Budgeting for Christmas

I am rubbish at budgeting, and given half a chance I’m a complete spendthrift that goes mad at Christmas…only I can’t anymore. We work for ourselves, contracts come and go and I can’t go blowing a load of money on Christmas that we don’t have.

So here’s how this year I’m doing my Christmas shopping:

1.  The Plan!

Make a list, re-check the list that everyone you need is on it and kick off anyone you can get by sending a card to.  A little harsh, I know but really think about who you are sending presents to.

Shop as soon as you can, don’t leave it to the last minute when the pressure is on and you feel like you ‘HAVE’ to buy something for someone because you can’t think of anything else – that’s when you end up spending too much.

2. Set a Budget

Now I don’t go for this whole £5 or £10 per head for everyone lark – some people I like more than others!  Some people I can get away with making a present for or getting something from a charity shop and popping it in a pretty box.  On your list put what you are buying each person and if it’s a homemade one put that by their names and then take them out of the budget. It’ll give you more money to work with, and thenwork out what you have left. Make the budget realistic, there is no point in telling yourself you’re spending £50 when it’s really going to be £500 and then being horrified when you’ve overspent.

3. Spending the money.

Ideally either do online Christmas Shopping or go shopping with Cash – it is much, much easier to keep track if you can see it on a screen in front of you or if you have no money left in your purse – it also makes you more ruthless.

My favourite trick is to  put everything you want to get into your online shopping basket, then leave it a day or two and then go back with a clear head. You might see stuff in there that you didn’t really mean to order, you just went a bit mad and then you can delete it out saving some money.

4. Shopping for Abroad?

Are you sending gifts to far flung places? Last year I was sending gifts the the USA and New Zealand, and I found that sending the gifts actually cost more than they had cost!

Thankfully you can send gifts in the USA via Amazon US using a British Credit Card & Billing Address – not all American retailers are so thoughtful though so check before you order. But Pottery Barn and Etsy are both good sources of presents for the USA & Canada as well.

New Zealand though didn’t have a massive amount of online shops and as I was sending British home comforts to some homesick friends so I had to post, but I learnt some handy hints from my local friendly post office lady!

Keep the parcel weight and size down

I had one large 2.2kg parcel to send. The nice post office lady weighed it for me and told me it’d cost (and this is from memory so forgive me if these number’s aren’t quite right) say £60 to POST it!  But if I took it home, re-wrapped it into two smaller 1.1kg parcels it would only cost me £30 for both. So that’s exactly what I did! A massive thank you to lady in the post office.

5. My favourite places to Christmas shop are:

Amazon – but not in December their delivery always sucks if you shop after early Dec.  But you can get pretty much everything here, cheaper than in stores and I tend to use the ‘forget the basket for a day’ trick here.

eBay – a godsend for people you really want to get a present for but don’t want to spend a fortune on.  iPhone cases for £2, Kindle case for £3, cute jewellery for teens, it’s all there and see if you can get a ‘Buy it Now’ with free delivery – perfect!

Homesense or TK Maxx – well they are pretty much the same shop. But Homesense I find is a bit better and less like jumble sale, so I tend to go there.  They have good books for kids and adults, toys, bubble baths etc and other unusual bits and bobs.  If I’m going there I try and take cash with me, it helps me stay in budget.

Online Photo stores – Calendars and photos gifts are always nice to send to relatives or friends especially if you live far apart.  There are loads of offers on at the moment, so I’ll be doing mine in the next week or so.

Other than that anywhere I have Clubcard points, vouchers, Nectar points or can get a discount.  Look in magazines for vouchers, and your e-mail spam folder I always have loads in there that I don’t otherwise notice.

Homemade and *gasp* charity shops gifts

I like to make homemade gifts, candles, soaps, chocolates are about my limit (I can’t sew or knit!), but if you are more crafty pop over to Thrifty Christmas or my Thrifty Christmas Pinterest Board there are loads of ideas from making presents to wrapping them!.

But I have been known to get presents from charity shops…it probably helps I know a lot of people who are into vintage. But this is a £2 gift I found in a local charity shop a couple of years ago:

It was a glass sugar bowl with a silver lid. Doesn’t look like it came from a charity shop, it looks like it came from an upmarket boutique once packaged up with tissue paper and in a shiny box.

