Monday, December 12, 2016

This Christmas I'm Not Buying Any....

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...Christmas Craft Materials

I've already got enough yarn, fabric, card-making supplies and other Christmas craft materials to last me for at least 3 years, if not longer. So, I've decided I won't buy any new materials for my Christmas projects this year. I'll use up as many of my materials as I can.

...Christmas Gift Tags

I've made my own Christmas gift tags for the past few years and have already made more than enough for this year by upcycling Christmas cards.

...Christmas Cards (well, except for 2)

My Christmas cards are either hand-made or selected from a box of unused Christmas cards that I've bought in recent years. I also send Christmas e-cards.

This year, I bought just 2 new Christmas cards, which expressed the exact sentiments I wanted to send to the recipients.

Last year, I didn't buy any Christmas Decorations

I decided that we'd make do with the decorations we already had. This year, I've bought a few cute hand-crafted decorations from small local businesses.

Reasons to Decide Not to Buy Something This Christmas

  1. It stops you from wasting money on things you don't really need. If you've set an intention not to buy anything from a certain category of Christmas items, you'll make do with what you already have and be able to spend more of your budget in other areas, such as food and presents.
  2. It helps put the brakes on when you're tempted to get carried away by the Christmas atmosphere and spend money on things that look nice.
  3. It encourages you to be mindful when shopping and think twice before buying something.
  4. It enables you to be grateful for what you already have and make good use of everything that's already stored in your home.
  5. It reduces the clutter in your home and you'll need less storage space to store your Christmas items once January has arrived.
Do you decide not to buy items in certain categories? Do you have any tips or tricks for not buying Christmas trappings you don't really need?

Friday, December 9, 2016

Create a Memorable Christmas for Your Children – on a Budget

Photo credit: Cathryn040 via

As parents, it can be tempting to think that our children's enjoyment of Christmas is directly related to the amount of money we spend on them. However, this is not necessarily the case.

With a little effort, you can create special Christmas memories for your children on even the tightest of budgets.

You can make Christmas fun and exciting for your children even if you don’t have a lot of money to spend.

Prepare for Christmas with Your Children

In the run-up to Christmas, involve your children in every aspect of the preparations. This will help them feel that their contributions are valued and it will increase the sense of anticipation. 

Instead of buying new Christmas decorations, make simple decorations with your children using materials that you already have. From paper chains to paper plate angels, plenty of ideas and inspiration can be found online.

Ask your children to decorate an inexpensive roll of brown Kraft paper using coloring pens. It can then be used as Christmas wrapping paper, exhibiting your children’s artwork to family and friends. 

Children can also design and make their own Christmas cards, gift tags, and such items as Christmas bonbons or crackers can also be handmade.

If you bake Christmas cake, mince pies, cookies and other delicacies before Christmas, let your children help during each baking session, even if it means that your kitchen becomes very messy! 

When the sweet treats are in the oven, you can encourage the children to help clean up the mess by promising them a freshly baked reward!

Keep to a Budget When Shopping for Children's Christmas Presents

When shopping for Christmas presents for your children, set a total budget and keep to it. 

Look for good, less expensive substitutes for some of the presents on their wish lists. For example, if your son would like the latest toy, look for a less expensive, similar toy that he would like just as much, or, if you're comfortable with giving him a good quality, second hand toy, look online or in thrift stores for such a toy. 

In addition, buy a selection of small presents inexpensively from Christmas fairs, eBay and thrift stores.

Don't be afraid to buy your children items that they need for Christmas. For example, if your daughter has just grown out of her winter coat, it is fine to buy her a new one as a Christmas present.

Organize a Christmas Treasure Hunt

Make Christmas Day more exciting by hiding each child’s presents in different parts of the house and organizing a treasure hunt. 

You can tell younger children that Santa Claus left presents in all kinds of places and gave Mommy and Daddy clues so that they can help the children to find them. Give older children written clues to follow by themselves.

This makes the whole process of gift giving much more exciting than sitting down by the Christmas tree and ripping open all of their presents in five minutes flat.

Don't become upset or feel guilty if your children complain that they didn't receive what they wanted for Christmas. 

They will be learning the valuable lesson that a happy, joy-filled family Christmas is a much better gift than a roomful of expensive presents. 

Give as a Family

If possible, involve your children in some charitable activity at Christmas, such as sending gifts to children in orphanages in developing countries. 

This will help them to understand that there are some children in the world who have very little and who are grateful for even the smallest gift at Christmas.

So, keep to your budget, involve your children in all of the Christmas preparations, organize a fun-filled Christmas Day and, if possible, encourage the whole family to participate in a charitable project. 

This should ensure that your children have a joyful Christmas that they'll remember for the rest of their lives. This is a much better gift than a pile of expensive toys and designer clothes.

Do you have any other tips for creating a memorable family Christmas on a budget?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Plan Ahead for a Happy and Affordable Christmas

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It's very easy to overspend in the run-up to Christmas. Almost everyone spends money on new Christmas decorations or other items they don't really need. 

The good news is that, with a little careful planning and preparation, you can reduce unnecessary spending and still enjoy a great festive season.

