Planning for Christmas

22 November 2010

christmas-goodiesHave you worked out a plan for Christmas? Written up a Christmas Budget? Really I should have started doing this a month ago but I've been a bit lax this year. I made up a Christmas budget last year, and found it an enourmous help. Not to mention a money saver. It's like anything else. You write up a list and stick to it, and you find you spend a third less than you'd normally spend. For more money saving tips for Christmas, check out Tamsin's post here.

However, in researching this post I found that it is just as important to at least work out a rough schedule for Christmas too. It isn't just about making more effecient use of time, although that's important, but also about not forgetting anything thus resulting in a last minute dash that costs you three times as much.

So, from what I could find, there's three aspects to spending less and getting more at Christmas time. Planning: what do you need? Budgeting: how much do you have to spend? Timetable: what do you need to do?

I don't mind doing all this, if it helps me have an enjoyable Christmas without breaking the overdraft. It just seems so mindnumbingly boring! Surely someoen, somewhere has already done all this and I can just learn from their research? Well, yes! And so can you. It is what the Internet does the best. Here's what I found, online.

Budgets & Planning

familyLast year, which was the first time I had done this (shocking I know! But pre-redundandancy, work was so busy at that time of the year I simply never had the time to do any sort of planning), I just wrote out a plan for Christmas dinner and presents for the kids.

How naive and simple that seems now! If you're going to do this, do it properly. Factor in decorations, wrapping paper, cards, sundries like extra tin foil, and all the regular stuff you'll be using a lot more of over the holidays like sandwich loaf (with everyone off work and eating at home).

On the US blog Simple Mum you can download a simple, single sheet budget/planning form in PDF format. This is designed for parents, so it includes stuff you might not think of like craft supplies (so you can save money on decorations by getting the kids to make them but don't forget to factor in the expenses involved), and ingredients for Christmas cookies.

If like me you love nothing better than a good spreadsheet, try this one. Created by Melbourne mum Andrea, you can download it from her blog Planning With Kids. You'll need either Excel or a programme that can open Excel spreadsheets. One idea of hers that I will definitely be nicking is to include the previous year's worksheets in the same spreadsheet. Handy for quick reference and undoubtedly there will be a lot that doesn't change.

Christmas billsHowever you decide to do it, one important feature for your worksheet or planning list will be the column for costs. Make sure you list everything. Candles for the Advent Candle? Fake holly for making a wreath for the front door? A nail for hanging up the wreath? I've learnt the hard way over the years that it is the pennies that you spend that soon add up.

Which ties in with the third part of our Frugal Christmas Masterplan. Working out a timetable.

Schedule

Underpinning your budget and planning sheet, and tying both together, will be a good timetable. I don't say this from my own experience because I'm still such a novice at this sort of thing. But according to the experiences of every good frugal blogger on the internet, it seems to be quite crucial.

I guess that it is all well and good telling you to factor in everything for your Christmas budget, but if you don't work out exactly what you're doing or are likely to be doing over Chirstmas, you're more inclined to forget something.

It seems that there are two aspects to any Christmas schedule. First, write down all the events you need to plan for. Factor in seasonal events like advent calendars ready for December 1st, nativity plays, school Christmas productions, panto, as well as the obvious stuff like Christmas dinner, stocking fillers, decorations.

candy canesThen give yourself some deadlines.  You could, for example, plan to have bought all the non-perishables by the end of October like nuts, napkins, extra/disposable cutlery, table cloths. Sainsburys and Tesco, and other stores, always have huge toy sales in October or early November. Have a look here on PlayPennies - when did Toys R Us have its big sale last year? Chances are good it will be around the same time every year. They've got some great tips on budgeting for food at Christmas over at Netmum's, and I particularly like their advice on making use of the freezer.

I know that there's a lot to be said against freezing meat, particularly red meat. It degrades the structure of the meat fibres so it isn't quite the same as fresh meat. Personally though I've never noticed such a big difference. Sure it is nice to push out the boat and get something really that little bit more special for Christmas. But at the end of the day, if you're on a tight budget, you've got to think about what you're going to spend and where. Last year, I bought a leg of lamb, and a huge lump of beef to roast, in advance and kept it in the freezer until shortly before Christmas (don't forget to factor in defrosting time). And no-one noticed that my pot-roast wasn't quite as good as the previous years'.

Got a top tip?

Christmas pigHere's another thing I learned last year. I went to the local Sainsburys as soon as it opened on Christmas eve, to buy fish for Christmas dinner. I was trying not to look at the last remaining plump and succulent sea bass, as sadly at £15 it was WAY out of my budget, when the fishmonger said "How about the sea bass? It is the last one so I'm able to sell it for half price". Bargain!

So please, if there's any little secrets like that you've learnt over the years, please please do share here. I really do need all the help I can get!

TOPICS:   Christmas   Banking

3 comments

  • Naomi M.
    I waiver from year to year on planning hugely, or not planning much and can't say it makes a big difference. I usually like to pick up things such as choccies and biscuits over the weeks along with my general shopping, when I don't notice it - but no more - a whole tub of celebrations, a box of mince pies (yes I make some of my own too, but they were on special offer) and two boxes of chocs that were put away for Christmas have all disappeared (eaten by son, husband or both). So I'm not doing that again!
  • Laura
    I always try to buy little bits and pieces throughout the year and mostly online as things seem to be a little cheaper although you do get some bargains in places like poundland etc. If I am spending my hard earned cash online, I always try to go through a cash back site like Top Cash Back or Quidco and if I can't get any cash back then I go through Nectar Points website so atleast I get something in return for spending my money. Another good thing to do if you can, if you have the money sitting, is buy your online stuff with a Tesco Credit Card. That way you get points from that as well and if you have the money sitting you can pay the credit card off the next day and you've got some cash back and extra points for tesco so when they send your vouchers out you'll have more and save those vouchers up and double then when the clubcard rewards events come round :) If you do things this way, you spend less on presents by shopping online and compairing, going through a cash back site or nectar points and also getting points from the credit card making the item you're actually buying cheaper and you're getting something in return for buying it. It's a good way to shop if you can making your money work for you. I also buy wrapping paper from places like poundland and the card factory as they're really cheap and at the end of the day it's wrapping paper and will get ripped off and binned. Also try and recycle gift bags you have received yourself for birthday and last years xmas, just take off the old tag if it's been written on and stick a new one on yourself. Saves a bit of money that can be better spent else where. Hope that's help :)
  • Fiona
    Do a 'virtual pressie swap' - invite people to buy themselves something they like, from you, and you buy yourself something you like, from them. That way everyone gets something they want, and within their budget. We did this with the families last year (apart from the children, obviously), as we weren't travelling to see them, and it saved money, postage and stress.

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