If you are the person who is responsible for ensuring your family has a wonderful Christmas – or any Christmas at all – the run up to the festivities can be enormously stressful. Fear not though – I have some top tips for binning the festive overwhelm and even potentially enjoying the whole thing!

This is Part 2 – you can find Part 1 here and Part 3 will be with you next week. I’ve got your back this Christmas.

Today we are looking at the practicalities – the admin and the money.

The first thing to look at is the budget. For that you need to have everything written down in one place, be that in a notebook, on a spreadsheet, on a Trello board – however you like to get organised. Write down everyone for whom you need to buy a present, the Christmas cards if you send them, postage, anything that the children might need for school events, any donations you need to make, anything you need to do for work, e.g. Secret Santa. Put it all down in one place then add it all up.

For most of us, that total looks terrifying, and we’re really not sure how we’re going to do it! Don’t worry, you don’t have to do it. That is your starting point, we’re now going to cut the costs…

The first thing I would say is that it is worth considering in this day and age if Christmas cards are really necessary. There will be some people whom you don’t contact that much who might not be particularly technologically minded who will really appreciate a postal card, but so many of us are messaging each other all the time on all kinds of platforms. You know that there are going to be friends and family members you are doing to message on Christmas Day itself. So what is this Christmas card for? It’s kind of an arbitrary message in the middle of a flurry of messages that are passing between you and that person. What are we trying to achieve? If we’re trying to help them to understand that we are thinking of them at Christmas, they’ll know because we’re going to be messaging them!

Christmas cards cost a lot to buy and post, and take so much time and headspace to organise. This is an area where I would definitely cut some costs.

Another way to cut costs is by talking to people and agreeing not to buy presents for each other’s children, or to agree to a limited budget for gift swapping. Everyone is in the same boat, everyone I have talked to has been so relieved to have a gift off their list. We can fall into habits of buying some presents because we always have, and it is worth checking the list every year to see if there are adjustments that can be made.

Once you’ve got the budget down to something manageable, the next important bit is the postage dates, which you can find here on the Royal Mail website. Try to think ahead of time if you want to save some money on the postage, or think about buying presents ahead of time and dropping them off if you are going to see the people concerned.

Another area where you can cut some costs and save some headspace is with the “Thank Yous”. These days, the thank you letters we were all brought up with are no longer required. I video my kids saying thank you for their presents and text the video clips to the relevant people there and then. That’s another job and postage cost off the list!

One final thing to look at is whether you really have to do everything in December. There are 12 months in a year. Does everything that feels like Christmas to you actually have to be done in December? Absolutely the school Christmas events are going to be in December, with very little lead in time knowing what schools are like! There will be cooking to be done and presents to be bought… some things of course have to happen at the time. But what about the other things that sometimes we feel should come with Christmas? If you like to do charitable things at Christmas time, could you choose a different month where you focus on your extra charitable giving, supporting the food bank in a special way, donating toys to a refuge and so on? That does not have to happen in December. Are there people you always visit at Christmas? Could you rearrange those trips to another time of the year, even if it’s just moving it to January, so that the pressure is taken off December just a little bit? What else could realistically be moved to another time of the year?

I know people always moan when Christmas is mentioned as soon as the summer is over, but by putting in some thought ahead of time and getting your ducks in a row it is possible to keep the costs down, get the important things done and stop December from becoming a whirlwind of chaos. Yes, it is wonderful to have a lovely Christmas, but there is no rule that says you have to sacrifice your sanity, your comfort and your bank balance in order to achieve that.

What are your Christmas cost-saving or time-saving tips? Please pop them in the comments below.

Helen Calvert
November 2021