C hristmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. But it can also be the most expensive!

With household budgets squeezed tight, many families are worried about covering the cost of Christmas this year, and don’t want to take a debt hangover into the New Year.

So, if you want to enjoy a stress free holiday season we have a few tips for you. It is really possible to cut the expense without cutting out the fun.

Start Early to Shop for Christmas

Well we are in the finishing stretch already, so if you haven’t done your shopping, get out and buy whatever you can. The trick is to keep your eyes open all year round for items friends and family would like. Once December hits, you’ll be glad that you already have some people crossed off your gift list and some foodstuffs and ingredients for your Festive Season Feasts packed away.

Always Make a List (or Two)

Write down everyone you plan to buy a gift for, no matter how small the gift may be. Include ideas of what to give each person, along with the maximum amount you can spend.

Another list should be the food and drink list and what ingredients you need. It really helps one focus and be able to shop around for good prices.

Leave the Kids at Home

This is a general money saving tip – leave the kids at home or with a relative or friend when you go shopping. They’ll be easily distracted by all the bright lights, toys and treats on display and their nagging might wear you down into buying stuff you don’t need.

The Matter of Christmas Presents

Some families don’t believe in giving gifts at Christmas. Others only give gifts to the children. So, now is the time to sit down with family and friends and discuss the matter of presents. Agree with certain friends that you won’t exchange gifts this year, or set a price limit for family presents, particularly those for adults.

Don’t Buy or Cook too much Food

Buying the festive food can be an expensive business, so make the most of discounts at the supermarkets. Watch the local papers, listen to ads on the radio and keep an eye on the bargains. But don’t buy too much.

As Africans we want to be able to feed everybody in our home (and neighbourbood) and sometimes we just cook too much food. You don’t want to waste food – or the money you’ve spent buying it.

Ask Friends and Family to Bring things to Parties

If you’re having a party or just a few friends round, ask everyone to bring a little something with them. Whether it’s food, drink or some snacks. This may be a Western way to do things, but it is sensible. It’ll help you to spread the cost and your guests won’t mind making a small contribution.

Make your own Candles

Save leftover candles through the year to melt into pretty new candles. Put the wax in a washed tin in a saucepan of boiling water. Boil until the wax is melted. Get some string, dip this in the wax and then leave to dry straight. Then snip the string to length and fill pretty glasses, tea cups or tiny jars with wax, holding the string in place until the wax starts to dry. Give these to friends as presents or decorate your house with them.’

These are just a few tips to save money during the holiday season. Whether you are of the Christian faith or not, this time of the year is supposed to be about giving and sharing and looking out for each other. Let us all have a safe and happy Festive Season.

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