it can save you a lot of money. My mum and I cut up Christmas cards each year and use them as labels for wrapping. It also makes your offerings that much more unique.
- Get in the kitchen. I love being off at Christmas and having time to bake mince pies and other Christmas goodies. They make amazing presents and are so fun to make. Try out gingerbread men, jams and chutneys.
- Remember your Christmas spirit. Most importantly, remember what the spirit of Christmas is all about – not money and things, but being around the people you love, full tummies and smiling faces – that’s all that matters at the end of the day.
Any tips for cutting back this Christmas?