10 Tips for a Budget-Friendly & Stress-Free Christmas

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I’m very aware that I need a massive slap on the hand, because I haven’t blogged for basically the whole of October. I’ve been a bit busy and a lot lazy, but I couldn’t resist piping up again when I started planning my gift-giving for Christmas 2016!

For some, the run-up to Christmas is the most stressful time of the year, particularly if the thought of somehow finding everyone’s perfect gift in a last-minute rush is looming over you. With a relatively large number of people to buy for and a budget to stick to, as well as a real determination to see genuine smiles when my gifts are opened, my Christmas preparation should really be enough to make my head explode. Admittedly it does take a little extra effort, but I think it’s well worth it. Here are my top tips for a budget-friendly and stress-free Christmas!

1. Get your ice skates on

I know it feels like Christmas comes around earlier and earlier every year, but I can’t tell you how much easier it is if you start thinking as early as possible. You know what it’s like – you’ll be in a shop in July and see something PERFECT for your Mum, but come December you’ve forgotten that the item even existed. I find it incredibly helpful to have a note on my phone (or a real-life note on paper if you prefer) which I use to jot down ideas for friends and family throughout the year. If someone mentions something they’d like, no matter how vague, it goes on the list. I also make a point of listing any good gift websites I come across during the year. Here are some of my favourites:

Posh Totty (who also have a lovely shop in Brighton)
Oh Deer (for quirky illustrated cards & gifts)
Hema (for the best affordable homeware & stationary)
Sass & Belle (for the cutest everything!)

2. Be true to your budget

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Be realistic about how much you can spend, and don’t forget to allow some spare pennies for the other little things that crop up at this time of year – a new dress for your Christmas party or drinks with your friends on Christmas eve, for example. Once you’ve decided on your total budget, you can then break this down into individual budgets for each person you’re going to buy for, allowing you to allocate different amounts to different friends and family.

3. Spread the love

If you know you’ll struggle to have a lump sum of money to spend on gifts in December, consider starting even earlier (I know, I’m sorry) and spreading them out. If you’ve got 20 presents to buy in total, start 20 weeks before Christmas and buy one per week. Even if you can just buy one gift per week throughout November, then you’ll at least be giving yourself a bit of a head start – future you will be very thankful!

4. To make or to buy?

That is the question. Handmade gifts can be great, but they aren’t always worth the hassle, and can actually end up being more expensive once you’ve splashed out on all of your materials. That being said, a personal touch is always lovely, and there are so many great resources available now that the idea of handmade gifts being a bit shitty is kind of dwindling a bit (I think so, anyway). A few years ago, I bought cute little glass bottles and made a big batch of (ridiculously easy) toffee vodka which went down VERY well. Chalkboard mugs, on the other hand, were not such a hit. Here are some relatively simple tutorials to get you started:

How To Make Toffee Vodka by Rosalilium

Gemstone Soap DIY (Two Ways!) by A Beautiful Mess

Cranberry Pistachio Chocolate Bark by Eat Good 4 Life

Last Minute DIY Christmas Gifts by Zoella

5. Think outside the box

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Remember that you’re not obliged to give gifts to absolutely everyone. It’s a lovely gesture, but if it’s going to literally bankrupt you then it might be an idea to prioritise your lucky recipients. My family usually have some kind of Secret Santa, and my friends and I go for a drunken meal instead which we refer very fondly to as ‘Friendmas’. We’re very open and honest about being skint 90% of the time, so it works out well for everyone!

6. Don’t get ripped off

Once I’ve collated my ideas and have a vague plan of what I’m looking for, I like to start by browsing sites and shops that are sliiiightly out of my price range but sell beautiful things (John Lewis and Not On The High Street, I’m looking at you!) for inspiration. Then, I shop around! You’ll often find exactly the same, or very similar (but just as lovely) items which are far more affordable on Amazon or eBay, and nobody ever needs to know. A bit sneaky, but girl gotta eat!

7. Shop local for unique finds

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Local markets and craft fairs are always fantastic places to find something a little bit different, and they seem to crop up in abundance around the festive season. They are a great way to support local shops and independent artists, and you’re likely to find some truly unique gifts – bonus points if they serve mulled wine! Because everyone knows drunk shopping is the best shopping.

8. Beware of ‘novelty’ gifts

Novelty gifts might be a lol, but let’s be real – most of the time they’ll sit unused for months because nobody wants to throw them away. This is completely dependent on who you’re giving it to, however – I’m fully aware that my friend Rachel has had her ‘I like my men like I like my curtains – easy to pull and well hung!’ plaque hanging proudly in her bedroom ever since I gave it to her at least 6 years ago, but not everyone will be quite as receptive as she was. If you do opt for a novelty gift, I’d go for something that’s useful at the same time, or alternatively make sure to pair it with a second ‘safer’ gift such as food or alcohol.

9. Stalk everyone you know (in a non-creepy way)

Pinterest profiles, Amazon wishlists and Etsy favourites are your best friend – especially for people who are REALLY hard to buy for! You could even check their Facebook ‘likes’ if you’re really desperate – but do be aware that just because your cousin ‘liked’ David Hasselhoff in 2007 doesn’t mean she’ll want a set of collectable Knight Rider teacups. (Although if you ever do buy anyone that gift and they DON’T appreciate it, remove them from your life immediately because they’re not even worth knowing.)

10. Just bloody ask!

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It’s not cheating, I promise. You don’t even have to ask the person themselves either – drop a cheeky message to someone close to them and see if they can give you any ideas. Just knowing a hobby they have or TV programme they like could give quite a bit of insight, especially if they’re fussy or a little bit ~mysterious~!

If any of these tips can make just one person’s Christmas that tiiiiiny bit less stressful, then I’ll be very happy. And please leave a comment if you’ve got any others – I’d love to hear them!

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