Following on from the article in August, here are a few ideas to help you spread the cost of Christmas in September. Let’s start with a few tips to stop budgets spiralling out of control.
This month and next month are a good time to start managing expectations, and we all know deep down that trying to be all things to all people is likely to lead to a lot of stress – not to mention a huge strain on a household budget. Start dropping hints about how you’re planing on doing a budget / low key / traditional / homemade / simple / minimalist festive season this December, and let people know that you’re not expecting expensive gifts this time around. It’s easiest if you let other people off the hook first.
It might be a bit early for kids to be writing letters to Santa, but you could float the idea that children could make a list of possible presents with an order of preference so you’ll know where to target your budget. You could limit family gifts to kids only, or stick to small token gifts for adults too.
Now’s also a good opportunity to work out where you want to have your celebrations, and to get a better idea of how many people you might be catering for. It might be useful to state clearly what kind of Christmas you’re offering too, such as traditional or modern, in case you have any people in your extended family who expect you to run around like a headless chicken and spend a load of money you don’t have. For example, if they insist on a certain time-consuming dish or expensive drink being served then maybe they could bring it themselves?
Bargains & offers in September
The initial wave of Christmas stock is hitting the major stores right now so there should be some introductory offers, especially as it’s a payday weekend coming up. Now’s a chance to get ahead on buying a few gifts or festive homewares to spread the costs.
Worth a peek this weekend:
- Debenhams – up to 50% off in the sale
- House of Fraser – up to 50% off
- Marks & Spencer – up to 50% off
- Smyths Toys – £10 off a £50 spend (in store only)
- Very – up to 50% off
- The Works – up to 50% off Christmas gifts & stocking fillers
After a glitchy start, it looks like the Argos 3 for 2 on toys has been sorted out now.
Making homemade gifts
This is a good month for making traditional soaps or decorated candles, or doing some knitting or sewing. You can also make chutney or jam, infused spirits, or fruits in syrup. Dunelm is a handy one-stop shop for thrifty gift baskets and homemade hamper accessories, and baking and preserving equipment. Hobbycraft and Homecraft are worth a look too, both have sales on right now as well as new festive stock, and you could pick up some nice supplies at up to 70% discount.
If you’re in the mood, you could get started on making some cards, gift tags, or decorations too. This might be overkill though, and it’d probably be a lot more fun to focus on Halloween first instead.
Food and drink
If you know how many people you’re feeding and how long any guests will be staying, you’ll be able to create a rough menu plan and work out how that fits with your budget. It also makes panic buying less likely, which is a bit of a bonus. Don’t be scared to have a few simple and cheap meals in there, and remember to include a few snacks and nibbles.
Most medium or large sized supermarkets will have some early festive food and drink in stock now, so have a look at the prices and what’s on offer. The Aldi Christmas food hampers are ready for pre-order, prices from £19.99. You could also pick up some baking ingredients, or tins of biscuits or sweets. Pound shops already have retro sweets, hot chocolate sachets and small packs of gingerbread in stock to use as stocking fillers.
Your freezer is definitely your friend from the end of September onwards – the three month mark is ideal for stashing many frozen foods. Iceland already has small and large boneless turkey breast joints in store (full stock not arrived yet), Tesco online has loads of frozen turkey options, or you could buy a large chicken or some beef or pork to store for later. You can also find buffet foods, fish and seafood etc, in the freezer cabinets, and smoked salmon usually freezes up okay too.
Love homemade food? If you have time, you can make up and freeze some bread dough, rolls, pastry, gingerbread biscuit or cookie dough, or a few mince pies this month.
Cake: A traditional Christmas cake is usually made 12 or eight weeks ahead, so you could start one at the end of September or October. Other recipes can be made nearer the time, so there’s no need to panic. Alternatively, some frozen sponge cake can be handy for feeding unexpected guests or adding to a trifle.
Mincemeat: Some recipes only keep for two weeks or so, but others last a lot longer and often take three weeks to mature. If you’re making some this month, make sure the recipe is one that keeps for at least three months.
Christmas pudding: It’s still too early to be making a traditional pudding, which is usually kept in a cool, dry place for just over a month, but you could make one now and freeze it to get ahead on the prep.
There might be a few wines and spirits offers this month as well, although they tend to be better later in the year unless you’re buying in bulk. Look out for bin ends and mixed case offers from wine merchants such as Laithwaite’s or Majestic where you can get some pretty decent wines from as low as £6.99 per bottle. Hide them away so that nobody opens them early.
Coming up next
In the next few days I’ll be covering:
- Christmas 2017 decorating trends
- This year’s top festive food and wine offerings
- 2017 gift trends
If there’s anything else you’d especially like to see covered then let me know!
Are you trying to have a thrifty festive season this year? Any specific plans yet?