Not going bankrupt over Christmas

It’s almost Christmas, the most expensive holiday of the year!

I left home at the age of 19 and moved across the continent. This Christmas is the 13th Christmas which I am celebrating as a responsible (ish) adult, a daughter who lives far away, an aunt who loves to spoil her niece and nephew, a girlfriend of another family’s eldest son and an employee of a company where Secret Santa is a thing. Navigating Christmas in a growing social setting can be tricky, especially if you are facing a side of the family with whom it is not appropriate to discuss monetary cap on gift giving (i.e. your partner’s one!).

Have you ever found yourself falling into debt because of the costs of Christmas food, gifts and activities? I sure have and frankly, the most expensive Christmas holidays were never the most memorable. The ones I truly enjoyed were all less extravagant, more relaxed occasions which included a mix of family and friends and not too many gifts.

In this post I have a handful of rules which I’ve been deploying every Christmas for the last few years. Not only they help me to stay sane, but also contribute to Christmas slowly regaining its family-centred feel, as opposed to a spending fest.


Gifts for the family

Rule 1 – only the side of the family I am spending the Christmas with will get gifts. The other side will get a card and a phone call (or few). My own family lives in Poland for the most part, my partner’s family are in France. We are not shipping gifts.

Rule 2 – small kids only get token gifts, because frankly, they’ll forget what they got by the time New Year rolls around. The gifts I usually give are a simple but engaging toy, a book or a piece of clothing, especially if it’s for a small child. Babies under 1 year of age usually get nothing (not sorry) with an exception of a card for their parents offering help babysitting once in a while.

Rule 3 – less is more. I select one, nice quality but not super expensive gift for each family member that we will be spending a lot of time with. If you are on a tight budget, suggest drawing names instead of buying for every adult. Handcrafted, considered and matching their personality is what I go for. In example, a nice monogrammed, leather-bound notebook will set me back around £10-£20 but will serve the gift receiver for months and will be unique to them. Event ticket(s), fun classes vouchers or inexpensive spa days are also on the gifts list where the receiver will enjoy them. I try to avoid high street designers if giving physical gifts. For family members who we are only seeing fleetingly, I will give a nice box of tea, cookies or chocolates.

Gifts for significant other

Rule 1 – you love each other, gifts are nice to have, not must have.

Rule 2 – set a budget and stick to it. Nothing worse than giving an expensive gadget and receiving a pair of socks. Not because of what the gift is, but because of the mismatch in expectations and mood.

Rule 3 – my significant other should find pleasure in using the gift. It can be practical or not, but if I am to offer a gift, it should make my partner’s life more pleasant.

Rule 4 – if you are not sure what to give, ask.

Gift giving for my man in December can be expensive – both for Christmas and his birthday which fall earlier in this month but not close enough to Christmas to give one bigger gift, so I budget for this expense early on – there is a separate savings account for such occasions which has money dropped in it every single month of the year.

Gifts for friends and colleagues

Rule 1 – small, but not tacky. NEVER give gifts from £1 shop, regardless of what people say.

Rule 2 – humour is permitted. As much as I avoid funny/entertaining gifts for adult family members, friends and colleagues are a different ball game. Don’t give tat, but things like small magnetic dart boards (with darts, play them in the office!), scratch off maps, Mensa puzzles, alcohol (if they drink) and even cacti are fine.

Rule 3 – don’t expect a gift back.

Lastly, and very importantly, consider how much is in your budget. If your budget is tight, shop sales for gifts or consider lowering the gift allowance for people in your circle. Or reducing the number of people you shop for. Or offering your time instead of items. Or scrapping gifts altogether, you are meeting to celebrate Jesus’s birthday and unless you’re the three wise men, he apparently was not into earthly possessions – something worth mentioning if a rude family member demands a present (happened).

In the next post – it’s so cold! All about insulating a home on budget and saving some £££ on heating.

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