(One Mum’s Savvy Shopping by Martina Mercer)
As a full time working mum of three Christmas is a blessing and a curse for me. I adore the decorations, the food, the presents and the holiday from work but budgeting in the run up can be quite traumatic.
This is especially true as there are so many other things that still need paying for, if only our utility bills would go on hold until February or the council tax would take a holiday too! Only a month ago we upsized to a bigger house and now as the nights draw in we are watching the pennies religiously, making every piece of coal last and knowing that we haven’t even felt a little of the cold that winter offers yet!
So this year savvy shopping is a must if we’re to have any chance of surviving Christmas and beyond, this year we have a teenager with expensive taste, an eight year old that must keep up with the crowd and a toddler that will finally play with the toys and not just the empty boxes. This year will be expensive but we have promised not to get into debt.
So we’ve already started shopping for items that incur the Christmas tax as soon as November comes. You know the items, simple baking ingredients for puddings; fancy chocolate biscuits, Jacobs crackers, shortbread and nuts. Every week a small selection of these are added to the trolley and put safely away until we need them.
Unfortunately we’d completely emptied the coffers by the time the January sales hit earlier in the year so we will have to spend on paper and wrapping, although I have a brilliant idea.
This year we’re going to try and make a homemade Christmas, of course this won’t save on Nintendo DS games or Baby Annabel (we’ll need discount vouchers for them) but we can save on food, decorations and wrapping. We do this almost every year but now as the children grow older we’ll have an extra pair of hands.
Using old wallpaper we either stencil or paint our own designs, it’s best to let the children do it so grown-ups are actually pleased with the result rather than assessing your art ability as an adult.
For decorations we hunt the local area for holly, ivy and red berries. We then bring them into the house and use spray paint from the pound shop to add gold, silver and glitter. With string, a few pricks, and a few nails we can make full mantel decorations along with some great table centrepieces.
Oranges are wonderful as if they are peeled correctly in one swirly piece they can be dried in the oven on a low setting and hung on the tree giving a Christmas aroma whilst looking spectacular.
For family and friends we make fudge, cheap chocolate truffles (that taste anything but cheap when a dash of rum is added), jams, chutneys and jellies. Using baskets we pick up from the charity shops, old jars that we’ve saved over the year and cellophane by the meter from the florists our gifts do look quite spectacular.
Although we still worry about budgeting for the latest gadget, the new Moshi monster figures and the must have mobile phone, we find that by spending time together, however twee it sounds, creating Christmas fills us with the true spirit for quite a lot longer than just twenty four hours.