With just 8 weeks to Christmas, it’s decision-making time. Do you want to spend the last two weeks before the big day running around like a chook, hoping you can find everything on your list at a good price, or do you want to be one of those mums that smugly says, “I finished my shopping in October, and didn’t spend eleventy thousand dollars doing it”?With just a little bit of planning before and after the silly season, next year you could be one of those smug mums, too! Here’s 10 hacks to help you plan a budget Christmas that you can start today!
Planning a budget Christmas? You won’t believe these hacks!
1 – Make a plan for the whole season.
There’s a reason this is number 1 on the list, because without a plan, you will spend way too much money, and you won’t be happy at the end of it. Create a budget for your presents (and stick to it!), create a budget for your groceries, create a budget for your extra-curricular activities, and put it all on a calendar!
If you know what’s happening when, and how much it will cost, you’re more likely to be able to attend because you know you’ve got the money to pay for it. And with everything written on the calendar, you can work out if the kids need a quiet night at home, or you’ve got space to go to Aunty Jane’s Christmas party.
2 – Start shopping for your Christmas food in October.
Look, I’ve got a huge pinterest board full of recipes and decorating ideas, but when the big day comes around on the calendar, my family is happy with the same things we had for lunch last year and the year before. I know what I need to buy, so I start buying and stashing it away in the cupboard (so the resident teen doesn’t eat it) This week, I’m buying the turkey breast, because I know it will keep in the freezer until I need it.
3 – Use any old paper for something unique.
Now it turns out I have thirty rolls of paper stashed in the wardrobe for “one day”, but if you’ve run out of paper, just grab the stash of birthday paper, and turn it so the white is outside! 1 roll of Christmas paper, cut down to narrow strips wrapped around the centre as a belly band, and you’ve got your own one of a kind wrapped presents!
4 – Pop fairy lights into a clear box for instant baby play.
This is the most genius idea! Lights fascinate babies, so why not let them play (safely, of course.) Sistema boxes are perfect for the under-1s, and Bunnings sells battery operated fairy lights cheaply (I picked some up last week for under $10) Try solar lights if you’re worried about batteries, but they will be more expensive.
5 – Make a hamper at the supermarket.
I love giving hampers as gifts. They’re a great fall back if you don’t really know the hostess well (boss’s wife, maybe?), but they’re very generic and boring. These days most supermarket delis offer a great range of cheese, crackers and produce. Pick up a wooden chopping board, cheese knife and package it all up for a one of a kind gift. Try an ice cream pack if the family has allergies – waffle cones, topping, sprinkles, marshmallows, plastic spoons and serving bowls, and a voucher for ice cream would melt any kid’s heart.
6 – Make your own budget Christmas postcards.
Take a photo of the family (wearing Christmas hats is my favourite), print it out at home or a kiosk, grab some cardboard for the back, and you’re set to make unique Christmas cards for Aunty Jane who you haven’t seen in ten years. Don’t forget to leave space for the address!
7 – Start saving for next year on right now.
Every year I see posts pop up in October about how to make money for Christmas. But the truth is that a consistent sustainable savings plan is the best way to guarantee that next Christmas you will have money for all the things.
And the only way to have that is to do it now. Just $5 a week from today means you will have $300 by Christmas next year.
8 – Don’t forget your rewards programs.
Almost everyone buys groceries at the supermarket. So you should make sure that you really understand the rewards programs that the big supermarkets offer, and utilise the one that works best for you and your family.
For example, I shop at Coles, and always swipe my FlyBuys card. I often get those emails saying “spend XX amount each week for 4 weeks, and get your choice of $50 off your shop, or 4000 points.” I always take the points. Because the voucher has a 4 week expiry period, and the points don’t, so I can save them up to use them at Christmas time.
Through careful shopping, scanning all the vouchers, and looking out for deals our family will use, I’ve amassed 100,000 points since February this year, and now have $500 Flybuys dollars towards our Christmas shopping.
9 – Don’t shop around, unless it’s on the phone.
Last year my 8-year-old wanted this toy, and I wanted to get it for him. After dropping my daughter at daycare, I took off to the shopping centre, only to find when I got there that the shop had moved. So I had to hunt down their website, find the new location, drive over there, only to discover that they didn’t have it in stock – it would be back next week.
We’ve all done it, haven’t we? But it really is worth the time to pick up the phone and suss it out before you make the trip (especially with petrol prices so high at the moment!). If you don’t like calling people (me!), reach out to their social media accounts, maybe someone can call you.
10 – Reflect on the day.
Take some time before New Years Day to reflect on what was good about the Christmas season, and what wasn’t. Write it down. This makes it easier to make choices next year. If taking the kids to the work Christmas party meant they got to bed late and were cranky the next day and you don’t think it’s worth it, make a note for next year. No, you won’t remember next year, so please write it down. Ask the kids what they liked best (my kids all voted the local Christmas carols best), and do more of that.
But make sure that you take time for you, too. After all, where’s the fun in Christmas if mumma is a cranky bear?!