In a year that has really brought home the importance of connection, of family and friends, of kind gestures and looking out for one another, Christmas feels a bit more meaningful in 2020. It’s a good year to take the focus away from money and spending and onto the other pleasures the season offers.
For many of us, the wonderful Christmas spirit moves into our December with a much less wonderful sidekick: the Big Spender spirit. It can be hard to separate these two from each other. Martin Lewis (of Money-Saving Expert) said recently, “Sadly, in the money world, Christmas means debt…so many people get themselves in trouble…” and we’ve all had enough trouble for one year.
So, here are 8 ways to keep the debt down and the spirits up this Christmas:
1. First, get some money in
Is there anything you could put on Facebook Marketplace or eBay or your local community group (haven’t they flourished in the last 6 months!)? This is a good idea on a few counts: less of what you don’t want or need in your home, a good bargain for somebody who does want it and a few extra coins in your pocket to add to the Christmas kitty.
2. Stay home; go homemade
If ever there was a time to put more time and thought into a gift, this is it! And if you’re in lockdown or a tier close to it – you may be pleased to have a project to attend to. Gathering ingredients for your choice of homemade item from local shops and independent small businesses (you could even add these in a list of ingredients to your gift) makes the homemade item you’ve chosen even more meaningful. From kombucha to kimchi; from a tree decoration for next year to a knitted tea cosy - there are some fantastic ideas floating around to inspire you. Both Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver, of course, have a great list of consumable goodies that any loved one would be overjoyed to find on their doorstep… with you at a 2m distance blowing kisses and belting out a Christmas carol. And if making food or drink doesn’t appeal, the Guardian compiled this list by designers and artists with their ideas for DIY gifts. From a paper plate basket by textile designer Maria Sigma to a Japanese moss ball by designer Michelle Macintosh, there’s definitely something here you’ll like.
3. Keep it local
It’s the perfect time to spread the love by supporting your local businesses. So many amazing ventures have sprung up in response to COVID-19’s effect on people, businesses and communities. Check your social media for local groups and community pages set up for guides on where to find what you need – and what would be just perfect – for your Christmas, from food, to presents to community events. Many communities (in the UK and elsewhere) have created their own delivery services or collection points – and you’ll doubtless be amazed at what’s on offer. This way you’re also ensuring doubling the joy with a local retailer or service provider bolstered by your business and a friend or loved one touched by the deeper meaning of the gift. A win-win-win.
No doubt about it though, there will be a lot of online shopping. Most businesses no matter how small or niche will now have an online shop window which they’ve had to set up over the last few months – so it’s still possible to make a difference. Here are some of the ways to save your pennies while out in the digiverse with your credit card burning a hole in your pocket:
4. Abandon cart (just for a bit)
While businesses are encouraged to follow up on abandoned carts at checkout with a friendly forcefulness in an email reminder process that can be hugely annoying, it’s a good idea to take advantage of this by abandoning your cart on purpose and waiting for a counter offer in your email inbox by way of a discount, free shipping or a little something to tempt you back to the exchange. This is a slightly controversial tip to offer but when you consider that the process does win back thousands in lost sales in the UK and sometimes that added shipping cost or 15% does take it out of your budget, it’s worth getting a deal if you can. Think of it as digital haggling.
5. Limit infinite scrolling
We all know that being online now means being in your own digital-self world where almost everything you see is targeted specifically for you – with an ever-growing knowledge of what you like, what you want and what you’re most likely to give in to (hello, new brand using only recycled materials to make ankle length puffer jackets). Social media pages are especially well used to decorating all of your mind walls with everything you or your friends or family members might like for Christmas. The more you scroll, the more you’ll see, the more you see, the more you’ll want… it’s advisable to get a little bit zen with being online over the Christmas period – when every single business (still) alive is doing its absolute best to make more sales – detach, let it all flow past you. You have a budget, you have a list. You can do this… which takes us to step 6…
6. Have a budget, have a list
Remember that, yes, it’s Christmas but also, in terms of income, it’s just another month. So unless you’ve been saving for it (very well done) – it’s important to take an honest look at what you can afford. Think about how the previous steps might help and, for the rest – set a budget and… try, try your very hardest, to stick to it. Make a list as early on in the month (or year!) as you can before the magical thinking of Xmas takes hold and put it somewhere you can see it. If your banking app has a pot, or a categorisation feature you can create to put money aside specifically and also to see how you’re doing – make use of it. Think ahead to your February self, what would they have wanted you to do?
7. Remember the shops are open
Don't panic. The shops are open and will be open right up until the end of Christmas Eve. You can do your normal grocery shopping (well, ‘new normal’) and there really isn’t any need to panic buy or bulk buy. We have all learnt the improtance of adapting, being flexible, being open to plan B, C or D – if there isn’t what you want in the shop and you need it that day, flow with it, get an alternate – and move on to step 8…
Ok, this one is a bit out there, or rather, ‘in there’ but it’s a suggestion strongly made: download and start using one of the highly praised meditation or calming apps. Wait, don’t go! Spending money can be a bit like getting on a train that speeds up the closer it gets to its destination. Taking a few moments out of your day to get off the train, take some deep breaths and bring to mind the things that matter, like the people you love, the things you already have to be grateful for (it’s become a bit of a cliché to say, but it works), the fact that we’re here and we’re alive. Sam Harris’s Waking Up app, the Calm and Headspace apps are all great for this. Or bundle you (and your household) up and go for a walk in nature for free. Get off the train!
We've made it through quite a challenging year, and we’ve been reminded about the importance of our connection to other people, emotionally, physically but also economically – it counts where our money goes because it affects actual lives. So, here’s to a happy Christmas that finds us all with no more debt than we have already but no less Christmas spirit than we are capable of mustering– now, go forth, be good and spend wisely.