How to survive Christmas

There are 82 days left before Christmas and if you want to survive it without your wallet taking a pounding, now is the time to start planning

Confession time – I seriously dislike the forced end-of-year festivities.

Christmas is not big in our house. We’ve had the same gunky plastic tree for the past seven years. Every year, it gets pulled out two days before Christmas, half-heartedly decorated and then sheds prickly green plastic on my floor.

This year, my son is getting a bank account as a Christmas gift. He’s off to high school and is now old enough to buy his own computer games.

I also hate the way everything conspires to make us spend money on stuff we don’t need for people we don’t like very much – all because it’s the season of goodwill and giving.

There is no way I go anywhere near a shopping centre in the last two weeks before Christmas. My Christmas shopping starts now and is completed at the end of November.

But if you’re a great believer in the festive season, love giving and receiving gifts and plan to party till you drop, here are a few tips and suggestions to make it that much easier on your wallet.

The number one rule for spending money is this: Have a plan. But don’t just have a plan – stick to it like crazy. Your bank balance will thank your for it.

Here are six tips to help you through the festive season:

1 Draw up a budget – one for entertainment (food and drink) and the other for gifts

Stick to your budget, don’t walk around feeling guilty the day before Christmas and end up buying more stuff for people.

Make sure you have enough food, with some in reserve for unexpected guests. But don’t buy every two-for-one special – you are going to waste it.

2 Make a list of the people you need to buy gifts for and what you want to buy them

Be clever and creative, or if it’s too much like hard work, buy them the stuff they love – a chocoholic will never say no to a lovely, handmade bar of chocolate.

This list should be for the people you really want to or must buy gifts for. Don’t overcompensate by buying colleagues or distant relatives gifts because you feel you have to.

3 Buy early and put away

Once you have the list of gifts that need buying, keep it in your wallet and start buying one thing at a time every time you go shopping. Then lock the gifts away when you get home.

You need to have a gift cupboard. Buy when items are on special throughout the year and lock them away. It really does work out cheaper in the long run.

The same goes for drinks and foodstuffs you can freeze.

Remember, prices go up at Christmas, so order now from your suppliers and pay in advance. Then pick up the stuff a few days before the festivities and you will save on those mark-ups.

4 If you have children, now is a good time to clean out their rooms

Get them to help you and sort out the toys and stuff they have outgrown. Once they realise they will get new stuff, it’s easy to throw out the clutter.

Remember, there are many charity shops or organisations that can use the toys your children have outgrown. It is also a little life lesson for kids to be able to give to those less fortunate than them.

5 Instead of spending a lot of money on decorations (frankly, most of them are dreadful) get the family together to make them

. A dead tree branch and tin of spray paint can become a Christmas tree. Plant it in a container and wrap the container in beautiful paper.

. Get the kids to thread colourful Ama Kip Kip on string to decorate your tree.

. Make greeting cards out of selfies – it’s the ultimate in personalised cards. Download your favourite selfie, print out and paste on colourful cardboard paper. Write a message to make sure no one forgets you.

6 Go shopping after Christmas because you can pick up some amazing bargains and start stocking the gift cupboard for the next year

This also works well if you have been on leave and would like to take gifts to your colleagues when you return to work.

All the shops try to clear their Christmas stock before the new year, which means significant markdowns on their post-Christmas stock.

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