While you might have an extra drink or two on your birthday, or chomp through an indecent amount of chocolate at Easter, when it comes to excess, there’s no celebration quite like Christmas.
The area of indulgence that seems to hit the headlines every year is excessive gift shopping and the financial fallout it leaves behind. People just seem to lose all sense of budgetary perspective the minute shops flick on their fairy lights.
A different way
In some cases, it’s almost understandable: parents want their children to have the latest gizmos; no one wants to be ‘out-gifted’ by siblings at the big family get-together. But does it have to be this way?
Sidestepping the tidal waves of tradition and social pressure is definitely a challenge. It takes willpower, planning and a bit of expectation adjustment, but it can be done.
We’re not suggesting anyone go ‘full humbug’, replacing toys and turkey with lumps of coal and KFC. It’s more about taking a minute to be mindful and resisting the urge to splurge.
So, before you give in to the shopping frenzy, check out these suggestions for, if not a minimal, at least a more moderate Christmas…
1. Limit the gifts
We all love presents. No question. But how many do we actually need?
Of course it’s easier to take a scattergun approach and buy someone a pile of random things, even if it costs us more. This is something we end up doing because it’s easier than thinking about what a person actually wants or needs.
This year, instead of wasting money bulking out stockings with novelty hot sauce, talk to your family and get them to agree to a smaller number of more thoughtful presents.
2. Minimal mantra
What’s a sensible number then? The following might help:
Something they want; something they need; something to wear; something to read.
If four doesn’t work, add a couple more. The takeaway here is not the specific number, but the act of thinking about and buying things more thoughtfully.
What does the recipient have room for? What do they have that needs replacing? What did you buy them last year that’s been gathering dust since January?
The other thing to remember is shops don’t vanish on Christmas Day. The ‘stuff’ that we’re all so desperate to give and receive will still be there long after that last mince pie disappears.
3. Say no to shopping
One of the main reasons our spending spirals is because we get swept up in the atmosphere. At no time is this more apparent than on a designated ‘Christmas shopping day’.
Once you hit those big city streets, everything is designed to make you buy, buy, buy. The music. The window dressing. Even the way shops and their stock are arranged.
There’s no reason to miss out on all this festive mingling. By all means, have a Christmas day out, just try not to make it about the shopping.
Go ice skating at a pop-up rink. Grab a pumpkin spice latte afterwards. Listen to the brass band and the carollers. Just do your shopping online before you head out. Or, at the very least, do your research, write yourself a list and stick to it.
4. Make it meaningful
If you decide on a ‘less is more’ Christmas, it follows you’ll have more time to think about what you plan to give. You might even save enough time on wrapping a mountain of gifts to divert your energy towards a bit of hand-crafting.
Ok, we’re not suggesting you build your daughter a doll’s house from scratch. But you could feasibly assemble and dress up a food hamper for grandma.
The internet is overflowing with practical and affordable how-to guides on everything from body scrub and chutney to iPad cases and photo frames.
Another beauty of the online age is that we have artisans at our fingertips thanks to sites like Etsy. You can pick up wonderful hand-crafted items for reasonable prices that you’ll never see in a high street shop.
5. Do Christmas your way
One of the often-overlooked costs of Christmas is the crushing obligation. All the events and get-togethers we sign up for take their toll on our time, energy and wallets.
Before the festive season has you in its grip, take a step back and look at your calendar. Ask yourself: where do you definitely have to go? Could your family travel to you this year? Will you want to go to that party then have those people round the day after?
It’s not about channelling your inner Scrooge. Christmas can be a wonderful time for sharing food and merriment with friends and family. But we have our limits. The cost of taxi fares and long-distance drives all add up. As do bottles of wine and gifts for hosts.
Don’t be afraid to turn down events or switch up the role of host and guest. As with gifts, your friends and family will still be around in the new year.