How to do Christmas on a budget

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

With presents, holidays and entertainment to pay for, December can be an expensive time. Here’s how you can cut down on some of the expenses.

The decorations are up in the shopping centres, Black Friday is upon us - oh yes, it’s that time of the year again. Even if you don’t celebrate a traditional Christmas, this is generally a time during which we spend more time with friends and family, tuck in to far too much food and max out our credit cards on holidays and entertainment. All in all, December is an expensive month.

The good news is that there are ways to save your hard-earned cash. We’ve put together a couple of tips to help you enjoy the festivities without breaking the bank:

  • Plan your budget before you go shopping and stick to it.

If you can’t really afford a turkey, buy chicken; if you don’t have the cash for Christmas crackers, make your own (there are numerous YouTube videos that offer step by step guidance). Avoid panic buying and keep your wits about you in the sales. Remember, just because something has been marked down by 50 percent doesn’t make it a bargain if you don’t have any use for the item.

  • If you’re entertaining on a shoestring budget, ask your guests to bring along a plate of eats.

If you’re planning a large, sit down meal, get each guest to bring a dish for the various the courses. Make your own Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, biscuits and other treats that are usually store bought. Don’t go mad buying an array of sweets, chocolates and snacks - rather offer your guests a slap-up meal at lunch or dinner and forgo the unnecessary extras. Consider making your own alcoholic drinks. The web is full of recipes for things like liqueurs, mulled wine and sangria and the best part…they usually taste far better than the ones you can buy.

  • You don’t have to splurge on table decorations.

In the long run, it’s cheaper to invest in decorative linen napkins and a festive table runner as opposed to buying paper or plastic alternatives every year. Candles are wonderful for creating the right atmosphere for an evening function…go wild. Cut back on electricity by cooking on the braai. Kettle braais are ideal for cooking turkey, chicken and gammon. Again, check out YouTube for step-by-step instructions.

  • Make your own Christmas decorations.

Or better still, get the children involved and allow them to go mad with cardboard and glitter. Don’t overdo outdoor lights and decorations if you are going to battle to pay the electricity account when it arrives in a January.

  • A good Christmas tree should last for years so buy the best you can afford.

Store the ornaments carefully when not in use and don’t be lured into buying new decorations every year. If you can’t afford a tree, decorate the pot plants around your home with tinsel and baubles.

  • Don’t spend a fortune on presents.

If you’re really cash strapped, explain to family members that you won’t be buying gifts this year. If you feel you really must give gifts, consider buying more expensive items for the children and giving the adults something smaller. Homemade presents are usually much appreciated. Cookies or sweeties in a decorative jar generally go down a treat. If you’re a knitter or you crochet think about handing out handmade scarfs or jerseys. Use brown paper or recycled Christmas paper for wrapping. Make your own labels.

It pays to remember that January is typically also an expensive month. School fees, school uniforms as well as stationery need to be bought and are expensive, so money needs to be kept aside for these. Keep within your budget, don’t overspend on food and presents and you really will end up having a merry Christmas.

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