Preparing for the best Christmas ever, on a budget

Last year we decided to simplify Christmas by just getting one gift for each other and the kids. We all – even our three year old – got as much pleasure from that one gift as we would have had from many more. And they weren’t extravagant gifts either. I bought my daughter a wooden pizza kit from Lidl that cost about £5 and my partner a nutcracker. It was actually a very good nutcracker that will last him a lifetime so I think it still felt to him like a luxurious gift.

Our main motivation to do this was that we didn’t have much money this time last year, and I was exhausted from having two small kids and just having returned to work. Neither of us wanted to fill our house with extra things either. So although we were glad we did it and decided to do the same in the future, the decision didn’t come from a very joyful place.

This year there are less than 6 months to go until Christmas and more than ever I’d like to make this one really special. We haven’t seen friends and family for months – for obvious reasons – and there’s been so much focus on what we can’t do. No playgrounds, no visits to friends, no idea when things will return to normal.

Because I am a dedicated thriftster, I’d like to have another frugal, low waste Christmas, but I’d also like this one to be really special. So I’m starting to plan ahead because I don’t want to pay a premium for convenience. I also want to savour the preparation. Christmas is special – but it’s also a welcome return to normality to look forward to. We know what to expect at Christmas, it comes around every year. If there is a second wave to this pandemic we can cosy up at home (if we are lucky enough to be healthy) and it might not feel as strange then as it’s a time to hole up.

Here are some of the ways that I am starting to prepare for the our best Christmas ever. It may sound a bit (a lot) cheesy, but the kids are at brilliant ages now (4 and nearly 2 come December) and I’m sure they will both love the extra time with family, the theatre of opening the presents and a really delicious feast.

A lot of people starting sinking funds for Christmas around now. I think this is a good idea and I’ve done this is the past, but what I like to do is make it a Xmas/holiday fund so that whatever I don’t spend on Xmas goes towards the next holiday. I didn’t dip into it last year and we haven’t been on holiday so I will keep it aside for this year.

Here are some of the other ways that I’m starting to prepare:

Gifts

  • This year I’d really like to give some handmade gifts so I’ve started to keep a note of ideas. I use the Collection function in my Instagram account. So far I’ve saved posts about infused liqueurs, some body scrubs and painted wooden spoons to label veg for keen gardeners. I’d really like to make some blackberry gin or raspberry vodka or a coffee liqueur.
  • Once the charity shops open I’ll pick up secondhand boxes and baskets for hampers to put the home made gifts in.
  • I’ve started making a list of gift ideas whenever somebody mentions something they’d like or I see something online. So far my daughter has put in a request for a Darth Vadar costume and a My Little Pony. If she’s still keen on either of these things after a few months I’ll know they’re a goer.
  • I’m also starting to scan gumtree for secondhand wooden toys and lego for the kids. There’s always a good amount of these and they hold their quality well (as well as being far cheaper). It’s worth also knowing that both Aldi and Lidl sell wooden toys in November every year, which make great party gifts for other children’s birthdays.
  • In the past we have done a secret santa with family too where we get one special present for our assigned family member instead of smaller, more forgettable, presents for everybody.

Food

  • My credit card gives me vouchers to spend at John Lewis/Waitrose every few months so I’m saving these for our Christmas food shop.

Cards and wrapping

  • I’m planning on getting crafty this year with wrapping paper and cards so have started looking at ideas for homemade wrapping paper on Pinterest.
  • Also, I don’t usually give cards but our neighbours do and we’ve become quite close through the pandemic so I’d love to be able to give them handmade cards this year to make up for two years of being the Scrooges at Number 19.

As a full-time working mum of two I don’t have a lot of time to work on craft projects – it’s taken me weeks to get round to making fabric face masks (and I haven’t even done it yet). But with some time on my side I’m feeling positive that I can make Christmas this year extra special without it costing the earth.

Let me know if you’d like me to share anything I make in advance. Or, if you have your own plans to do Christmas on a budget this year – how will you do it?

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