Is anyone else sick of the run up to Christmas (which usually starts from September in the shops)? Are you worried about how much Christmas will cost you this year when you remember how it cost you an absolute arm and a leg last year? It feels as though you've only just finished paying it off when it all starts again? Feel like Christmas is nowhere near as much fun now you're a grown-up? Wrong.
This year I've decided to boycott the modern ways of throwing money at Christmas, ditching the assumption that the amount of money you spend is proportionally equivalent to how much fun you will have and how memorable it will be. They all blend into one by the following December anyway so why waste the time and money when you can strip it back to basics. And consequently enjoy it so much more without the same level of debt and lack of personal touch.
This year I am not buying masses of presents for people... No I haven't turned into Eberneezer Scrooge... I am just going to get a little more creative instead in a bid to make Christmas more bearable and affordable.
I understand that not everyone is the artistic or crafty type but this shouldn't put you off. Everyone has something they can use to their advantage and turn into great gifts.
Cooking and baking is a fantastic way to make cheaper gifts which ooze that personal touch that makes any present special. Of course, it is easier to buy the same thing from a shop but it will cost more and will be less fun trudging up and down the high street or in a supermarket. Not to mention that the receiver of the gift is likely to get many similar things and won't even remember who gave them which present. Your home made cookies on the other hand are hardly going to be forgotten.
If cookies are not your thing then you could always bake cupcakes, mini Christmas puddings, mince pies or pastries (the possibilities are endless).
The great thing with this is that most people have many of the necessary ingredients in the cupboard so the start up costs aren't very high and certainly cost less in the long run than buying it ready made.
Easy gift idea: Make a big batch and divide them up between people, wrap in festive cellophane, add a pretty bow and you're done. You could push the boat a bit further out and decorate them with icing first.
Use the money you would have spent on a bunch of small presents worth less that £5 or £10 (times that by ten for all the friends and extended family you don't do big presents with and that's a whopping £50 to £100!).
Instead, ask those friends if they would be happy to book a table for a Christmas meal at a local restaurant or meet up at someone's house to watch Christmas films and eat festive food. It's money way better spent than for some joke present you end up storing in the attic when you do your spring clean. It's also a great way to introduce some of your friends to each other and make new ones as not everyone travels in the one and same social circle.
I find that often I am too busy to see friends on a regular basis and then end up in a situation where I am holding onto a multitude of Christmas and birthday presents throughout the year whilst we attempt to synchronise our social schedules. Meeting up just seems so much more relaxing and fun doesn't it?
This last one I'm new to but I constantly see it in magazines, on blogs and hear about it from some friends. No it doesn't mean giving people old used stuff you no longer want instead of finding them a meaningful gift (that would be a bit Grinchy of you).
It simply means being smarter and more frugal with your Christmas shopping sprees. Instead of buying a brand new present for someone (for example a book, DVD or board game) why not have a look in a local charity shop for it first?
Many people donate items in almost pristine condition, the money goes towards a good cause and you will save some pennies for that Christmas meal with your friends or the home-baked cookie ingredients (see above).
Re-cycling presents is somewhat trickier. Remember who gave you what or you may end up giving the same present back to the person you received it from (not cool). I'm personally less of a fan of this one because I have a sentimental attachment to the most ridiculous of things and especially to present I've been given but if you are less emotional about these things then by all means give this a go.
For example, if last year your great aunt gave you a present that was a bit hit and miss for what you're into i.e. a One Direction album when you're really a heavy metal fan then why not pass it onto your friend/cousin/sibling/colleague (who you know is a hardcore One Direction fan) as part of their present this year? They'll love it and you'll know the present has gone to a good home.
Also, you won't have things cluttering up your room that you never use and you won't throw away perfectly good items and money. As long as something is in a new condition then this is a good way to recycle items which would otherwise go unloved whilst keeping the purse strings tightened and Christmas within budget.
This is obviously not going to be a solution for your entire Christmas shopping list but throughout the year you may accumulate one or two presents which just aren't quite 'you' which might come in handy for the right person*.
I don't however suggest doing this with anything other than new items which you genuinely won't use but are sure someone else will love.
Alternatively, if you're on the look out for a way to spread the Christmas cheer a bit further then you could ask all your friends, family and local people to donate their unwanted presents and then pass them onto a local charity. They could well use them to distribute to people during the holidays or sell in their charity shop and it would be a better use for the items than leaving them to gather dust in a cupboard*.
*These should be new items which are looking for a home rather than random old items from your attic waiting to be thrown in a skip.