Loose Change

Loose change: Christmas… A time for joy, not spending

Loose change Christmas time for joy not spending

Loose change is the space for Money bloggers to vent on their finance frustrations. This week Lesley from ThriftyLesley.com wants to spread season’s greetings, not festive debt.

People are starting to talk about the Christmas season for 2016 now, maybe you are too. If you are struggling to make ends meet, November and December can be a very stressful time. Thoughts may turn to how the hell you are going to be able to afford to give the kids a good Christmas.

Most people equate a good Christmas to one where the tree has multiple gifts for everyone, Santa has visited and the festive dining table is groaning with huge amounts of food. Fair enough.

Or is it? November and December can easily be spent in an absolute frenzy of spending with hundreds and hundreds of £’s being put on a credit card. Oh the joy of finding the perfect gift for elderly Uncle John, so difficult to buy for, or pouncing on that elusive must have toy this year for a small child. Then there is the grocery shopping, trolleys piled mega high with so much you will struggle to use all the leftovers.

And then, THEN, there is January. I was still paying mine off in the summer most years for the December binge fest. I SO loved giving people great gifts and catering for feasts. Oh the horror of running out of something. Anything!

I love Christmas, always have. I adore the special family time, the intimacy of family gatherings, the fun, the laughter, the feasting, and yes the exchange of gifts.

You’re spending too much

But here’s the thing, you really, really, REALLY don’t have to overspend to achieve a wonderfully special time. And it’s certainly a crap idea to go into debt or overspend for it. And as for payday loans to pay for it, well, I can get SERIOUSLY sweary about that particular ‘solution’. When it comes down to it, for Christmas, for Valentines, for birthdays, we want the people we love to feel special, to feel loved by us, maybe even to feel cherished. And money ain’t the solution to that, never was. If the period after the celebration is spent being worried sick about the overspending, where’s the love, or the joy, in that.

Many of our Christmas traditions were invented in Victorian times, often by Dickens. And they have been taken, and amplified, many times over, by retailers. Christmas is the main revenue production time for them. But whoa, where is the rule, the proscription, and who says, that you have to do…. any of it?

When was your best Christmas?

Now I’m going to ask you to have a little think. Go back into the memory banks and retrieve the feelings you experienced for a most special time in your life. One where you felt amazing. It’s odds on that what was making you feel amazing wasn’t the amount of money that had been spent. Even on your wedding day, for those that have had one, at bottom, I contend that it was marrying your love that would have done it.

Think back to those childhood Christmases. Was it the toy of the year you remember; the 17 hours Mum spent in the kitchen, making everything perfect; all those leftovers? Or was it playing in the giant cardboard box; sitting on a warm lap all afternoon watching a lovely film and eating more chocolate than is good for you; playing endless charades or board games; getting the decorations down from the loft and decorating the Christmas tree, or that first mince pie.

Think before you buy

And those difficult to buy for relatives? I wouldn’t think that they really want more socks, handkerchiefs or padded coat hangers. They might enjoy a little hamper of small pots of favourite jams, pickles and conserves. And no, of course you don’t have to make them if you don’t enjoy it.

Or take an afternoon tea round to theirs and talk to them, or possibly more to the point, listen to them. Or take them out to the pub for lunch, or ask them round for lunch, or take the makings, go to theirs and chat, cook and eat. Take the kids to see grandparents and let them spend time together.

And Santa? That delicious scrunch of a stuffed sock doesn’t need to contain expensive items to be exciting and memorable. Minimal gift-giving might involve a stocking with a tangerine in the toe, a few walnuts, some inexpensive little things/small toys. Even surly teenagers and adults might enjoy a stuffed stocking.

Put some thought into your gift-giving

Then for the main gift, have one to one time with a child / partner doing something they want to do. Present it nicely as a voucher. Or write out some coupons with a promise to make a favourite meal, watch a film, home done manicure, wash the car, clean the bathroom, spend three hours playing minecraft with them. That kind of thing.

Maybe have a picnic. Pack some soup in a flask, some nice bread and some brownies or something, we’re not talking Fortnum and Masons. Then crunch along the beach and get some colour in your cheeks, run along the cliff top, race round the lake, wherever you are, enjoy the company of who you’re with.

For any special occasion, set the budget you have available, and spend that, and only that. It does NOT matter that you don’t have Christmas serviettes, matching crockery or every possible seasonal goodie. And if you don’t have a budget because you’re skint?

There are dozens and dozens of ideas on blogs and Pinterest for gifts and treats that cost little or nothing. One of my most treasured possessions is a love letter that was written as a Christmas gift when we were broke one year. It cost a lot to write, but no cash. The people you love usually want to spend time with you, to chat, to laugh, to talk, to listen, and to be listened to.

Get the kids involved in doing 12 days of Christmas. 1 Christmas tree, 2 ornaments to put on it, 3 Christmas crackers, 4 Christmas cards, 5 (has to be) gold rings, which they could make, 6 snowflakes made out of paper, newspaper if necessary, Happy Christmas in 7 different languages, etc.

Please, don’t spend more than you can afford

I hope I have given you some ideas on how to show your love and affection without spending any money. If you are new to living on a tight budget, please try to bear in mind that it really is the thought that counts in situations like these. You really really really DO NOT HAVE TO SPEND ANY MONEY AT ALL if you can’t afford it. Please do not get sucked into the idea that it doesn’t count unless you have bought an expensive gift and splashed out on far too much food.

If you want practicalities around catering, have a look at Thrifty Lesley where there are several week long meal plan festive food suggestions at around £1.30’ish each per day.

Lesley blogs about her life and frugal foodie ways at Thriftylesley.com

Thrifty Lesley

Loose change is a space for bloggers to get something off their chest. The views in this article are not necessarily the same as UK Money Bloggers or other bloggers in the community.


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