Saving for Christmas…what happened?

Saving for Christmas - the results

Happy New Year! May 2017 bring you happiness, peace and lots of joy!

We had a lovely festive break and, now that January has arrived (I’m trying to stay positive about this!) I have been looking back at our spending to see how we did in our ‘Saving for Christmas’ series.

Sources of Funding:

In my first post here I listed different sources of money from which to fund our Christmas:

  • Dedicated Savings Fund £180. Actual: £178 I came in slightly under budget on this one. This was where most of the money for buying presents came from.
  • Nectar points. £10. I did have £10 in Nectar points but made use of the Sainsbury’s ‘Double Up’ promotion in November and spent £20 on wine.
  • Boots Advantage Points. £15. This was about right but with the use of ‘3 for 2’ gifts I actually picked up £25 worth of gifts this way. These were spent on stocking presents.
  • Quidco rewards.   £96.40 £73.82. Actual £66.82 (I didn’t realise that when I rented a couple of Love Film/Amazon films the payment defaulted to my giftcard balance so took £7 away from my Christmas budget). Although this wasn’t as much as I had planned for – and I did have issues about using Amazon- it really saved money taking my Qudico rewards this way.
  • Loose change. £3ish. Actual: £2.35. This was spent on whipped cream and marshmallows for homemade hot chocolates.
  • Usual food & drink budget. £150. Actual: £168.73. This was for two supermarket shops and my veg box and lasted until 28 December (when my regular monthly shopping took over). It really helped to meal plan and that we were eating Christmas lunch at my parents. So far we have eaten everything we bought, although I don’t think I would buy a salad box again.
  • Facebook Sales. £50. Actual: £35. Boy, this was hard work! Lots of postings, re-postings and non-collections. As always I find these online sales a lot of effort. Still it managed to clear a few things we no longer needed and anything unsold was donated.
  • Other sources: My husband and I hadn’t really spoken about present giving and, as I hadn’t budgeted for this, it was a stupid thing to do as he bought me a couple of gifts at the beginning of the month (including a second-hand The Jam album which I am v excited about!). Thankfully I had been given an Amazon gift voucher for my birthday so I used some of this to get him some books. Other sources for unexpected gifts came from my existing present drawer and we made quite a few biscuits and mince pies.

With regards to present giving I didn’t do so well with friends and relatives and ended up giving out gifts when I should have said no. Conversely, I also wish I had spent more money on my nephews and nieces. My children had a small budget of £40 each but didn’t seem to notice that we gave them fewer presents (incl some second-hand) than their grandparents gave them.

Talking of presents, we did persuade my in-laws to buy the girls an amazing experience as their Christmas present which was a ticket to the Harry Potter Studios (one of the best family days out we have had!!). They also bought (quite a) few other presents so it would be good to see this pile reduce and focus on the experience giving in the future.

Harry Potter Studios Tour: The Great Hall

Christmas ‘Bucket List’:

In my third post in this series here I wrote about what we were -and were not- going to do as a family this holiday. Our restricted budget meant we weren’t going to see a film/show, or go ice skating.We didn’t really miss these excursions, though.

Those activities that we did take part in were split into a) paid for and b) free:

Meals out with friends & family: We met up with friends for a grown up curry night as we do every year. For 2017 I will factor this cost into our Christmas savings, which I have failed to do so far. Similarly my husband and I had a day trip to London (while the children were with grandparents) and we could have saved better for this too. However I had budgeted for a pub lunch and meet up with the in-laws and we had enough money left to have tea and cake afterwards with my mother-in-law.

Works’ dos: Neither of us went to our works’ dos (due to illness, lack of planning) so this did save some money. We also received a couple of invitations to friends’ houses over the festive period and I made sure we had some bottles of wine in stock to take along (as well as some small candles I had upcycled)

With regards to free activities we took part in the following:

 

Boxing Day night Sleepover in the lounge (for the kids!)

Baking

Homemade mince pies

Lots of Hot Chocolate (decorated with marshmallows and whipped cream bought with my loose change, as above)

Putting the decorations up

Family Games We picked up a couple of new (to us) board games and a puzzle which we played over the holidays, accompanied with homemade popcorn and toffee sauce. Still didn’t manage to play Risk, though (!)

Church Crib Service

Christmas Day visit to the pub

We also enjoyed a fantastic New Year’s Eve party at friends’ and were fortunate enough to be invited to a birthday party in Bath last night too!

Now that the festive season is drawing to a close I can look back and realise that: there are some things I didn’t need to buy;some things I want to buy for next time; and where I need to save more.

I am pleased that I stuck to my present-buying budget but want to work harder at cutting some presents, and spending more on a few other people. I also know there are a couple of food and drink items I can cut for Christmas 2017. But one of the biggest spends I hadn’t accounted for was meeting up with friends and families in restaurants.  For 2017 I need to set a realistic target for this one so that we don’t go into debt.

As with every Christmas, though, it’s the actual spending time with family and friends that really counts. Whether this has to be budgeted for (if you meet with relatives who live a long way away)- or is free – it is these moments that make the festive season a memorable one.

