Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I hope that everyone has a very happy Christmas and takes some time out these holidays to relax, spend time with family or just whatever works for you to help you unwind.

Thanks to everyone that has been reading my new blog and for all the supportive comments and idea's! I'll be back in the New Year with more from the garden, a follow up from Christmas and of course loads more money saving strategies.

Bear hugs!

Monday, December 14, 2009

A snug Christmas...

Christmas is a tough time of year — especially when money is 'snug' or 'cosy' as I like to call it! I've given myself a $100 challenge for this Christmas for the first time, and I'm keen to check out how it goes. Let me fill you in...

Our tree from 2008, no pictures of our new one yet!

Making a list, checking it twice (or three times)
I've made a list of all the people that I need to buy gifts for this Christmas, I've gone through it three times to take off people that really don't need to be there and a whole lot came off. Rather than forgetting about them completely, I have put them on the Christmas card list so that they still know we're thinking of them. I also thought that this year I would combine gifts for couples, so my step-sisters and their husbands get one combined gift — and now they have kids, it will be their children getting the gift rather than them.

I've decided that gift buying in our house should really be for immediate family only, and kids of other family members but you really have to learn to draw that line in the sand or things get really crazy. Christmas isn't about presents, more about spending time with our family over lunch and watching the kids enjoy the holiday season.

So now I only have to buy 8 gifts and send about 12 cards which in postage will be around $6. For the cards we made them, not only is it cheap but a personalised card can be really lovely.

Christmas with Kids...
A good friend of mine said to me the other day that she taught her kids a little poem when it came to Christmas. She told her kids "Santa will bring you 'something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read." This way it cuts down the things that you're buying as it's so easy to spend too much on our own children because we love them so much!

When Grace was really young and was starting to get into Santa, I told her that Santa and the elves go shopping for the gifts rather than make them in a workshop. Some of you may find this a little mean, but I would rather teach Grace that items have a monetary value and to not expect huge, lavish gifts that materialise out of nowhere and to be disappointed Christmas morning when they don't appear. Santa in our house usually delivers just one gift that's a toy, but the main gift is from Mummy and other people that she can thank directly.

Other kinds of money...
I have been busy collecting FlyBuys points this year and have used them all on Graces gift. I don't buy anything just for the points, but rather collect them on things I'm going to buy anyway (petrol, bills, groceries) so when I redeem a reward, it's not like spending 'real' money. It's a really good way to buy for people, especially if you can accumulate loads of points.

Getting crafty...
Where possible, I'm trying to make as many gifts as I can for people. I love to get handmade gifts! They are so personal and can be rather cost effective. If you aren't particularly crafty yourself, consider asking someone you know to help you or even pay them to make them for you, it can be quite fun coming up with the idea's together. Some idea's that I have had are:
  • Jams, chutneys, cookies or fudge (who wouldn't want something yummy!)
  • Knit a scarf or crochet a hat for those that live overseas
  • Paint a personalised Santa sack for a little person you know made from a pillowcase
  • Grow some seedlings in decorated pots or jars
  • If you can sew, offer to make someone something and you can choose the fabric and pattern together or look on-line for some free tutorials.
And if those few idea's don't get your brain firing, you can always have a look-see at local craft markets that are happening in your area and buy a handmade gift for someone and support our locally grown industry.

Love Handmade Market: Saturday 19th December, Rose Centre, Belmont, Auckland 10am til 1pm Kraftbomb: Sunday 20th December, Grey Lynn Community Centre, 512 Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn, Auckland 11 til 2pm
Do an online search for Craft Markets in your area and you will no doubt yield plenty of results.

Feeding the armies...
Christmas usually means a whole lot of food that one poor person has to pay for, make and then clean up after. We have a BIG family, so providing a Christmas lunch can be an expensive event. If you can't go to someone else's house to enjoy Christmas lunch and you are instead the host, why not ask everyone to bring a plate? Tell them what you need them to bring (breads, salads, sides, puddings etc.) then you only have to supply the main part of the meal (ham, chicken, turkey etc.) and a few drinks. That way the dishes take themselves home too! We do that in our house and it works out really well.

Don't bother with Christmas crackers — the good ones are expensive and the cheaper ones are full of junk that no-one needs. Consider making your own paper hats from card (if you really need to have hats) or just decorating the table with a few candles that you can re-use throughout the year.

Tree maketh the holiday...
Bunny Decorations that I have made this year.

There is NOTHING like a real Christmas tree — the smell, the look AND the mess that they make! I do love having a real one, but they are becoming more and more expensive each year, I also feel a little bad throwing them out at the end! Even getting rid of them can be a pain and expensive if you get a service to come and collect it.

My Aunt each year for the last 5 years has gotten a small tree for their property (punga, pohutakawa, fruit tree etc.) popped it in the lounge, decorated it then when Christmas is over planted it in the garden! Not quite traditional, but definitely '2 birds with one stone'!
When I was flatting a purchased a small but fake Christmas tree. When it's all decorated it really does look lovely and is great as a back up when the money just isn't there.

This year we have a real tree, it was $35 so not the most expensive tree but it's still really lovely AND my tree was a gift to us, so maybe consider that — it's a gift people will be able to look at and enjoy all holiday season! For decorations, make some with your kids! You can make them out of anything: spray painted pine cones, shells with holes in them, popcorn on strings, bunting made from recycled cards or fake flowers — get creative and let loose!

Ok, so now I have blabbered on, here is my brutally honest Christmas spend tally:
$35 tree
$0 gift for Grace (Fly Buys!)
$6 postage for cards
$12 paper & envelopes for cards
$8 wrapping paper for gifts
$40 new materials for made gifts (other materials I already had)
$101 total

Ok so I over spent by $1, but the tree was a gift so I still have a little more up my sleeve! I hope that this has give you a few idea's and just remember not to get too stressed out over Christmas, take it in small chunks, re-use and recycle where you can and enjoy the time off with your family!

Jess x x x
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