‘Tis the Season to Spend All Your Money in a Blind Panic

I love Christmas. I love the decorations, the food, the cheesy songs, the stories,  the spirit. As the years pass, I’m not so bothered about receiving gifts, but I love, love, love giving them. Result: I always blow all the money at Christmas.

Last year, I was expecting a baby right about the same time Baby Jesus came, so I was super-organised and had pretty much everything done by 1st December. But I still blew all the money. In fact, because They made a mistake and paid me all 10 months of my maternity pay in one massive lump, I really blew all the money. As in, I didn’t even check the prices of things before I bought them. Talk about not thinking ahead … .

This year, I’m getting a grip. Here are my Top 5 Tips (for myself) for Christmas Gifts … .

1. Put your Christmas list on a diet I already told you, I love giving gifts. I’m not stingy, or too lazy to go shopping, but the length of my list was bugging me for several reasons.

a) I live in another country to a lot of the friends I exchange gifts with. I don’t know their kids well – I’ve never even met some of them. I don’t know what they like, what they hate, what they’ve already got … I have no idea if they appreciate my gifts, or if I’m just filling their homes with useless junk.

b) My own kids have too much stuff. We have a small apartment and all three girls share a room. They really don’t need more things, but for every gift I send, someone is sending three back. I want to break the cycle.

c) Postage. In a word. It’s painful to buy a present, wrap it, box it, and then pay it’s value again to send it. Twenty times. Ouch.

I’m not going to lie to your, this is *awkward*. I sent a message to my friends, cringing as I did so, but actually they were all really cool about it. Most agreed with me, one asked to keep exchanging Christmas cards, and another to skip Christmas but continue with birthday presents for the kids. If you do this too, you’ll probably find a lot of your friends feel the same – they just don’t want to be the one to say it.

2. Start some new traditions I didn’t do Father Christmas for my kids when they were babies because they didn’t understand. And I didn’t buy them presents because they got so many from other people. But then last year, my eldest needed a new bike, so I had to get the middle one something, too. I didn’t buy anything for the 8-day-old baby, but I had to do Father Christmas for her, or the other two would gave wondered why FC didn’t care about their baby sister. (OK, I wrapped up the free samples they gave me at the hospital and put them in her stocking – great parenting moment!) My point is … I’ve been a little inconsistent up until now. So I’m starting some new traditions:

a) Every kid gets four presents in their stocking. (Why four? It’s my favourite number, that’s why. But some people do something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read). I haven’t explained The Rule of Four to the girls – I just told them that whatever they ask FC for has to fit inside their stockings (about 30cm x 40cm). And no, smartass child, that does not include smart phones or tablets.

b) Every kid gets a big present – ONE big present – from me and Mr Chef. Biggest Sister needs a desk, Middle Child needs a bike, Giant Baby needs was supposed to have a push-along walker thing. (Annoyingly she has decided to jump the gun and start walking by herself, so we’ll see about that … ).

3. Ditch the plastic OK, this is a personal preference, but lately I’ve been waging war on plastic on behalf of Planet Earth. (I know it’s a little late, but better late than never). I started by buying metal straws in the summer, much to Mr Chef’s disgust and the kids’ delight (they’re easy to please). Then, one day, I made the wild decision to not give any plastic gifts for Christmas. I got a few photo gifts for family, I ordered a lot of books (I love books and I think everyone else should, too), and I’m planning to give a lot of handmade gifts. Which brings me to #4 … .

4. Make it with love I always design my own cards (I even used to draw them before I discovered Canva) and I bake a lot of Christmas treats. So it seemed only natural that I should make my own Christmas presents, too. I found loads of amazing ideas online (damn you, Pinterest, you made it look so easy!) Of course, on closer inspection, I realised I didn’t have any of the stuff and couldn’t even find half of it. And on closer reflection, it has begun to dawn on me that it might be a little difficult to DIY everything when I work in an office five days a week, teach English, have two kids and a baby who can’t sleep without my boob in her mouth. … But I like a challenge!

I would say this, though. I don’t think – although I don’t have the stats to prove it yet – that making your own gifts is any cheaper than buying them. Those materials cost $$$, man. Still, my gifts will be unique, handcrafted and Handmade with Love – I’ve got the stickers to prove it!

5. Don’t panic I’m a bit of a list-freak, but for some reason my Christmas list is always all over the place. I scribble down a ton of names, make some well-thought-out purchases online, feel OK. Then I go shopping in Real Shops, with crowds and kids in tow, and I get this slowly growing sense of unease in my stomach. It rapidly turns into desperation, and before I know it, I’m wildly grabbing gifts and racing to pay. So when I get home, I have three presents for the same little boy and nothing for his sister. NO MORE. This year’s list is in a little book of its own. All names and intended gifts are written down, and The List is always consulted before a purchase. I’ve been to the Real Shops once so far, with the baby, and I made a careful list of everything I wanted to buy beforehand, which I stuck to religiously (OK, OK, I bought those Handmade with Love stickers, but they were super-cute, alright?)

BONUS TIP Keep a record I haven’t budgeted for Christmas. Ever. In my life. But this Christmas I’m writing down every cent I’m spending. Then, I’m going to take that scary number (which, I have a horrible suspicion, probably has four digits) and divide it by 12. Hey presto – the Christmas Fund will be born and I will never blow all the money again!

For more information on budgeting for Christmas, check out Planning for Christmas on a Budget by Sami at A Sunny Side Up Life. She’s got some pro tips and (unlike me) she actually knows what she’s talking about!

Let’s save our pennies and our planet, and instead give our time and love this Christmas. Happy shopping/crafting/ordering stuff online – and don’t panic!