FamilyTraditions: Christmas decorations via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

How was your Christmas break?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saving for Christmas…Part Three

Saving for Christmas Part Three via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Hello and welcome to Part Three of my series on how we are saving and spending at Christmas. In my previous post here I wrote about what we were planning to spend our money on. As well as buying presents, food and drink I also planned to put some money aside for family experiences: the ubiquitous ‘Christmas Bucket List’

Christmas traditions via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

We have written a few ideas together as a family and also hope to incorporate a few traditional activities as well. As money is slightly tighter there are some things we won’t be doing:

Christmas Theatre/Cinema Trip

Although we did go and see ‘Fantastic Beasts’ last month there are no plans for any cinema trips this Christmas. In the past we have also been to see a local theatre show or the village panto, but have decided not to go this year. However we still have our (accidental) Amazon Prime subscription which seems to have a few seasonal movies in its collection. We will also be swapping some unwanted dvds and old DS games at the local Games Exchange for a few (new to us) films to watch over the break.

Ice Skating

While not a strict family tradition we have taken the kids to go ice skating in previous years. We have already received two invitations to visit the local ice rink but, because of costs, we have declined. My eldest has been ice skating with friends,but she paid for this herself.

Christmas Meal using Tesco Clubcard vouchers

When we have accrued enough Tesco vouchers we usually exchange them for an (almost free) lunch out as part of our Christmas activities. However this year we barely shopped at the supermarket so have no vouchers to use.

There are some Christmas events that we will take (or have taken) part in as they involve meeting up with friends and family.Some of these I have saved for already:

Meeting with old friends for a Christmas Curry

This is a tradition for the adults! We meet up once a year with old friends over a curry in Bath. We actually got together last Friday and had a lovely evening. However this is an event I always fail to budget for and had to come out of our rather tight bank account. Next year I must add this to the Christmas budget.

Meeting with in laws for a pub lunch

Last Saturday we met with family for a lovely pub lunch in Oxfordshire (half way for both of us). Having failed to budget for this last year I saved for the lunch this time. We also pre-ordered so we knew what we were having,knew how much it would cost, and the kids didn’t have to wait too long for their food.

Trip to more in-laws and a day in London

This coming weekend we will be travelling to my father-in-law’s which is a Christmas highlight! The girls will enjoy a day of being spoilt,eating loads and making lots of crafts. My husband and I will be packed off to London where we plan to visit a couple of galleries and do some vintage shop browsing. I’m hoping we will only have to budget for a cheap lunch for the two of us and our Oyster cards are already topped up for travel.

Works’ dos

Something I never plan for but just hope to ‘wing it’ and spend for it out of our weekly budget. It would be good to have a bit more money put aside to cover these. We will also have a few invites to friends’ houses (we live in a very sociable village with its own traditions) but I have already bought bottles of wine for this (taken from my Sainsburys ‘double up’ vouchers last month)

 

Champagne_flute

Then there are the best Christmas activities: the simple and traditional ones that don’t cost a thing but bring a lot of joy!

Christmas Sleepover

This is a tradition the girls created a few years ago. One evening over the Christmas break they bring their duvets into the lounge,watch a festive film and have a sleepover in the lounge, amid the lights and presents!

Baking

We’ve already made some mince pies and biscuits for friends and neighbours. We will, no doubt, be making plenty more once school has broken up. There’s nothing more Christmasey than putting on some cheesy music and doing loads of festive baking.

Putting decorations up

This goes without saying! We will be digging out a lot of our second-hand decorations,which includes an old tree,baubles, signs and our traditional Christmas mugs (picked up from a charity shop of course!)

charity shop Christmas mugs

Viewing the Christmas Lights

At the end of our road is one of the village’s biggest Christmas lights displays. No doubt we will wrap up warm and wander up the road to view this tradition. We will also be taking the girls to central London this weekend to look at the lights on Oxford Street, Regent Street and the upmarket Bond Street. For both my husband and I this is reminiscent of our own childhoods. If we arrive early enough we should be able to gawp at the windows of Selfridges, Fortnum & Masons and visit the John Lewis roof garden – and all for free.
(hmm didn’t quite happen – our youngest one was sick on Sunday morning so we came straight home. However it did give us time at home to put up the tree and get the decorations out)

FamilyTraditions: Christmas decorations via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Family Games

We have a few board games (new and pre-loved) that we dig out this time of year to play. This year my husband and I have agreed we must learn to play ‘Risk’ which we picked up from a charity shop a couple of years ago!

Church Crib Service

Even if you enjoy a more secular Christmas there is something really special about attending a church service at this time of year. We always go to the church’s family friendly Crib Service on Christmas Eve. It’s the time of year when the church is at its busiest, we see neighbours (even those with grown up children) and there is something truly touching when you think of the 750 past Christmases that have been celebrated in our village church!

Christmas Day visit to the pub!

A slightly different tradition,although I would argue that the village pub,like the church, is an important community space. For an hour on Christmas Day the two village pubs open their doors (one of the pubs even serves free drink!). It’s a really lovely opportunity to catch up with friends and neighbours, before heading home to cook the Christmas dinner!

(We also have one amazing Christmas trip planned as a surprise for after Christmas, courtesy of grandparents!!)

I may have a little more money left in the Christmas budget but we’ll have to see how that goes as you never know what you may end up spending for. If you are interested in looking at Christmas spending in another way I have started a series on my facebook page here which, this week, has been focusing on alternative present buying and even a ‘Buy Nothing Christmas’. I plan to continue to post daily on ‘A Simple Christmas’ so follow the Facebook page or my Twitter account for info.

What activities do you have planned for Christmas? Or do you prefer to take a step back and not organise too much at what is a really hectic time of year?