Enjoy some simpler pleasures this Christmas
Enjoy some simpler pleasures this Christmas

How to have a magical Christmas without breaking the bank

Love Christmas but hate the pressure?  Ok. Christmas holidays are nearly here and there’s a WHOLE WEEK of excited children off school before the Big Day itself.

Eight days of trying to amuse tired children who are also over excited whilst also trying to get Christmas presents, work, shop then prepare the food for the big meal, and keep the house tidy.  Why do we do it to ourselves?  Step back and take the heat out of Christmas.

December is tough on the purse-strings, and can feel like a money marathon, especially if you are the one doing the cooking and shopping, so slow down and enjoy the simpler things.

Everyone can do without a financial hangover in January.  Spend time with friends or people who make you all feel good, instead of spending too much on credit.  It’s annoying to hear if constantly trying to make ends meet throughout the year,  but the old cliche that the best things in life are free is essentially true.  We feel do feel the pinch more at Christmas though; expectations are higher, and we assume all around us are enjoying luxury.

It’s good to feel special, and to help other people feel loved.  We can make a memorable Christmas with experiences, not purchases.  Many people are moving away from buying big presents this year – 2016 was a year of ‘peak stuff’.  Lighten your load by not cramming your house full of unwanted gifts or trinkets.

We might as well make a virtue out of it, be inventive and look on the bright side in midwinter.  Focus on being, rather than buying.  Fill your home with light, laughter, music and song, invite fun people over to dilute the annoying relative over (that you have to invite or they’ll be on their own) and ask them to bring a bottle or a some food to help out, that’s just good manners!

Spend time with friends, make new traditions and enjoy the old ones.  Watch Santa fly past.  The space station (if it’s not cloudy) might be visible low in the sky on Christmas Eve at around 4pm.

Staying in is the new staying in

There’s lots to be said for not going out this time of year.  If you can, have a couple of chilled out days in your pjs.  The children can all recover from the hectic last few days of term, and it is harder to spend money at home.  You can’t catch a cold from other people, so hopefully the whole family will be well on Christmas Day.  Lie in, have lots of baths, play games, watch films, or do a bit of Christmas cooking if you must.

Get rid of some clutter before the Big Day, so you can focus on the good things instead of tripping over children’s stuff.  It will make Christmas easier, the children will have somewhere to put their new presents and you won’t be overwhelmed with mess.  If you think family will buy them loads of gifts, encourage children to clear out their own stuff.  Recycle it, or put it on eBay and donate proceeds to charity.  If kids can’t bear to part with anything, just sneak in their rooms with a black bag when they are watching a DVD,  and with stealth put the stuff they have outgrown in your car boot.  Then make a mental note not to accumulate so many belongings next year.

If, after a couple of days of being at home boredom sets in, invite people over.  It doesn’t have to cost the earth but could make someone else’s Christmas.  Invite double or triple the amount of people you want over as many will be shopping, visiting, or working.  Text them a couple of days ahead, or even better get the children to write and decorate paper invites. If you want, specify an early start (say 10am -noon) so you don’t have to provide booze or a meal.  Then get jolly, light a few candles, put on your favourite Christmas tunes, crack open a few boxes of mince pies and prepare for your open house.    Top tips if you invite families with small children; put on a Christmas film and do NOT let the children play in the bedrooms – that way you only have to tidy half the house afterwards and you don’t get a mince pie in your bed.

Encourage the children to think about others 

What about your neighbours, who might be alone this Christmas.  Could the children do some shopping for them?  Or post their Christmas cards? Is there anything the children could donate to the local food bank?

Kids enjoy making presents and decorations for family.  Upcycle some stuff you’ve already got; stick tissue paper on to old jamjars with a spot of PVA, and finish with a ribbon, a seven-year-old can be amused for hours in this way.  Stick a tealight in and voila!  Or dry slices of oranges in the oven and hang on the tree with a bit of red ribbon.  Search for projects online – lots of fun can be had with a pair of scissors and some glue.

Bribe or blackmail the older children involved in prepping Christmas lunch with a spot of gamification.  There’s nothing like a bit of a competitive edge.  Get a huge pile of spuds and hand out the potato peelers to your children.  Have plenty of small chocolate prizes, and award for weight peeled, number peeled, the fewest injuries, and how neat the potatoes are – it doesn’t matter as long as everyone gets a prize and the potatoes are peeled.  Par-boil the spuds and freeze them on an open tray ready for Christmas Day.  If this works well you could apply it to carrots, parsnips or in fact any root vegetable.

Head for the hills…

Do something different.  Try something new, such as a Christmas barbecue in the garden, make a den in the woods, forage for some decorations.

Find some music, and join in, it’s the season of song so search for a carol service or pagan wassail to celebrate midwinter.

Leave all the Christmas prep behind you.  Drive out to Glastonbury Tor and walk up it, amble to a country pub for a shandy, or go to the beautiful Somerset coast.

What activities are around?  Many cinemas have cut-price children’s films, or go and watch the street entertainers in the city, walk around at dusk enjoying the Christmas lights and stop off for a hot chocolate.

Take a look at the what’s on page for other ideas.