What's on your Christmas list?
Peace and quiet? And are you dreading juggling the finances and keeping everyone happy?
I think it was July when I saw the first of this year's cards hit the shelves. I had mixed emotions: a feeling of excitement that it was count down to Christmas but also the urge to flee from the expensive commercialism.
This year we are tightening our belts more than ever. Deloitte's estimated that last year the average amount spent on Christmas was a whopping £1460, with presents amounting to £860. So how can you still have a great family Christmas, but not break the bank? And should you tell the children that there is a limit to how much you can afford to spend on their Santa list?
How about some easy day-to-day savings leading up to Christmas? Your daily cappuccino, newspaper , crisps or sweets can add up. Multiply this amount by the number of days left to Christmas- you could have an extra £100 to spend on presents.
Using voucher codes online can save anything from 10. Plan your gift-giving in advance and keep an eye out for offers including free postage.
If you are visiting relatives and staying in a Travel Lodge or Premier Inn, book the rooms now: the earlier you book, the cheaper it is.
Cross everyone off your Christmas card list. Maybe drastic, but more and more of my friends are sending me e-cards, or a pre-Christmas email saying they are not sending cards this year but making a donation to charity. And get organised so that you post early using second class post.
It's rumoured that the Queen orders her family to spend no more than a fiver on gifts for her. Take this one step further and it's called NUPP: No Unnecessary Presents Pact,or NUPP-Lite, if there's a spending limit. The way it works is: "I'm cutting back this year, so I hope you don't mind if I don't buy and I don't want you to buy for me/us." It takes all the agonising out of "My neighbours have spent at least twenty pounds on me, so I'll have to do the same for them." And let's be honest, we've all got presents that have never seen the light of day. So only buy for people you really care about- not out of obligation.
Daisy told me this is what she has agreed with her sister. "We have agreed to spend only £30 on each of our nieces and nephews." Daisy also knows of parents who produce a Christmas list, like a wedding list. She has mixed feelings over this. "It's a good idea in some ways- so no one gets presents that lurk at the back of the cupboard, but on the other hand it's a little presumptuous."
It might be a cliché, but a home made gift can be more personal. Even if you will never be a Blue Peter presenter, you can make something and get your children making too! Gift wrapping and packaging makes home made presents look a million times better, so stock up on ribbons, tissue paper and boxes. Biscuits, fudge and truffles are lovely, and if you are quick you there is still time to buy bulbs and pot up in containers.
If you are buying books and DVDs, it goes without saying that Amazon has the best deals, so order early and also look at www.moneysaving expert.com/amazontool for details of Amazon sales.
But getting down to the nitty-gritty – do you tell your children that they simply can't have whatever it is they are coveting, without you going into the red? What do other families do?
Emma has an eleven year old daughter. She has told her that the iphone she wants is too expensive, but if she can contribute towards it then it's a possibility. Her daughter is contributing out of her pocket money, but Emma told me that there is a limit of £100 for each of her three children this year.
Suzie was prepared for the demands for hi-tech toys from her eight year old son who still believes in Santa. This is how she deals with it: "Yes, Santa does have a lovely workshop at the North Pole, where he and his elves make wooden trains, dolls and rocking horses. But lots of kids ask for hi-tech presents that he just can't make so he orders them, then parents have to pay for them. Some parents can't afford these, so some children don't receive everything they ask for."
And taking this one step further is Sarah. "I told my kids at an early age that Santa was ME. Christmas in my house is behind locked doors (immediate family only), no cards need to be exchanged and I only put a Christmas tree up to entertain the cats. A few gifts are exchanged but the big gift is the Christmas feast, the Queen's speech and perhaps a little too much sherry."
So whether you are a fan of Christmas and push the boat out financially you can still make savings, or if you want to expose your children to the realities of the economy, there are ways you can soften the blow and create the type of Christmas you want- and more importantly - can afford.