Find Christmas Items You Already Have 

Before you do anything else, hunt through all your closets and search your basement, garage and any other storage places in your home. 

Take out everything that relates to Christmas and put it one place. You may find that you have some or all of the following:

  • Christmas decorations
  • Artificial Christmas trees
  • Christmas cards
  • Christmas wrapping paper, tags, ribbon, scotch tape and other gift wrapping essentials
  • Christmas crackers (bon-bons)
  • Unwanted Christmas gifts.
Make the Most of What You Have

Look at each item and decide whether you will:

  • Use it in its current state
  • Adapt it and use it, or:
  • Give or throw it away
Don't be too quick to decide to give or throw things away. 

There are many ways to adapt items you already have. For example, if you no longer like the Christmas cards you bought last year, why not cut out individual designs from each card and use them to make gift tags, handmade Christmas cards or wrapping paper?

If old Christmas crackers (bon-bons) look out of date, you can dismantle them, cut out the Christmas designs and take out the toys, jokes and paper hats. Use the toys as small stocking fillers. Paste the jokes onto small pieces of card and add Christmas stickers to make a fun Christmas gift tag.

Cut up the paper hats and use the brightly-colored paper to make other Christmas items. You could, for instance, use them in your Christmas card making activities. One idea is to cut a green paper hat into fairly small rectangles, scrunch up the pieces and stick them within the outline of a Christmas tree drawn on a blank card.

Uncover Unwanted Gifts

If you find any unwanted Christmas gifts from previous years around your home, consider passing them on this year. If you're uncomfortable with doing this, sell them on eBay or at a local sale and use the money raised to buy new gifts.    

Hunt for Seasonal Groceries

In the kitchen, go through all your cupboards and take out anything you can use during the festive season, including:
  • foil
  • greaseproof paper/baking parchment
  • herbs and spices
  • canned food. 
You may be amazed at how many canned foods you have that can be put to good use over the Christmas period with a little imagination! Put all the items you've collected into one special Christmas store cupboard.

Next, seek out all the alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks you have available to use over the festive season. Include wine, beer, spirits, mixers, cordials, sodas and any other drinks that you might have. Put these in a separate storage place.

Write a Christmas List

Once you've sorted everything out and got rid of any unwanted items, you're ready to start writing your Christmas list. 

Make a list of everything you don't have and will need to buy for this year’s festive season. Break your list into categories, including:

  • Christmas gifts
  • Christmas cards
  • Christmas wrapping paper, tags, tape and other wrapping essentials
  • Christmas tree
  • Christmas decorations
  • Food
  • Drink.
It's a good idea to write and save your list on your laptop or smartphone. Next year, you can just update this year's list.

Set a Budget

Set a budget, either for each item, or a total budget for spending on each category on your list.

Go Shopping

Start shopping once you've finished your list, but try not to be enticed by the lovely displays in the stores and buy more than is on your list. 

Try and keep to your budget when you're shopping and don't get carried away by the Christmas atmosphere! 

A good way of keeping to your budget is to do a lot of your Christmas shopping online. That way, you're less likely to make impulse purchases and overspend.

Enjoy a Happy and Affordable Christmas!

Planning ahead for Christmas will help you make the most of the festive season without overspending. Christmas is much more enjoyable if you don't have to worry about paying for it in the New Year.

Do you have any other money-saving ways of planning ahead for Christmas? 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Things You Can Do After Christmas to Prepare for Next Christmas!

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It's never too early to start preparing for next Christmas! Here are some things you can do soon after Christmas so that your preparations for next Christmas are off to a good start!

Save Materials

When unwrapping gifts and cards, lots of re-useable materials are thrown away unnecessarily. I'm not saying you should keep everything but there are some things that are useful to keep, especially if you are creative. Here are some of them:

  • Paper Gift Bags - If you have received any gifts in paper gift bags, ensure that you keep the gift bags and re-use them next Christmas (or for birthdays if they don't have a Christmas design on them). If they have a gift tag attached, just cut this off and attach a new one when re-using the gift bag. 
  • Attractive Packaging - Pictures can be cut out and used to make Christmas gift tags or cards. Even plain packaging can be re-used in card-making, scrapbooking, making collages or other creative activities.
  • Christmas Catalogs or Gift Guides - So many catalogs and gift guides are published around Christmas. Make the best use of them by cutting out Christmas-themed images and greetings and using them in your creative pursuits. 
  • Ribbon - This can be used to make gift tags or cards.
  • Christmas Cards - cut out pictures from Christmas cards and use them to make gift tags or new Christmas cards of your own design.
  • Wrapping Paper - While some people iron and re-use wrapping paper, I don't tend to do this because most wrapping paper tends to be ripped and/or very crumpled once presents have been opened. If you find some wrapping paper in excellent condition, you could save it and re-use it. 
However, make sure you don't keep too many materials - there can sometimes be a fine line between frugality and hoarding! Just save the things you're certain that you'll be able to re-use during the year. If they're still unused by this time next year, recycle them!

Sort Through Christmas Decorations

If you have some decorations you haven't used this year, sort through them before taking down the decorations you have used. Ask yourself if you're ever going to use each of these unused decorations again. If not, give them away or donate them to charity.

