Christmas is the most exciting time of year for kids – and often one of stress for parents. From buying the ‘it’ presents and visiting Santa to a sumptuous spread and activities to keep the kids occupied over the holidays – it all adds up. Read our advice on budgeting for Christmas for great tips on how to reduce your Christmas spending.
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13 Budgeting for Christmas Tips
#1. Start Putting Money Away Now
It’s never too early to put some money to the side. It could be €5 one week, €20 the next when you have a little more to spare, but it all adds up at the end of the year.
Try putting some money away today to ease the financial burden when it comes to buying Christmas presents – take a look at our 52 week savings challenge for a plan that can net you five hundred extra to spend at the end of the year.
From our Parent Panel: “We put €100 aside each month to cover presents and Christmas food. We also keep an eye out all year for bargains” – Kels, mum of three.
“I have a post office account and I give cash to my mother-in-law every week to lodge. She keeps the book and I then withdraw it in December.” – Grainne, mum of three.
#2. Make a List
Grab a pen and paper or start a list on your phone. Write down everything you think you’ll need for Christmas – food, clothes, gifts, decorations, wrapping paper, Christmas cards and so on. Don’t forget things like extra batteries (always essential!), stamps for your cards, the cost of travel if you’re visiting family, and so on.
Making your list as early as possible gives you plenty of time to prepare and save – and hopefully keeps last-minute shopping (the most expensive kind) to a minimum.
From our Parent Panel: “I have a fairly tight budget as a single mum, so I look out for reduced toys and throughout the year, I am always on the look out for bargains. I start in the January sales, then everything goes into a press full of gifts, ready to rock and roll!” – “Roadrunner”, mum of one.
#4. Set a Budget – and Stick to It
Once you have your list, you can be realistic about your budget and have a clear plan on where that spending is needed. You may decide that certain costs need to be cut from your budget entirely, while others need to be pared back to a more affordable amount.
One area where many parents feel the pressure is around taking their kids to see Santa at one of the big Christmas ‘experiences’. This can be a significant expense for just an hour or two of fun. Yes, the kids will enjoy it – but is it worth the cash when there are lots of budget-friendly and FREE places to see Santa?
#3. Research is Key
Using the shopping list you’ve prepared, now it’s time to shop around. Use Google, Price Spy and even Amazon to compare prices. You might be surprised at the difference in prices and could save yourself an absolute fortune.
Find out when certain stores or brands are having a pre-Christmas sale, or when there might be offers to avail of. Many of the toy stores, for example, will have 3-for-2 or 20% off offers through the autumn, which can be a great money-saver if you know what you want to buy.
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#4. Shop Online
Shopping online is revolutionary in my opinion. You can do it from the comfort of your home when the kids are in bed and you get to skip the queues. Sign up to your favourite retailers’ newsletters as they regularly send out discounts, sale preview invites and/or free shipping codes.
Another huge benefit of shopping online is that you are less likely to go over budget – there is less opportunity for impulse purchases and you can see your total as you go along.
#5. Have a Clear Out – and Make Some Cash
If you have old toys, video games, books, clothes or bikes that the kids have outgrown or that they no longer play with, sell them! They say one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and I truly believe it.
Each November we do a massive clear out of the old toys from around the house, and sell the ones in very good or excellent condition. Take some photos and pop them up on local selling pages, eBay or similar and you could raise some funds for Christmas shopping. Last year, I made €150 in a week to put towards our Christmas expenses.
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#6. Buy Second-Hand
This year, my boy is looking for a heap of Imaginext Batman toys and, honestly, I nearly had heart failure when I saw the prices of them new! I immediately went online to preloved selling sites and found four Batman sets on sale for €50. It was such a good bargain that we picked them up within the hour! They were all in excellent condition and would have cost me nearly €200 if I had bought them new.
Never be too proud to buy second-hand – small kids and toddlers will never know the difference.
#7. Opt for Homemade
Consider using your talents and skills for presents – these are often the best kind of gifts!
Homemade food gifts like jams, chutneys, fudge, cookies and cakes are always well-received, and suitable for even a novice in the kitchen.
If you knit, sew, paint or craft you could share your talents with your family and friends and give them a real one-of-a-kind gift.
If you feel that you don’t have something ‘worthy’ to make and give, you can still choose a gift from the heart and donate your time. What about offering babysitting, helping in the garden, driving to appointments, or other tasks that would really be appreciated?
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#8. Tokens are Appreciated
If homemade just isn’t your thing, and you really want something to wrap up on the day, there are still plenty of options that won’t break the bank. Grandparents and godparents would love a craft made by the kids, or what about a great photo of you all printed off and put into a nice frame?
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#9. Encourage a Christmas Exchange
A huge cost at Christmas can be the gifts for family and friends. If your family buy for everyone, why not encourage a Secret Santa-type gift exchange with a budget instead? We find this a great way to keep costs down, particularly in larger families when everyone feels obliged to buy for one another.
In my partner’s family, we also do a similar idea for the children. Each adult pops €50 into a jar and we divide the money out equally for each of the 10 grandchildren’s gifts. This way the kids get a quality toy on Christmas Day, rather than loads of small presents that they will probably never play with. The same applies to the adults – spending €50 on a gift for your Secret Santa that you can really put thought into is much cheaper than ten ‘obligatory’ gifts costing at least €20 each.
#10. Black Friday
It’s one of the biggest shopping days of the year and, from experience, one of the best days for getting a deal. Using your shopping list, look out for discount codes, free postage and special offers when buying online or in-store.
You can be guaranteed to save money on Black Friday if you shop smart – but don’t let yourself get distracted by ‘deals’ that you wouldn’t otherwise have bought.
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#11. Use Vouchers and Reward Points
Gather up any vouchers and check the remaining balance online, then use them in-store to cut the cost of what you need to buy.
When it comes to reward points, these can really come in handy and many retailers are offering them. Sign up to any of the reward systems available in the stores that you frequent the most. Some offer vouchers off your purchases, while others allow you to trade in points for benefits elsewhere like days out, travel or towards your bills. If you’re going to be shopping there anyway, then these become a real bonus.
I save up all the points throughout the year and use them against my Christmas shopping to help cut costs.
From our Parent Panel: “We have a budget account we pay into all year and then take it out on 1st December. Also, all my Tesco shopping points go towards Christmas.” – “Cliocon”, mum of two.
#12. Prioritise and Scale Back
Many of the things we buy for Christmas are a result of pressure – so reassess your shopping list on a regular basis and see what’s really necessary.
Do you need a turkey for tradition’s sake, or would a roast chicken be just as delicious for your family (and save a fortune!)? Do you need to buy a gift for your child’s teacher (to join all the other World’s Best Teacher mugs they will receive), when a handwritten note from your child would be much more meaningful?
Kids are not brand snobs, and young children won’t know the difference between a €20 gift and a €100 gift. Equally, not every gift is created equal. Some (like books, garden toys, a bike, etc) are a good investment and will last for years. Others, predominantly plastic tat, are exciting for about three days before they lose all appeal, take up space and just sit there reminding you of all the money you spent!
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#13. Don’t Be Shy with Friends and Family
If family or friends ask if you want anything in particular for yourself or one of your children, don’t be shy. Try to knock something off your list or tell them something you really need. Alternatively, if they are looking for a gift idea, consider an experience or membership for the family to something that you can use all year, rather than more toys.
It all helps and it will, without a doubt, make Christmas easier for you.
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What are your top tips for budgeting for Christmas? Do you shop throughout the year to spread the cost? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!