Saving for Christmas…what happened?

Saving for Christmas - the results

Happy New Year! May 2017 bring you happiness, peace and lots of joy!

We had a lovely festive break and, now that January has arrived (I’m trying to stay positive about this!) I have been looking back at our spending to see how we did in our ‘Saving for Christmas’ series.

Sources of Funding:

In my first post here I listed different sources of money from which to fund our Christmas:

  • Dedicated Savings Fund £180. Actual: £178 I came in slightly under budget on this one. This was where most of the money for buying presents came from.
  • Nectar points. £10. I did have £10 in Nectar points but made use of the Sainsbury’s ‘Double Up’ promotion in November and spent £20 on wine.
  • Boots Advantage Points. £15. This was about right but with the use of ‘3 for 2’ gifts I actually picked up £25 worth of gifts this way. These were spent on stocking presents.
  • Quidco rewards.   £96.40 £73.82. Actual £66.82 (I didn’t realise that when I rented a couple of Love Film/Amazon films the payment defaulted to my giftcard balance so took £7 away from my Christmas budget). Although this wasn’t as much as I had planned for – and I did have issues about using Amazon- it really saved money taking my Qudico rewards this way.
  • Loose change. £3ish. Actual: £2.35. This was spent on whipped cream and marshmallows for homemade hot chocolates.
  • Usual food & drink budget. £150. Actual: £168.73. This was for two supermarket shops and my veg box and lasted until 28 December (when my regular monthly shopping took over). It really helped to meal plan and that we were eating Christmas lunch at my parents. So far we have eaten everything we bought, although I don’t think I would buy a salad box again.
  • Facebook Sales. £50. Actual: £35. Boy, this was hard work! Lots of postings, re-postings and non-collections. As always I find these online sales a lot of effort. Still it managed to clear a few things we no longer needed and anything unsold was donated.
  • Other sources: My husband and I hadn’t really spoken about present giving and, as I hadn’t budgeted for this, it was a stupid thing to do as he bought me a couple of gifts at the beginning of the month (including a second-hand The Jam album which I am v excited about!). Thankfully I had been given an Amazon gift voucher for my birthday so I used some of this to get him some books. Other sources for unexpected gifts came from my existing present drawer and we made quite a few biscuits and mince pies.

With regards to present giving I didn’t do so well with friends and relatives and ended up giving out gifts when I should have said no. Conversely, I also wish I had spent more money on my nephews and nieces. My children had a small budget of £40 each but didn’t seem to notice that we gave them fewer presents (incl some second-hand) than their grandparents gave them.

Talking of presents, we did persuade my in-laws to buy the girls an amazing experience as their Christmas present which was a ticket to the Harry Potter Studios (one of the best family days out we have had!!). They also bought (quite a) few other presents so it would be good to see this pile reduce and focus on the experience giving in the future.

Harry Potter Studios Tour: The Great Hall

Christmas ‘Bucket List’:

In my third post in this series here I wrote about what we were -and were not- going to do as a family this holiday. Our restricted budget meant we weren’t going to see a film/show, or go ice skating.We didn’t really miss these excursions, though.

Those activities that we did take part in were split into a) paid for and b) free:

Meals out with friends & family: We met up with friends for a grown up curry night as we do every year. For 2017 I will factor this cost into our Christmas savings, which I have failed to do so far. Similarly my husband and I had a day trip to London (while the children were with grandparents) and we could have saved better for this too. However I had budgeted for a pub lunch and meet up with the in-laws and we had enough money left to have tea and cake afterwards with my mother-in-law.

Works’ dos: Neither of us went to our works’ dos (due to illness, lack of planning) so this did save some money. We also received a couple of invitations to friends’ houses over the festive period and I made sure we had some bottles of wine in stock to take along (as well as some small candles I had upcycled)

With regards to free activities we took part in the following:

 

Boxing Day night Sleepover in the lounge (for the kids!)

Baking

Homemade mince pies

Lots of Hot Chocolate (decorated with marshmallows and whipped cream bought with my loose change, as above)

Putting the decorations up

Family Games We picked up a couple of new (to us) board games and a puzzle which we played over the holidays, accompanied with homemade popcorn and toffee sauce. Still didn’t manage to play Risk, though (!)

