Friday, 18 December 2009

Ho, Ho, Ho, Not Long to Go....

With Christmas only a week away and my due date only three, I’m buzzing on a nonalcoholic cocktail of festive spirit, hormones and excitement. I will forever be a sucker for the magic that is Christmas - a time to connect with and give something back to those that you love, heaped in our own special traditions. This year I’m thinking ahead to future Christmas’ with our little lady alongside considering ways to bring the festive season back to basics without breaking my bank. From Christmas dos to food stocking to present shopping, this time of year courts spending sprees that I just can’t afford as a lady of leisure on maternity pay, i.e. a tight budget.

In addition to my credit crunch busting/festivity bursting suggestions from last year, I have some fresh ideas on how to stay jolly on a budget this Christmas, partly inspired by my soon-to-be mommy status:
  • Brush up on your Christmas Carols: Even if you sound like a dying cat (like I do), singing some Christmassy tunes should bring a smile to your face when you think of how you’ll soon be teaching the words to your little ones…Jingles Bells and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer never seemed so appealing
  • Go Martha Stewart and create DIY snowflakes and wreaths: These projects will cost you next to nothing, are green, festive and not too complex for little ones to help with. I’ll have some time before our little lady can lend a hand, but I need the practice. Stay green and cut snowflakes from paper from your recycling bin. Compost the green odds and ends you don’t use for your wreath. For a ton more Christmas crafty links, check out One Pretty Thing.
  • Recycle your old Christmas cards for gift tags: Garish gift tags can sell for highway robbery and they’re just one more thing to buy – why not cut out the fronts of your Christmas cards post holiday and save them as your gift tags for the next year?
  • When you’re shopping, shop smart: Sort your coupons, shop online through a cash back scheme like KidStart that allows you to save for your child’s future, join Parenting Clubs to cash in on holiday offers, shop second hand via Ebay, Nappy Valley and in charity shops, shop around…
  • Introduce Secret Santa: If present shopping for extended family or a group of friends is getting too pricey, put everyone’s name in a hat and draw names for the one person you will buy for. Set a reasonable price limit and enjoy major savings.
  • Fruit Cake Doesn’t Have to be Taboo: If you want to give a little back to someone that has been particularly helpful this year, don’t reach for your cash or your plastic. Perfect a holiday Christmas recipe and Voila!, you have a tasty, easy gift that can be made in batches. My mom makes apple raisin bread that has been receiving compliments for years. I used to help her with it as a child and now am making it myself today. Start the kids in the kitchen early I say!
  • Invite friends over for a pot luck supper: I hear I won't have time to cook let alone shower during my early days with a newborn.  Even with young kids, putting together a dinner party sounds like it could be stressful.  Why not mix dinner parties up with pot luck meals where friends bring their own festive dishes.  You provide the venue, guests provide the culinary mix.  Result = fun night for all that doesn't require a hefty supermarket bill.
  • Little one on the way?  Make sure you are aware of all the government "gifts" you are entitled to: I've previously posted about benefits for parents but a good overview those available in the UK can be found on Payments for Parents.
  • Make decorating your tree a family tradition: Chris and I were really excited to put on Christmas CD, string our lights and adorn our 4 ft glory. We try to get one new ornament each year and keep track of where it’s from/why it’s special to us. Our trees tell a growing story over the years that we will share with and add to with our little one. It makes for quality family time and stirs up some great memories.

Though I’m hoping to keep our bun in the oven until 2010, the prospect of Christmas as a parent gives me a thrill and I’m struck by the responsibility we’ll have to create a jolly caroling, cookie eating, spirit of giving magic for our little lady that she can carry with her for always. I believed in Santa until later than I’d like to admit. I sang Christmas carols in my shrill little voice in medley formation with the gusto of Diana Ross (as my dad kindly reminds me through an audio clip – evidence – that I can’t hide even if I’d like to). I understand that Christmas is a time to give back to those I care about, not just receive, and that this can be done largely through custom, creativity and without buying up the high street.
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