When you're taking down your Christmas decorations, look at each item and get rid of anything that's broken or damaged. If there is a decoration that you know that you won't use again, give it away or donate it to charity.

Decide What to Do With Unwanted Presents

Almost everyone receives presents that they don't really need or want; items that are put to one side and never used. Look through all your Christmas presents and decide which items fall into this category. Then, decide whether you will:

  • Re-gift them as either birthday or Christmas presents (but make a note of who gave you the presents so that you don't mistakenly re-gift them to the original giver!).
  • Donate them to charity.
  • Sell them online or at a garage sale. 
If you decide to re-gift some presents, put them in a dedicated cupboard so that you can easily find them again when you need them.

Buy Cut-Price Christmas Items in the January Sales

The January sales are the ideal time to buy Christmas items at rock-bottom prices. Doing so will greatly reduce your Christmas spending at the end of the year. You can stock up on gifts, cards, wrapping paper, decorations and other items you'll need next Christmas. Store them all in one place so that you can find them when Christmas rolls around again.  

Start Saving for Next Christmas

Whether you have a lot or a little money to spare, there are several ways of saving for next Christmas. You could, for example:

  • Set up a separate Christmas savings account and pay in a regular amount of money each week or month.
  • Set up a separate Christmas savings account and pay in variable amounts of money each week or month.
  • Empty your spare change into a Christmas savings jar each evening.
There is also another fun way of saving for next Christmas which my family and I have decided to do and which I'll write about in another blog post.

Although many people don't like to think about next Christmas when this Christmas has just finished, in reality it is the ideal time to start preparing for next Christmas. If you get a head start on preparing for next Christmas, you'll save money and feel less stressed when Christmas gets closer. 

What do you do in January to prepare for next Christmas?


Thursday, December 24, 2015

You Have Enough for Christmas!

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A couple of days ago, when I was in the supermarket, I was overtaken by the pre-Christmas buying panic. Everyone was rushing around the supermarket and loading mountains of food and drink into their shopping carts. I began to think: "We don't have enough to eat and drink!" "We don't have enough to last until the shops open again!" and then I began to put more and more items in my shopping cart, too.

When I got home and looked at all the stuff I'd bought, I realized that we do have enough. More than enough, in fact. I realized that I was overtaken by the panic that seems to be widespread just before Christmas. We wonder if we've bought enough presents, enough food and drink, etc, so we carry on and on, shopping and spending.

It's not necessary. We need to set ourselves limits in terms of our budget. I went very slightly overbudget on my spending on Christmas presents this year (about £5 overbudget)...and I spent £12 more than I intended to on my last grocery shop before Christmas. If I'd been more careful and thoughtful and not got carried away by the Christmas panic, I could have saved that £12 and perhaps even more.

So, believe that you have enough for Christmas. Look at it from the point of view of abundance rather than lack. If we look at things from the point of view of lack, we'll never have enough even if we have more than the vast majority of people in the world.

If, however, we look at it from the point of view of abundance, we will be thankful for everything we have and that joy will permeate every aspect of our Christmas.

Hope you all have a wonderful, abundant, and joyful Christmas wherever you are and whatever you're doing!

Running - An Unusual Way to Prepare for Christmas?

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Yesterday morning, I woke up to a cloudless blue sky and sunshine. So, I decided to seize the day and go for a run. I ran around a small lake near where I live and it was beautiful. The sunshine glinting on the surface of the lake, dappled light coming through the canopy of trees overhead, the beauty of evergreen trees and even bare branches on other trees. It was like a foretaste of spring. Such a lovely reminder straight after the shortest day of the year!

When I got home, I felt alive and energized but also relaxed. If you're feeling stressed about Christmas or just want to do something different, why not go out for a pre-Christmas run (or a run between Christmas and New Year)? It's something positive you can do that's free of charge and will help you feel good.

By the way, I'm so glad I went running yesterday. It's raining heavily today :)

Monday, December 21, 2015

To Do List for the Week Before Christmas

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It's less than four days before Christmas! Here's my to-do list for the next few days:

  • Post remaining Christmas cards today (it's the last posting day to ensure delivery before Christmas in the UK for first class post). - DONE!
  • Return library books and choose some more to borrow over the Christmas holiday. - DONE!
  • Buy the last few presents for my children. - DONE!
  • Check to see if I'll have enough wrapping paper and sellotape. If not, I'll need to buy some more.- DONE!
  • Wrap presents for immediate family (I've already wrapped and sent the others). - Need to finish today (Christmas Eve).
  • Do the final Christmas grocery shop, remembering to buy such things as foil, washing up liquid, and long life milk so we don't run out while the shops are shut! - DONE!
  • Buy ingredients for a Christmas roulade my daughter and I are baking.- DONE!
  • Donate a bag of items we no longer want or need to the charity shop (thrift store). - DONE!
  • Take glass jars and bottles to the glass recycling bank. - DONE!
I feel like I've been quite well organized this year, but, as you can see, there are still several things to do before the big day arrives!

What's still on your Christmas to-do list?
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