Church Crib Service

Christmas Day visit to the pub

We also enjoyed a fantastic New Year’s Eve party at friends’ and were fortunate enough to be invited to a birthday party in Bath last night too!

Now that the festive season is drawing to a close I can look back and realise that: there are some things I didn’t need to buy;some things I want to buy for next time; and where I need to save more.

I am pleased that I stuck to my present-buying budget but want to work harder at cutting some presents, and spending more on a few other people. I also know there are a couple of food and drink items I can cut for Christmas 2017. But one of the biggest spends I hadn’t accounted for was meeting up with friends and families in restaurants.  For 2017 I need to set a realistic target for this one so that we don’t go into debt.

As with every Christmas, though, it’s the actual spending time with family and friends that really counts. Whether this has to be budgeted for (if you meet with relatives who live a long way away)- or is free – it is these moments that make the festive season a memorable one.

FamilyTraditions: Christmas decorations via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

How was your Christmas break?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds

 

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

This week has been the Christmas shopping and preparation week. I’m really hoping that, apart from an optician’s appointment and a few social engagements, we can slow down and spend time together as a family. In the meantime last week’s Thrifty Finds were:

  1. The London trip I wrote about last week ended up with our train being delayed for over an hour! I put in a claim to get our tickets refunded.
  2. I sold a couple of small items on Facebook to add to my Christmas gifts fund. I also gave away a dozen Christmas gift bags of all shapes and sizes. We had accumulated a load from all the trips to relatives this season so I emptied the presents from them and put them on the free/sell/swap Facebook page so that they can get a second use this month. I also sneaked out some some packs of sweets the girls had been given and donated to the food bank.
  3. I finished using up my Quidco/Amazon gift vouchers. In total I saved £60 on Christmas presents this way.
  4. The girls gave out teacher’s Christmas gifts. They had made gingerbread and Christmas spice biscuits.

Continue reading

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds

 

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

We have now reached Christmas Shopping Frenzy in my corner of the world. Last Monday I had to travel to Bath for a couple of work appointments. I had forgotten that this coincided with the annual Bath Christmas Market. Although the market does bring lots of revenue to the city and – if visited at the right time – gives you that ‘Christmas feeling’ it is still a heaving mass of consumption.

But, despite some planned Christmas shopping, I stuck to what I had to do and resisted any impulse buying. Instead I secured last week’s Thrifty Finds from other sources:

  1. I picked up a couple of packs of ribbons from a second-hand shop in the nearby market town. At only 50p each these will add a festive touch to my gift wrapping

50p ribbons for Christmas 2. Talking of gift wrapping, I started to package some of the presents I had bought (with brand new paper I’m afraid, unlike the previous years’ use of plain brown paper). However I did use last year’s Christmas cards to turn into gift labels.

Re-using Christmas cards via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

3. I forgot to cancel my veg box so have been busily making soups and cakes (not sure this is a Thrifty Find as I have to factor the cost of this into my December food budget). Can you guess what I put in this chocolate cake?

Chocolate courgette cake

4. I made a couple more Facebook sales and sorted through some paperbacks to sell onto the second-hand bookstore in Bath. This has helped to raise some funds for my Christmas budget.

5. At the weekend we had a Big Baking Session and the kids and I made lots of mince pies, gingerbread ad biscuits for gifts. Some of them I’ve attempted to freeze so we can hand out closer to the Christmas break.

Have you started any festive baking yet? What are your favourite recipes?

You can also share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds

 

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.comHow are you getting on with your Thrifty Finds? With the festive season drawing ever closer are there some things you are choosing to buy, or not buy?

Did you shop last Friday or did you boycott the shops on Black Friday? I have to say I did buy something on Black Friday but it was a couple of birthday presents and I picked them up from the local independent bookshop. I did need to go to Argos, as well, but was determined not to do this on Friday and even changed my plans so that I went on Saturday – stupid I know but I really didn’t want to be doing my Christmas shopping on that day!

