Christmas: How to not spend a fortune
Ever since the financial crash took the world and turned it upside down, shaking it for all its money, then wringing it out like a wet dish towel, we've all had to get used to a new way of life.
It's all about austerity, thrift, sustainability, mixing up high-end goods with high-street products, always looking for value, longevity and being as smart as one can possibly be when it comes to finances.
Now Christmas, well, that has historically been a time where we all spend lavishly – on us, on friends and family, hell, even our pets. It is, after all, the season of goodwill, and we are all so jolly at the thought of saying goodbye to the tediousness of work and hello to terrible but nevertheless engaging festive TV.
However, as we mentioned at the start, things have changed. We can no longer be so blasé about our spending habits over December; we really have to be sharper, taking the time to find wonderful things at mesmeric prices.
So, how to do this? Well, we have to budget. Here's our guide about how best to make your finances stretch this Christmas.
It's not about me
With a handful of bags and an engine running on empty, it can be all too easy to treat yourself to a gift or two here and there, but this season, think twice about it. You're likely to get lots of gifts from loved ones – and, by all means, throw in a few suggestions – so it's not like your selling yourself short.
Instead, if you're really feeling as though you deserve something, opt for a coffee, even a cheeky desert. It's a good way to take a pit-stop from all of the madness and hullabaloo…and it'll ensure you have plenty of cash leftover afterwards.
We got ourselves into a position where if we made a present, people would have thought we were being a penny-pincher – or parsimonious, a word that has a nice ring to it. That's never been the case; it's just a creative approach to gift-giving.
Furthermore, because people really invest time in this, it's a lot more sincere. It requires much more thought than picking up a few DVDs and a chocolate box or a bottle of wine, which are all great, but somewhat lacking in personalisation. In making something, like a photo album, you're creating something special with real longevity.
Don't make Christmas distinct
Christmas is a wild time. Everything normal about life tends to go out of the window – we stay out later on school nights, we consume a lot of food and drink, we end up singing day and night like we're in some kind of musical and we buy lots of Lego. In short, things are slightly surreal.
While that is all great, when it comes to finances, don't think of the festive period as being any different to other times of the year. Yes, by all means, spend a little more, but keep in the realms of reality. You see, Christmas is not just about buying things, it's about family, friends, connecting with one another and making time for those you really love.
As the great Charles Dickens once said: "Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveller back to his own fireside and quiet home."