Christmas is just six months away. Some of you will hate me for saying that, whilst others will be giddy with excitement just at the thought. Whichever side you land on, I would love for you to read on and understand why I am talking about Christmas in June!
For many, Christmas can be a stressful time. It may be that finances are tight and the prospect of all of the food, gifts and celebration is just too expensive. Many of us are the organiser of the household, and trying to keep on top of everything and everyone can make you want to cancel the holiday altogether. Preparing six months ahead may seem unnecessary, but it could save a lot of worry in the winter months.
Start Saving Now
Let’s begin the preparation with talking about finances. Christmas can be a very expensive time. There is just no way around it for most of us. Whether you have a big family, a lot of travelling to do or just love to treat your loved ones to beautiful food at this time of year, the cost adds up quickly.
Some people will have room in their budget to cover Christmas in one pay cheque, but for the majority a little bit of saving is important. The best starting point for this is to estimate how much you are likely to spend over the holidays. After years of practice, you might know exactly how much you will spend. If this is your first time hosting Christmas it will take a little more thought. Sit with a pen and paper and try and total up your likely spends. Remember to include food and drink, gifts, parties and any other expense that your family normally goes to.
If you begin preparing your money now, you have six full months to prepare. Breaking down your saving over this time naturally makes it far more manageable. As an example (and for the sake of easy maths), if Christmas normally sets you back £600 you could put away £100 each month. As of December 25th, your costs are covered.
Honestly, this one point could be a post in itself. I think I’ll write about it in more depth soon, including the saving methods I’m using for my own family.
Spread the Cost
To assist your saving efforts, spreading the cost of Christmas can also make the season far more manageable and enjoyable. One area in particular that this can help with is food and drink.
This may seem like a silly suggestion as so many food items are perishable. For these, your freezer is your best friend. Meats, veg, bread and even cheese can be frozen ahead of time. They are always a little cheaper earlier in the year too. Take a ham joint as an example. Around Christmas they are sold in festive boxes with lots of different flavour packets and shops like to charge a lot for this added flare. You can pick up the same ham joint without the fancy trimmings for a couple of pounds today and store it in your freezer.
Jordan Page of Fun, Cheap or Free shares so many wonderful tips on this topic. One of her most useful videos talks about food items you can freeze and I was so surprised by so many of the things she mentioned. Make a rough list of what you’ll need in December and buy a little each month.
If, like us, you enjoy a variety of alcoholic beverages at Christmas, a lot of your expense will come from buying drinks. Thankfully all drinks can also be bought far in advance and stored away. If you have space to store crates of beer and bottles in your garage or a cupboard in your house perhaps, even better. Keep an eye out for good deals when you’re doing your weekly food shopping and buy a little at a time.
Put Gifts Aside
As much as we would all love for Santa to arrange every gift at Christmas, the big man just has too much on his plate and we need to step in and do a lot of the shopping ourselves. If you have a large family and people who are difficult to buy for, this task can be daunting. It is also often, you guessed it, expensive.
Let me begin by reminding you, gifts don’t have to cost a lot of money. There are many ways to make them more affordable. You can read my frugal Christmas gift ideas post for some inspiration.
Money aside, putting gifts aside as and when you see them is one of the easiest ways to handle your Christmas shopping. To keep on top of things, begin by making a list of everyone you will be buying for. This will help you to keep track of what you might need in the back of your head, ready to spot potential gifts when your browsing online or out shopping for other things. When you see something nice for someone on your list, set it aside. Especially if you spot it in the sale.
Children can be hard to buy for in advance if they are younger and have interests which change like the weather. This doesn’t mean you can’t prepare. If you fill stockings, pick up small things here and there to go in them. Also make note of the toys they seem to have a genuine interest in and keep talking about. Yes they might write their letter to Santa, but it’s great if you can get a head start. Just keep a hold of receipts!
Keep Important Dates in the Calendar
One of the easiest ways to minimise stress is to keep track of what’s going on. Work’s night out? Write it in the calendar. Kid’s school party? Write it in the Calendar. Shopping day with Mum…you see where I’m going with this.
What’s better, if you know when you are busy over the festive period, you also know when you have free time. You might notice that there is a Saturday free and plan to take your loved ones on a Christmas walk around the local park as a surprise or enjoy a cosy movie night at home with your favourite festive snacks. Moments like those, spent with family, are the ones that really bring the season alive for me.
You could even look ahead to ticketed events and see if any are open for booking right now. Santa visits and large attractions can be incredibly busy and expensive. Arranging these now can once again spread the cost a little and also allow you to feel more prepared. Once booked, all you have to do is get excited. That’s the best thing about Christmas!
This activity planner and shopping list printable set is a great way to keep on top of everything you’re doing. I created these designs myself last year when looking for ways to simplify Christmas for myself. The best thing is, they can be printed over and over once purchased, so you can reprint if plans change and use them for years to come. (Ad – this is my own Etsy shop).
Finally, take this opportunity to work out how you might be able to delegate tasks. Every family is different and some will help more than others. Whatever your normal way of doing things, get them involved. Have immediate family help with shopping and gift ideas. Maybe you could even make some together, for example a hamper of baked goods for the grandparent that has everything and just wants your time.
With the wider family, decide early on who is hosting Christmas dinner and any other traditions which you normally share. Can there be more of a shared contribution? Could your siblings do a little more to help you out with organising fun for the children for example, or you for them? Look for ways to come together and make the festive season the enjoyable and relaxing time it should be.
Christmas is such a wonderful time of year and should be enjoyable for everyone. I really hope that some of these tips help you to prepare. Come Christmas even you should be sitting with your feet up, mulled wine and mince pie in hand. You can guarantee that’s where I’ll be!