Anyway these are last weeks Thrifty Finds:

  1. We invited my mother-in-law for a meal to celebrate her birthday. The younger two girls made a cake for her (from scratch, I was very impressed as they’re only 8 and 10). I also made a couple of quiches, using pastry scraps that I had previously frozen. We also had enough food left over for a meal the next day.
  2. Over the festive season we plan a few family outings. These normally include a theatre or cinema trip. We all wanted to see the new film ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’.  So I booked  tickets for our local cinema which I really try to support. Plus they were almost half the price of the Odeon chain. We all enjoyed the film.
  3. While I didn’t go to Argos on Black Friday I did take advantage of a gift voucher we had and picked up a Christmas present for one of my daughters.
  4. I finally defrosted my freezer (having not done it for two years!). The freezer  is nearly 20 years old but still works. However the top level has been frozen up for a while. By defrosting and cleaning it I now have more space to store food, and hopefully it will be more energy efficient.
  5. Finally, not a Thrifty Find I’m afraid. My online supermarket delivery, due for Friday night, broke down! So it didn’t arrive until the next morning. As I had meal planned from Friday we had absolutely nothing in the (newly defrosted) freezer or cupboards. I’m afraid I had to pick up an easy to make dinner from the local corner shop, which wasn’t part of the budget 😦

 

You can also share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Saving for Christmas….Part Two

Saving for Christmas Part Two

In my previous post here I talked about how I was going to fund Christmas this year. In this post I wanted to talk more about what I plan to spend the money on – and a couple of issues I’m struggling with.

Presents

simple christmas wrapping

Who am I buying for?

Over the past few years we have gradually reduced the number of people whom we buy presents for. The shopping list now consists of:

our children,

nephews and niece,

our parents,

and a couple of aunts, uncles and cousins.

We decided a while ago not to buy presents for our siblings (and vice versa). Depending on what money is left in the budget, my husband and I tend to buy just a small item for each other – or put the money towards a shared item.

I am struggling with buying presents for aunts, uncles and cousins (6 in total) whom I haven’t seen for years. So, this year, I’m going to send a card instead, stating that we don’t need presents and a donation to charity would be wonderful instead.

I’m also putting a call out to a couple of close friends/children’s godparents  to suggest we only buy birthday presents and forego the gift giving at Christmas. My children don’t really need that many presents anyway. Speaking of which, we have asked one set of grandparents to buy an experience for the girls this year. These grandparents, generous though they are, do buy a lot of throwaway plastic for the kids. But paying for the amazing day out (which I daren’t share with you yet!) will be far more memorable.

The other issue I am struggling with is Teacher’s Thankyou presents. I have written here and here on my past experiences. It is really nice to thank teaching staff for all that they do for my daughters but the shopping list can really grow. I’m thinking of getting the girls to make something simple this year, but still need to budget for materials.

homemade for Christmas: bath salts

 

Where am I getting the presents from?

This is a hard one…I mentioned in my previous post I have collected points from the Quidco/cashback site. While it is not as much as I previously thought the amount I will have for Christmas will be £73.82, which will help to buy a few presents.I can claim this as cash, Paypal credit or… gain a 5% increase by transferring to Amazon gift vouchers.

Last year I didn’t use Amazon at all for Christmas presents but I’m not sure that I can afford to do that this year. I suspect I will give in to the higher financial reward of taking my Quidco vouchers as Amazon credit instead 😦

However I am also determined to spend some of my money locally and, as always, shop second-hand for some of the Christmas gifts. I met a lovely lady a couple of months ago who said she was determined to only buy presents from local sellers and second-hand sources.

I’ve already started by buying one small decoration from a great local craft fair that happens every month. I also picked up a couple of Christmas cards from an exhibition held in our village by resident artists.

Food and Drink

 

credit: katielips

Now this category can really mount up. While I have a strict budget for presents I tend to lose it a bit when it comes to food and drink. This year we are eating at my parents so that should reduce some of the food bill. We do tend to meal plan over the Christmas season. However it’s the sneaky extras that always get us. This year I’m going to stick to:

my usual online supermarket delivery (so that I can’t be tempted by the whole supermarket experience),

order an organic veg box

Pick up a couple of pieces of meat from the local butcher.

I’ve also got a few vouchers that I can buy our Christmas wine with as well.

I’ll keep you updated on what I actually spend and I will also write another post on how we plan to enjoy Christmas as a family – without spending too much!

How is your Christmas planning going? Do you try to shop local or, like me this year, end up using Amazon?

 

If you liked this please visit my facebook pageTwitter or instagram

Saving for Christmas…Part One

saving for Christmas via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

 

Okay so I’m sorry for mentioning that word when November has just started!

