Debt Free Christmas: is it possible?

Deciding to clear our debts and start a massive finance overhaul might have not been the cleverest thing to do right before Christmas, but the way we see it is – if we make through Christmas we will make it through everything!

Christmas 2016 will be the first Christmas we spend at our first flat together so we wanted to make it special, but not in a way that would break the bank. We are paying for my family to come and visit us, but that happened in the summer, so it’s completely accounted for. But what about the gifts, food, decoration, madness?

First of all we will be having quite a small gathering. It will be me, my partner, my mum and little sister for Christmas Eve (we traditionally have a bigger emphasis on Christmas Eve in Catholic countries) and then for Christmas day it will be that plus my partner’s mother and brother. So there will be a great saving on food there. I am vegan and my partner’s brother is vegetarian, so that is a huge chunk of savings in meat and animal products (typically the most expensive, apart from alcohol). We will also try to cook to the actual number of people present, not cook ridiculous amounts that will just go to waste!

Then come decorations… Since it is our first Christmas in this place we had no decorations apart from a tree ornament in the shape of a snowman playing the bagpipe (got to love souvenirs from Scotland!). We could have gone all out but we were pretty tame in that field. We have been saving since this summer for Christmas (because of my family coming over) so we had around £150 set aside for decorations. We decided to hit Wilko and came out with all decorations plus extra duvets and pillows for our guests for £100! Got to love under spending!

And now comes the most dreaded part of Christmas… Gifts! Now, don’t get me wrong I love giving gifts. But I also love giving gifts that matter. Some members of my family give dozens of gifts to their children and to me that just seems like wasteful and ungrateful children in the making. This year we decided to give experiences. It’s my mother and sister’s first time in the UK so we are taking them to London to do some sightseeing and to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. I am also taking my sister to the Doctor Who Experience. Now, these are not cheap things. But they are experiences that they will remember for years to come. My sister is 12 and I’m sure other kids her age will get some fancy gadget that they will forget by mid-2017, and that is fine. But I want her to look back in a few years and think about how magical her first trip to the UK was and how amazing that Christmas was.

Extended family will most likely receive an e-card (the beauty of both of us being back in education is that we can easily justify being this frugal). As for my own partner… It’s still to be decided, but considering he reads this blog I will refrain from commenting.

To sum this all up, my biggest tips for a great Christmas that won’t break the bank:

  1. If you know you will have big expenses over Christmas (like plane tickets and/or accommodation) start saving for them as early as possible. It won’t make a huge difference in your budget throughout the year, but it also means you will be fine when the long month of January comes along!
  2. Don’t get too focused on big and expensive gifts – sometimes the smaller things count the most. Look to give experiences or handmade gifts, something with meaning and that shows you care!
  3. Make a conscious effort not to be wasteful – only cook what your family will realistically eat!
  4. Give back – even if it’s just a small donation to a food bank or taking some old coats to a charity shop. Remember those less fortunate than you over the holiday season!
  5. Get all of your shopping done early – avoid crowds and confusion and spend that time with your family instead!

 

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