As Christmas approaches we can often feel a lot of pressure to make the day as perfect as possible and usually this means that we end up paying a lot more money that we should (or even could!). This year, why not tackle the silly season a little differently?
Don’t go out and spend a ton of cash on wrapping paper and sparkly extras for your presents. Instead buy some nice, cost-effective rolls of white paper from an art shop or stationery shop, and plunder your paint, crayon, glue and glitter supplies at home.
Lay a plastic mat down on the kitchen floor, unroll the paper and unleash your children. They will colour and stick and paint and glue until every inch of paper has been decorated by their little hands. To make it more festive why not only use colours that match your Christmas theme.
Once it’s dried you now have hand-made wrapping paper that friends and family will love for the effort that’s gone into it, and the adorable artwork, for less than half what you would have paid for your usual supplies.
Many people take great pride in decorating and designing their Christmas trees and often they change this theme each year. Why not dig through those old decorations from the 80s that you haven’t looked at in a while instead of forking out a fortune on new ones? Not only will they be vintage but your tree will look completely different and likely inspire a nostalgic trip down memory lane.
If this doesn’t appeal, it’s a good idea to scour your local car boot sales and charity shops for decorations people are desperate to sell. Even better, why not haul out those decorations you have just snubbed and either donate them to a good cause or make some Christmas dosh by selling them online.
Of course it’s usually the presents that end up giving your finances the biggest beating of all. It’s so hard to say no to pleading faces and puppy-dog eyes. Being a parent can be extremely stressful at this time of year, especially as children get older and start comparing their gifts with those of their friends. This is fine if you’re earning a whack of cash and can afford sixteen ponies and a tennis court but for us normal folk present shopping can be something of a minefield.
Online auction sites like eBay are a good place to start looking for the toys your children have specifically asked for. Many people (as should you) are selling toys they never use to make some extra money for Christmas and you can land yourself some great deals.
Before you buy anything at an online auction, however, there are some things you need to be aware of. Always check online to see the cheapest retail prices first, you don’t want to end up paying more for second hand than for new, and work out how much you’re prepared to pay.
Sites like Fat Fingers have listings of all the items that have been spelled incorrectly. These misspelled listings won’t show up on the auction site’s search so if other people don’t see them they can sell for as little as 99p because nobody else is bidding on them.
Also be prepared to be patient and to look for listings that end at awkward times. Those that end in “peak” times like evenings are usually heavily populated and can end in bidding wars. Finally, make sure you read the feedback of the seller before you bid.
Repeated “good” feedback can be fake and bad comments are a good guide to what you can expect. Then double-check their payment and postage options. Some sellers put a hefty charge onto postage to guarantee a profit while others may expect you to come and fetch the items in person.
It’s a good idea to take your gift hunting to online search engines like Google Shopping to see if it’s selling at a discounted rate at a little known online store. It can be quite tedious searching through all the listed items but you can often snag a great bargain.
While you’re in bargain hunter mode stay alert to false economies. Some stores that sell products for vastly discounted rates are actually not cheaper than the nearest high-street chain. I’ve certainly been caught out here and the products have ended up being vastly inferior and I had to buy them again.
Another great Christmas present idea for friends and family members that you care for but can’t really spend a lot on is to take them a slip from the plants in your garden. This is a strategy best started in late June or August, but there’s no time like the present either.
Whenever you visit someone, ask them if you can take some slips from plants that they have in their window boxes or gardens, pot them nicely, wrap them beautifully and add a hand-made tag. Everybody appreciates a slice of bright green on their window ledge in the grey winter months.