With the cost-of-living crisis hitting family finances this year, many will be looking for ways to cut back on spending this Christmas. Here’s my guide to getting through December without forking out more than you can afford.
1. Make three lists on your phone, or in a notebook: who’s doing what at Christmas (cooking, bringing wine, wrapping gifts – people like to be told), what gifts you’re buying for whom and your maximum budget for each – a limit, not a target. Colour code when you buy so you don’t forget and buy twice.
2. Don’t buy new gadgets or phones, buy refurbished ones. The circular economy is important for planet and purse. Refurbed.ie sells a range of household appliances and computers. I found a Dell Latitude F7450 Notebook for €305; regular price €699. Perfect condition and guaranteed with a free trial.
3. Reuse and recycle are Christmas watchwords. Circularliving.ie and Thriftify.ie are great sites, with a huge range of providers of toys, clothes and gifts for kids. Flopsyshop.ie has a Jasper Conran pinafore for a two-year-old for €8, with 10pc off your first order.
4. Buy sustainable and local crafts as gifts. People love something unique and handmade. See www.countrymarkets.ie for a listing of markets around the country selling everything from knitwear to tasty treats. The Giftedfair.ie craft fair in the RDS lasts until tomorrow.
5. I love gifts that keep on giving. Faerly.ie has Christmas Wishcloth cards which become reusable Swedish dish-cloths afterwards for€7.95. Reuzi.ie is selling pre-seeded cards for €4.99 which can be planted in the garden in spring as a permanent reminder of you!
6. Dig out old loyalty cards, apps and points and see what’s on them. Even a free cup of coffee or a fiver off your shopping this time of year is worth it. Check out the ‘partner’ companies of your utility providers and what freebies you can convert points to.
7. Buy two extra things every time you go into the supermarket. From a box of biscuits to a roll of wrap or bottle of booze, it cuts down on your final shop and you won’t notice the spend.
8. Bulk-buy kitchen and Christmas stuff with family/friends for things like tin-foil, decorations, wrapping paper, packs of tinsel, lights and multi-packs of treats. You’ll get better value.
9. For festive get-togethers over the next few weeks, consider an early-bird meal or long lunch instead – it’s usually far better value and you’ll have a better chance of finding a bus or taxi home.
10. Make a door draught-excluder for a fun craft and practical energy saver: roll up an old single duvet tightly and tie in place with coloured ribbons. Or cut the leg off an old pair of jeans (or arm from a sweatshirt) and stuff with rags, tights or single socks. Sew up the ends.
11. Have difficult family conversations early: who’s bringing what to dinner, who’s having who for lunch and do you all really need to see everybody on an already stressful Christmas morning? There’s a whole week to get together in different ways and people are always happy to have a break from family!
12. Make gifting sustainable and low cost; agree with friends to challenge yourselves to only buy from a charity shop, or only spend a tenner, or buy a book they wouldn’t normally read, or gift a family a giant jigsaw or board game instead of individual presents.
13. Claim back your taxes, especially on medical expenses, before December 31. It’s boring but €400m goes unclaimed every year in tax credits and reliefs you may be entitled to: it’ll only take a couple of hours and it’s better in your pocket than Revenue’s. You can back claim four years. See revenue.ie
14. Offer talent or time as a gift instead of spending money; a voucher to babysit your friend’s kids, or an offer to bake desserts for someone else’s party, do their winter weeding or batch-cook meals for their freezer.
15. Start the Christmas 2023 Pringles challenge: Cut a hole in a Pringles lid (after eating the contents). Save 1c today and add 1c more every day: that’s 2c tomorrow, 3c next day, then 4c and so on. This day next year you’ll have €669 – big day sorted.
16. Instead of a pricey panto, consider the dozens of local amateur dramatic shows on offer in community halls and local theatres – they’re just as much fun and a fraction of the price.
17. Do a business wardrobe clear out. WorkEqual.ie is a charity which mentors and dresses women returning to work. Donating will make you feel good, and free up space in your wardrobe for the New Year sales.
18. Make up a homemade gift box for a) the home lover – a candle, mini-cactus, tea-light vase from Ikea for under €10; b) the writer – a notebook, pens, bookmark etc, from 75c at Dealz; or c) the cook – infuse decanted olive oil with rosemary sprig, garlic, peppercorns in a pretty glass bottle, €4.49 from Homestore-
19. For the worrier in your life, write 30 life-affirming messages on coloured pieces of paper. Put them in a kilner jar (Ikea, €4.50) tied with a ribbon and instructions to pick one for every day of January.
20. For the person who has everything: buy a toilet (€15), clutch of chicks (€19) or two little pigs – with a ‘Hogs and Kisses’ card (€40) from Oxfamireland.org.
21. If there are only a few of you for Christmas dinner, forget a massive and expensive turkey. Your butcher will source a crown, or bone and roll it for less waste, and fewer leftovers. Or there’s no shame in a chicken.
22. Buy an experience to be remembered. Go on a Rascals Brewery tour (€12.50), create a custom playlist on Spotify, blow up a big photo of a brilliant memory of you and your loved one together (floating frames €14.95, Meadows & Byrne) instead of leaving it on your phone for eternity, or create the makings of a favourite cocktail for two.
23. Print off a selection of favourite photos of your loved one (from 20c per print, Harvey Norman) and create a collage of cherished memories all arranged in a nice frame.
Alternatively, create a personalised book such as the Velveteen Rabbit with your friend’s name on it (€40, justathought.ie).
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