But I’ve been thinking lately about how to finance Christmas this year. We had an unexpected bill to pay last month which has had a knock on effect for the next few months. Suffice to say I am determined to keep the coming festive season as simple, low key and cost effective as possible. With money slightly tighter it’s also a good excuse to re-evaluate what we spend our money on at Christmas and why.

This year I have decided to fund all our Christmas spending (food, drink, presents, trips to family) from a few sources:

  • Dedicated Savings Fund (I put a little money away every month to fund Christmas, family birthdays and a bit of our summer holiday spending. Of course it’s never enough!) £180
  • Tesco Clubcard vouchers. Actually we don’t have any this year as I haven’t shopped there for ages. Normally I turn the points into a voucher for eating out so we can have a family meal at Pizza Express, or somewhere similar. Not this year, though. £0
  • Nectar points. I do have a few points but not more than £10. They will probably go towards food shopping. £10
  • Boots Advantage Points. Every year I save all my points and, with some thoughtful ‘three for two’ purchases can pick up the girls’ stocking fillers from here. £15
  • Quidco rewards. I signed up to the Quidco cashback site last year and, through some careful online purchasing, have made nearly £100 in cashback. I now have a dilemma: do I get these rewards paid into my Paypal account or exchange them (for a higher rate) for Amazon vouchers?  £96.40 £73.82
  • Loose change. I collect all the coppers during the year and, apart from a splurge on the 2p slot machines on holiday, keep the rest. I can then exchange them for a supermarket voucher in the ‘Coinstar’ machine. It may amount to a couple of quid. £3ish
  • Usual food & drink budget. I will try to use part of our usual monthly food budget to buy most of the seasonal food and drink. £150
  • Facebook Sales. I have set myself a target of £50 to earn from selling equipment, clothing, toys and games we no longer need. This also helps to de-clutter the house before the next onslaught of presents from relatives. £50

I have begun to de-clutter and take stock of what I can sell for the latter project. And I have come across an interesting dilemma. You may remember a while ago I wrote this post about whether it’s right to make money from things that were given for free?

It is still something I feel strongly about.

However when a family friend gave us a lot of costume jewellery a few weeks ago I was very tempted to sell it on. The jewellery comes from places like Accessorize, Pilgrim, M&S and Claire’s Accessories and some of it has never been worn. I began to sort through it last week, detailing and pricing it.

But something felt wrong.I know the friend had given it for my girls to wear but they already have a lot of necklaces and bracelets. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if I sold it for profit but I still felt uncomfortable.

So, after some serious thinking, I have decided to sell it online but pass all the funds onto Save the Children. Anything I don’t sell I will donate to the new-look store in Bath when I visit next week.

I’m going to write another post on what I’m going to spend my money on for Christmas this year. I’m also going to use this Christmas as an opportunity to slim down the list of whom we buy presents for (and who buys presents for us, when we don’t really need them).

How are you saving for Christmas? Is there anything you are going to do differently this year?

If you liked this please visit my facebook pageTwitter or instagram

Teacher’s gifts: this time I’ve failed….

blackboard

Looking back to my 2015 posts I realise it was this time last year that I wrote about my own struggle with teacher’s thank you gifts (see here). In the past we have hand made gifts, carefully sourced plastic free ones and also bought a bulk hamper for all teachers and staff to share.

But this year due to a lack of time and money I have put the brakes on and we will not be giving out thank you gifts. Although my eldest is now at secondary school and doesn’t hand out thank yous, my younger two still have nine teachers and teaching assistants between them.

While I have bought some simple cards for each member of staff, and the girls have personally written in them,I just can’t manage the time (or commit the money) to either making or buying gifts.

Which is something I feel really bad about. Quite a few of the teachers and assistants are personal friends and I know how hard they work to create a very special, caring school environment.

But if I can’t afford to buy the gifts, or even the time to make them, then I’m afraid this is one thing on my ‘Summer to do’ list that will have to slip by. I’ll try and be better organised for Christmas….

thank-you-word-cloud-1024x791

What do you think? Do you make, or buy thank you gifts to hand out at the end of the year? Are you a teacher or TA and do you really appreciate these gifts?

(If you like this post please follow me on facebook , twitter or instagram)