Remember to use some imagination when you’re having a rummage, see some cute little vintage glasses, buy them and then pop them with a small bottle of port or a bottle of wine in a shiny box for a present.  My local Cancer Research shop does the most amazing crochet goods which are perfect for a kids room, Miss L loves all the bits I’ve gotten for her from there.  A thoughtful present doesn’t need to cost a fortune.

Above all 

Remember Christmas is supposed to be fun, most people will never remember what you bought them, they’ll just remember you cared enough to get them a little something. Don’t stress!

What are your favourite tips and tricks?  I’d love to hear them 🙂



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  1. I buy larger purchases like the kids main present through one of the cashback sites or through Nectar as that reduces the cost by way of a little payback in January. Also, I search the web for discount codes so recently saved a fortune on T’s pressie from ELC & got Nectar points too.
    Sam´s last Post ..Loft SpaceMy Profile

  2. Great tips! I love shopping in charity shops but never thought about giving something from one as a gift. The awkward uncles and male cousins who always get ‘distress purchase’ beer packs could get some nice chazzed glasses & bottle instead, I’ll keep my eyes peeled!
    Make do mum´s last Post ..Would you like fries with that?My Profile

  3. Thank you for a great post with such straightforward advice. My ‘problem’ is that I’m used to budgeting but it’s all in my head really, then I think ‘come on, you’ve done well – splashing out on x, y or z for my girls won’t hurt.’ The amount I spent on their birthdays has made my head spin. This Xmas, I have made my mind up I am doing the lot for £500, I don’t have to cook on Xmas Eve, Xmas Day or Boxing Day. From a personal point of view, my tips would be to be writing stuff down about what you are spending, saving money on wrapping/cards through being thrifty/crafty and saving money on food by making best use of offers. From a professional point of view I have to point out that the 99p Stores are fantastic and may be a surprise — I work for them in social media and have got such a good impression of what’s there – what I call ‘proper’ branded stuff at prices way below what they are elsewhere 🙂
    Linda´s last Post ..Family adventures in the Swiss LakesMy Profile

    1. Annoyingly we don’t have any 99p stores near us. A bit like Lidl and Aldi they seem to have bypassed my little bit of the world, because I’m with you they are brilliant places to find bits and bobs. Wishing you and your girls a wonderful Christmas Linda Xxx
      Liz´s last Post ..{The Gallery} The 80′sMy Profile

  4. I always set a budget and do pretty well at sticking to it. Me & my sisters have decided only gifts for the kids this year which is brilliant and will save a lot of money. Me & BG will be making a lot of gifts this year including Chocolate lollies, calenders (Baker Ross do blank calender sheets that you can personalise 10 for £1.80 BG will decorate and I will stick a pic of her on) and tree decorations.
    Caroljs´s last Post ..Halloween 2012 with ALDIMy Profile

  5. I think your first tip is the best, don’t feel like you ‘should’ send a present, wasting money on gifts just because you think it’s the socially acceptable thing is madness. If you must give a present give something food based and homemade, will be much more appreciated than some token gift.
    We also don’t want to spend too much so are having a breakeven Christmas, our budget is whatever we can earn selling things on ebay. £200 so far…
    The Fool´s last Post ..The running dad – when the running gods make you their bitchMy Profile

  6. This year we have had to set a budget of no more than £30 for everybody. With the exception of what I buy my son, I have to be realistic and I know that I will spend more on him, but for everyone else that’s it. Even then when you multiply it by all those on your list it’s still quite a sum.
    I try to make as many gifts as I can, not easy when you’re at work all week. Even with the best of intentions time runs out on you every year. I love your tip of looking in charity shops for glasses and little trinket boxes, will have a little browse next time 🙂

  7. I needed this. I’m so bad about overspending because I always see multiple gifts that my loved ones will like and always want to buy them all. Using cash is a great idea, though I do most of my shopping online. This year, I’m actually going to make a spreadsheet so I know exactly how much I have spent and how much I have left.
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