Friday, 15 November 2013

Frugal Friday...

Did anyone see Martin Lewis' Christmas special show in the week? If not then you'll still be able to catch it via the ITV player for a while yet - it's well worth a watch.

One point Martin made which he has stressed before was that each and every year people end up in debt to pay for Christmas - presents, food, travel etc can all mount up, and yet, as Martin says, it shouldn't really take us by surprise - we do after all have a full year's notice of the next one! He also made some very valid points regarding the buying of unnecessary presents - you know, the people you buy for because they always buy for you, with no idea what they might want, or even like...

We already budget through the year for our holiday, insurances and car costs, so for us it was just a short step to start budgeting for Christmas-related stuff too. Our annual trip to Birmingham to meet up with friends and attend the Good Food Show is an associated cost - we usually do a fair bit of our Christmas shopping at the show, so for the past 12 months we've been putting money aside each month to cover the expenditure. We travel up to Birmingham by car, which means we can combine the journey back with some Christmas shopping, and our (budget) hotel is paid months in advance so accommodation costs won't spring a nasty shock to our finances either.  We also have a general "presents" savings account which will cover the vast bulk of what we spend on presents for Mums, Dads, Niece &  Nephews. When children in the family hit the age of 18 they get "proper" presents bought for them for the last time - beyond that age a token "little something to unwrap" is bought.

Another thing Martin touched on in his programme was the vast amount that gets spent on food for the Christmas period, and how so often people buy a "better" brand than they usually would, feeling that it will be better, or more appropriate to the occasion. Almost more shocking is the amount of this food that will, a few days after Christmas, be finding its way into people's wheelie bins and from there into landfill. If you're buying a whole turkey, then I do feel it's worth buying a free range and preferably local one - not only can you sit down to your Christmas dinner with a clear conscience, but there is a likelihood that the meat will taste better than a supermarket mass-produced frozen one too. Whichever sort you're buying, plan ahead what you're going to do with the leftovers from the bird - whether that's turkey sandwiches on boxing day, or a big pot of turkey curry to be divided up and popped in the freezer. If you buy tins of biscuits or sweets out of habit then think twice - particularly if the less popular ones always get wasted! Why not buy a couple of packets of favourite biscuits that everyone likes and pop them into an airtight tin or box? Look past the branded options too - I know lots of people who swear that "Value" Jaffa Cakes and Bourbons taste nicer than the branded (expensive) options.

Maybe you're skipping off on holiday over the festive period? If that's the case then you might not need to think too much about buying food to feed an army, but a holiday in itself needs planning and careful budgeting, for most of us at least. Mr EH and I are hoping to get away next New Year for an extra Hebrides trip - and as a result we have already started planning for all the associated costs - only if we can manage to put the money we'll need for it aside by savings from our regular income and expenditure will we be able to go, so planning ahead is vital for us. Another thing about planning ahead is that you can often take advantage of things like Boots Christmas Shopping evenings - when if you spend £50 or more they give you 1,200 advantage card points. You could use it to buy christmas presents, or, as I've just done, buy essentials that you will use anyway through the year  - being able to get my favourite deodorant on offer was an added advantage, as was the total of 2,166 advantage points that got added to my card thanks to various vouchers, and the special offer points!

Christmas SHOULD be more about spending time with loved ones, than about spending money on them. It should be about relaxing, rather than about stressing about the big bills that will arrive in January. If you're buying gifts, and you can afford to do so, then fabulous - I know I get as much pleasure out of buying for other people as I do about receiving things myself. We've tried for a while now in our family to give gifts that are useful, practical, and potentially the either will save the recipient buying for themselves, or that they simply couldn't justify buying for themselves. So MrEH loves getting a bottle of his favourite Whisky for example, camera memory cards are fantastic for me, and Mum asked for a hairdryer last year as her previous one was too heavy & cumbersome to use easily. If you don't know what someone wants, then ask them if there is anything in particular they might like. With friends, set a budget and stick to it. Above all don't get dragged into feeling as though you have to spend money you don't have to keep up with some kind of perceived idea of a "perfect Christmas".



Anonymous said...

We too buy presents throughout the year. There is no way we could afford to buy presents, food and all the other "Stuff" associated with Christmas in December so we spread the cost throughout the year. We don't go overboard either, especially on food. There is no need. People come to see the kids at Christmas, not which brand biscuits we've bought!
In our family we have always written lists of what we want for Christmas and when I was first going out with Hubby, he thought it was cheeky giving people a list. He now realises that list giving is much better as people actually get things they need/want. We very often ask for practical things or things that we wouldn't actually buy for ourselves.
(And by the way value jaffa cakes are much nicer than the branded ones)

Scarlet said...

I've got Christmas almost sorted now. K and A asked for a secondhand dining table ( I got chairs too and Mum said she would buy it at auction if I would renovate it so it's a joint present), my Mum is having a tea trolley renovated by me ( she rang during the week to commission one, but I said I would do it as her Christmas gift), KL has had a hat (I bought it on our shopping trip to Liverpool last week), and I'm making her a quilt, and the MIL will get a plant or some bulbs planted up. There'll be a few other hand crafted bits to go with things, which just leaves lunch. I spent around £5 on 'extra' stuff last year, and anticipate this year being similar. I used to love value jaffa cakes!
Will the Martin Lewis programme make me shout at the TV?

dreamer said...

I haven't bought anything for Christmas yet and plan on spending very little, not because I am too mean just because it isn't really necessary. I have made several gifts ; decorative cushions, pencil rolls, baby quilts, bears, lots of home made preserves and liqueurs, mini Christmas cakes, and a few surprise gifts I can't mention. I have also traded for gifts through LETS, stuff like lavender mice, lavender syrup, rosehip syrup, handmade soaps, fabric bottle bags, some really nice frames for photos, a handmade quilt,a cushion, and lots of other bits and pieces.
I have enough nectar points to pay for a large chicken, gammon and beef joints as well as a few treats and apart from that it will be our usual food stores being used. I am hosting a small family get together from Christmas eve to Boxing Day night down at my mum's house (whilst she is abroad), and the meats will be enough for hot and cold dishes over those days.
I prefer practical gifts but really don't need anything just now and can't think of anything I want that much, Ian is the same, so we probably won't buy each other a "big" gift, but if we think of something later in the year that we would like, probably for the house or garden, we will just buy it from the household budget as our joint pressie - it works for us :)
We also stop buying for kids at 18,this year I have a couple of nieces and nephew who have "fallen off" my list :)

Alison said...

Completely off-topic, but just wanted to say that the flapjacky things are simply scrumptious, lots of pumpkin and sunflower seeds and dried cranberries that I had rather a stash of. Thank you for your recipe, this will be a regular in our house from now on.

Robyn said...

ROFL at people's approval of Value jaffa cakes!
Wilit make you shout at the TV Scarlet? Hmm...probably not - it's all done with Martin's usual down-to-earth "You don't HAVE to spend any of this at all, but if you must, at least spend it wisely" approach which I find pretty sensible.
practical presents rock so far as I'm concerned - I'm currently saving up to buy a new lens for my camera - a very un-frugal, expensive new lens - so if people want to buy me presents for christmas I'd far rather they bought things which I would otherwise have to spend my own cash on, leaving me extra in the savings pot!
Dreamer - we've done that before with presents too - when our TV needed replacing we just bought one another a little token something to unwrap as a present, and then combined our finances to buy the TV - works, well, doesn't it!

Alison - glad the flapjacks came out well - they are absolutely GORGEOUS with cranberries - I've used those before too!