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I’m no scrooge, but this year’s Christmas will be lean, mean -and funded by the sale on eBay of a vast amount of stuff that’s been hogging our wardrobes and garage for three years.
Why such a hard-nosed approach?
Last Christmas was horrendously expensive and I did several things very wrong:
- In a surge of social excitement, I hosted about five dinner parties, plus Christmas Day. That’s kind of like paying for six Christmas Days.
- I didn’t plan ahead, despite thinking I had. I had my own kids presents sorted and bought ahead of time, but forgot about almost everyone else until the last minute. Most other family members therefore got vouchers or money – which I considered a failure on my part – I’m a “presents-or-nothing” type. I also ended up buying the kids quite a lot of extras at the last minute because I thought it didn’t look like they had enough when it came to the wrapping. Which leads me to…
- I wasn’t strategic enough. I didn’t get the right mix of low value large items and high value smaller things, more likely to be played with but less interesting under the tree. Because it’s a truth, universally acknowledged, that bigger is always better when you are 3 years-old, even if it’s… I don’t know.. a giant leek.
- Sucked in by effective Christmas marketing, I planned a huge number of activities without counting them in the budget. A trip to a local castle wonderland to visit Santa, ice skating, a London show… it was too much. The boys only enjoyed the ice skating (you’d have thought I was taking them to meet Hannibal Lecter rather than Santa from the reaction to that “nice surprise”) and we were rushed off our feet. A film at home with some sweets would have saved us hassle and cash.
- I want to avoid credit cards. I hate credit cards. You may love them and be very good at managing them – more power to you. But for me, they represent everything that’s wrong in the world and I wish they didn’t exist. Plus, I’m paying off mine and like seeing the balances going down rather than up.
Can I really pay for Christmas with stuff I’m selling? Well, no, but it will do more than scratch the surface. Here’s what’s going out the door:
- I’ve just made £183 from the sale of two superfluous sofas on eBay.
- I’ve got a gorgeous pair of Laura Ashley curtains that are totally inappropriate for the house we’ve lived in for 3 years and so have been shoved in the wardrobe since we moved in. I reckon these will go for about £80 (they’re here, if you’re interested).
- £50 from the sale of eight dining chairs we didn’t really need and were sitting in the garage for most of the year.
- A cowhide rug. Bought for £300 seven years ago. It might get £30 now.
So that’s about £340 to go towards this Christmas. I’ll also be getting rid of some of the boys’ old toys on the down-low – to charity shops rather than eBay (although if you’ve got old toys to sell you can make a packet according to this) But shhh! Don’t tell the kids. They’ll never notice.
I’ve set a budget of £300 per child and £100 each for me and James. For everyone else in the immediate family (grannies, sisters, etc), the limit is £30. Santa’s a cheapskate. Aunties and cousins are off the shopping lists. I’m sure they’ll understand.
I’m aiming for a total food and drinks bill of £300 (thank you to the wonderful COOK! For making a Xmas lunch for 8 for £111 – I’m going frozen all the way this year, thank you, too, chest freezer). And a budget of £350 for dinners out/ visit to London/ ice skating and panto.
So that’s a total budget of £1,150. We’re getting married next June (blog on that spendfest coming soon) and are also in the throes of home decorating/ re-carpeting, so to spend any more would be a giant bowl of nuts.
You may think our budget is too high. You may wonder how on earth we will have any fun at all on such a piddly amount.
Whatever your own budget, you can be sure that you too will feel pressure to spend more than you had intended – and if, like me, you are highly vulnerable to syrupy Christmas advertising, then that constant battle between temptation and common sense will characterise most of December. Stay strong. Keep perspective. It’s only another Christmas. What matters is not what’s in the presents, or indeed how many of them there are. It’s that you are here to enjoy it.