Being budget-conscious is very much at the forefront of everyone’s Christmas planning this year. I’ve never believed in paying more than necessary for anything. Here are some of my ‘gifts on a shoestring’ suggestions (which may be of more use for next year as some planning required!)
Cards and Wrapping Paper
For Christmas, the best time to buy cards and wrapping paper is in January/February. Ignore the first round of sales, cards are never reduced enough then, but they will be after a few weeks. Choices are limited, but you can get some very high quality cards for a fraction of the price if you wait. However, this does involve looking in high street shops every couple of days to be the first there when the prices are reduced – I used to have a browse on my way home from work when I used to work. These days the cost of the bus fare to the shops negates any saving so it does depend on your normal routine as to whether you can get first choice of the deeper reductions. I also tend to look for the ‘reduced’ shelf in W H Smith – there’s usually one all year round somewhere at the back of the shops – I’ve got packs of cards for 10p-25p in June that way too
At this time of year, if you haven’t already stocked up on cards and giftwrap for Christmas, there are plenty of cheap places to get them from: supermarkets usually have budget ranges (Tesco have 10 Christmas cards for 9p at the moment!) and pound or discount stores do too. Check on the thickness of the wrapping paper, you can get some reasonable quality thickness sheets if you shop around.
Electrical tape comes in lots of bright colours and can usually be found in pound and discount stores. A pack of 25m each of red, blue and yellow tape costs £1.29 in my local discount store and is great to use as a fun & festive way to wrap presents. It can be purchased from many online sites too, just search for ‘electrical tape ‘or ‘pvc tape’.
Most (older) relatives love artwork from your children so save some of the nice outputs to one side and get a frame – clipframes are usually cheap but you can also get wood and metal lookalike frames in pound stores, even in A4 size. For smaller children, a session of hand or footprints is a fun activity for them as well as being a great gift.
Photographs of children are also good as Christmas presents for relatives. I tend to buy the electronic copy of the school photo so I can print my own instead of the packs of images, which works out cheaper. For children not in school, try putting a plain coloured sheet over the sofa and see if you can bribe them to stay still long enough for a decent photo
Outdoor Summer Toys
At this time of year, summer toys are heavily discounted. I’ve recently got a paddling pool and bubble machine for MG & DG from ELC at one of the extra-20/25%-off-everything-including-sale-items deals for only a few pounds each. No use at the moment, but as soon as good weather hits we’ve paid a fraction of the price for things the girls were bugging me for all of last year.
We have a John Lewis credit card which we make all purchases on and pay off every month, this gives us John Lewis vouchers which can be given as gifts or used to buy gifts. It made sense as we used to do the grocery shop in Waitrose every week so the vouchers soon add up. Pre-children we had an Amazon card and got Amazon vouchers and I think we will probably change to Tesco’s now, especially given that you can exchange the vouchers for items more than the voucher face value.
Sales Sales Sales
Keep an eye on flash sales, but also keep a list of what you want and the lowest price you’ve seen it for previously so you’re not just swayed by the word ‘sale’ and do actually end up with a bargain. Signing up for all the daily deals, lightening deals, Groupon, Hot Deals UK, Living Social etc can be useful as long as again, you have a set list and set prices in mind. It’s too easy to fall into the “Oooh, 90% off, I must get that!” mentality. Well, it is for me! I’ve unsubscribed from all newsletters now as I do not want to know!
This may work with other online stores, but Amazon gives an update whenever you look at your basket to show increases and decreases in prices. I tend to add a few things that I really want to get but can’t quite afford into the ‘save for later’ section and then check the basket once a day for price changes. You need to have a “buy now” price in mind – do you want 25% off? 40%? 50%? and buy when it’s at a price you like. Also you need to accept that you may not get the price you want so have other things in mind if this is a gift you need to give! I recently got DG a LeapFrog Tag Reader for £14.99 instead of £29.99 because 50% was the price I had in mind and I knew it had been at this price before. It’s something she really wanted to have as MG has one and they enjoy the interactive books when mummy
won’t can’t read to them!
I hope some of these ideas have been useful, please share any of your tips in the comments too. Thank-you!